Treasured Sword, Golden Hairpin Chapter 3 Part1
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Treasured Sword, Golden Hairpin, Chapter 3, Part 1.
from w.a.n.g Dulu's Baojian Jinchai.
Li Mubai was a xiucai of twenty-some years from Nangong, built st.u.r.dy and tall with an easy disposition. He was currently living in Five Mile village just outside the city of Nangong and depended on his uncle for his living, as both his parents had long been deceased. All said, his father had been quite a peculiar man. His father was named Li Fengjie and was an unconventional fellow, accompanying some general or other and serving as his military aide, traveling to many places and making many friends. Later on, he encountered a xia in Jiangnan called the Southern Crane and the two became brothers from different families. The Southern Crane pa.s.sed his martial arts onto Li Fengjie and the two accomplished many awe-inspiring feats in Jiangnan. Afterward, Li Fengjie married in Jiangnan and had a child. That child was Li Mubai.
When Mubai was six, he started learning martial arts from his father. However, when he was eight, an epidemic swept through Jiangnan, killing both his parents at the same time. On his deathbed, Li Fengjie entrusted his sworn brother the Southern Crane with bringing Mubai back to his hometown of Nangong to foster under his natural brother Li Fengqing. Thus, after the Southern Crane buried Fengjie and his wife, he brought the eight year grown Li Mubai to Nangong before roaming the far ends of the world by himself.
Li Mubai was brought up by his uncle. His uncle cultivated several dozen mu of fields, so the family was modestly well off. In addition, he'd had no children underfoot, so he regarded Li Mubai as his own. His uncle most admired men of books, especially the juren of the Hanlin Academy. He revered them as if they were G.o.ds, so he put Mubai to study since he was a child. At thirteen years of age, Mubai sat the imperial examinations and achieved the rank of xiucai. This made his uncle happier than he had ever been and he longed for Mubai to obtain his juren degree and then finally jins.h.i.+. But around this time, Li Mubai's temperament changed. He became more like his father, favoring an easier and more carefree life, unwilling to work too hard in his studies, to live only with his brush and inkstone. He could still remember a few things from his childhood that had made an impression on him: the powerful bearing his father had when he was teaching him sword skills and the vibrant heroism of the Southern Crane. Thus he would always want to learn a full set of martial arts and become a xia of Jianghu like his father and the Southern Crane. Imperial honors and the wealth it brought were no longer in his sights.
He was sixteen when the old xia Ji Guangjie arrived in Nangong. Lu Mubai went right away to learn martial arts from him. In fact, before Ji Guangjie came to Nangong, he had encountered the Southern Crane. The Southern Crane had made a request of him, saying, “There is the son of an old friend. His name is Li Mubai and he lives in Nangong. If you go there, you must take him as your disciple and make an effort to pa.s.s your martial arts on to him.” So, when the old xia Ji met Li Mubai and confirmed his family background, he treated him differently. Because Mubai was both smarter than other people and worked harder to study these skills, before four or five years were over, he had learned all of his master's martial arts: every fist, every kick and all kinds of special techniques. However, he was only concerned with learning martial arts and left no time to study literary works. He sat the provincial exams twice in a row and failed to gain the rank of juren. Thus not only was Mubai discouraged by the imperial honors, but his uncle also started to grow indifferent to him.
Li Mubai was now twenty-four or five years and yet unmarried. Owing to his, his uncle and aunt were increasingly resentful of him. It was because Li Mubai had in his heart an aspiration. His wife must be both beautiful and have knowledge of martial arts. If both of these conditions were not true, then it didn't matter if she was the most elegant daughter of the most ill.u.s.trious household. He had no interest. Thus his marriage remained unsettled and there was no cla.s.smate or friend of his who did not laugh at him.
On this day, Li Mubai ran through a sequence of swordwork in the square. After he was finished, he stood and looked into the distance with his sword in hand. He gazed over the young, green wheat stalks and the luminous peach blossoms outside the fence. The spring breeze blew into his face and b.u.t.terflies fluttered about. Tufts of spring clouds drifted and transformed above the horizon. He couldn't help but release a long regretful sigh about his life. Just as he was about to go back inside, he spotted a horse coming along the road. As the horse approached, Li Mubai could see that it was his cla.s.smate Xi Zhongxiao riding it.
Xi Zhongxiao was wearing a purple satin robe and blue satin shoes, his queue combed until it was both black and s.h.i.+ny. He looked the picture of a wealthy scion. Li Mubai originally had no interest in getting to know people like this, but Xi Zhongxiao had always admired Li Mubai's writings and his martial skill and so would often come to see him. When the two of them met just now, Li Mubai asked, “How come it's been several days since I've seen you?” Xi Zhongxiao dismounted his horse and tied it to a date tree and said while shaking out his clothes, “I went to Julu with Liang Wenjin for a few days and didn't get back until yesterday.” Li Mubai then asked, “Liang Wenjin has a shop over in Julu, but what were you doing there?” Xi Zhongxiao said, “I just went to Julu to play and relax. That's all.”
Li Mubai invited Xi Zhongxiao inside. Xi Zhongxiao laughed at Li Mubai and said, “Guess why I've come here today.” Hearing him say this made Li Mubai suspicious, asking, “What do you mean by that?” Xi Zhongxiao laughed and said, “You must first express your grat.i.tude to me. I've come to be your matchmaker!” Li Mubai became annoyed upon hearing this, saying, “Forget it. Let me just stop you before you say anything else!”
Xi Zhongxiao became serious and said, “This time, I'm not making fun of you, truly. I have found you a beautiful, intelligent woman whose martial arts are strong. But I don't know her personally, so I can only tell you about her. If you feel it suits you, you can go court her yourself.” Hearing this, Li Mubai's interest was piqued. He asked, smiling, “Whose daughter are you speaking of?” Xi Zhongxiao replied, “Yu Xiongyuan the Iron-winged Eagle of Julu. Do you know of him?” Li Mubai said, “Oh, I have heard the distinguished name of the old escort Yu, but I have never met him before.” Xi Zhongxiao said, “The one I'm talking about is his daughter. Her name is Yu Xiulian and she isn't more than sixteen or seventeen years this year. If we're speaking about her appearance, I dare say her beauty could devastate entire cities or states. s.h.i.+ of the West herself would lower her head in her presence, and Heng'e would lose her l.u.s.ter when compared to her. If you mention the beauty Yu in Julu, you would not find a single person who did not know of it.
Li Mubai nodded and said, “It's natural for a pretty girl to be noticed in such a small place.” Xi Zhongxiao shook his head and said, “No, I think you won't find a girl as beautiful in the greatest cities or the largest counties. But that's not all. Everyone already knew that the Old Eagle Yu had a gorgeous daughter. But a few days ago, the Old Eagle Yu was returning from outside of the city with his daughter after they'd gone tomb sweeping when halfway back, they were suddenly set upon by several old enemies. They surrounded their wagon with sabers in hand and threatened the life of the Old Eagle Yu. At the time, the Old Eagle Yu had not an inch of metal on him and in imminent danger. Unexpectedly the young lady Yu Xiulian leapt down from the wagon, s.n.a.t.c.hed over one of their foes' saber, and proceeded to hold off four or five big, fierce men all by herself. In the end, she cut one of them down and the rest were all driven away…” Li Mubai could not help but be spellbound by the story, saying, “Ah! A woman like this is truly hard to come by!”
Xi Zhongxiao said, ‘What's rare is that she has both looks and skill. So after all of that happened, everyone now knows that not only is she an exceptional beauty but her martial arts surpa.s.s most others. Everyone has fallen in love with her, but they also fear her. There is only our brother Liang who does not know his own measure and suffered a grave defeat at the young lady's hands, almost giving away his life. He's now hiding in his home afraid to see anyone. His face is so swollen he looks like an eggplant.”
Li Mubai asked, “How did Liang Wenjin incur a beating?”
Xi Zhongxiao laughed, “She beat him half to death!” He recounted how Liang Wenjin had watched her turn away her father's enemies that day outside of the city and become enamored of her. And then how he tried to sneak into the Yu house late at night for illicit purposes, but was caught by the young lady and given his fill of a beating. In the end it was the old escort Yu's compa.s.sion that led to his release, so he returned with his tail between his legs. Then he continued, “Brother, you often declare that you will not marry a woman who is not both beautiful and proficient in the martial arts. At present we may have found the perfect match in the young lady Yu. You should go over to Julu now and fight three rounds with her and triumph. Then you can ask the old escort Yu for her hand. When that happens, you won't just have married the woman of your dreams, but you would have brought glory to us men of Nangong!”
Hearing this, Li Mubai was eager to give it a try, but he also thought, This seems a bit impossible. He laughed, “How could such a thing happen? Let's not even mention that the young lady can't just have a match against some man she's never met. Even if we did have a match and I defeated her, the old escort Yu would be furious. Why would he then ask me to be his son-in-law?”
Seeing that Li Mubai was unwilling to go, Xi Zhongxiao came up with a lie, saying, “Old escort Yu said with his own mouth that whoever could defeat his daughter he would betroth her to him. It seems an easy enough thing to do, but no one's dared to attempt it. The way I see it, brother, only you are outstanding enough. When you get there and she takes one look at you, you won't even have to fight. She'll just admit defeat.” So saying, he watched Li Mubai with an unending smile, thinking to himself, You usually boast that your martial arts are stronger than ours. Do you dare go and prove it? If you are able to earn a wife using your sword, then you will have all our admiration.
Li Mubai thought it over for a while and then laughed suddenly, “The praise you've laid on the young lady is rare indeed in this world, but I have yet to even see her.” Xi Zhongxiao said, “To see her is an easy matter. She's not like others, never to leave their chambers.” Li Mubai smiled and nodded, “Alright, I'll make a trip to Julu, but not necessarily to take her as my wife. I will however let this woman know that there are people in this world whose martial arts are stronger than hers!”
Seeing Li Mubai fall into his snare, Xi Zhongxiao laughed, “Let's do it. I'll come find you tomorrow first thing and we'll go together. After your engagement, I will be the first to drink a wedding toast to you!” Li Mubai laughed, “I don't think that's worth mentioning, though I am confident enough to go to Julu, or at the very least I know I won't end up losing as much face as Liang Wenjin.” After the two of them talked it over and then chatted about other matters, Xi Zhongxiao departed.
Li Mubai sat alone in his house and meditated while holding his sword. He imagined a woman both beautiful in appearance and strong in martial arts. Just then someone entered the room. He didn't know who it was, but he heard a coa.r.s.e voice saying, “Mubai, have you not gone to your aunt's house to ask if a letter's arrived from the capital?” At this, Li Mubai tucked his fantasy away and turned quickly to look, seeing his uncle Li Fengqing.
Li Fengqing was still wearing a gray padded jacket with a pouch tied to his waist. His white and gray beard quivered as he said, “It looks to me like you're very lazy now, giving no thought to your own matters. You failed to reach juren, and all you do is sit at home and do nothing. You'll reach eighty years and still be a poor xiucai. You spend your days playing around with that sword for what exactly? Are you wanting to be a street performer, begging people for money?” After he spoke, his beard stuck out even further, the color in his face getting more and more ugly. Li Mubai could only crease his brow in consternation. Having just suffered his uncle's scolding, he listened as his uncle continued, “I think it's better if you go to your aunt. Her brother-in-law is a secretary in the Ministry of Justice in the capital. A secretary is no petty officer. If you go to the capital to see him, I'm certain he'll be able to find some a.s.signment for you in the department. Work diligently there and you will naturally find great prospects there.”
Li Mubai nodded and said, “Yes, but I need to wait for a letter from uncle in the capitol before I go. Otherwise, I'll just be idle there instead of here. When I went to aunt's house yesterday, the letter hadn't arrived yet, so I need to wait another few days.” He then took the opportunity to add, “The year before last during the provincial exams, I came to know a Jia Chengxun from Julu. He reached the rank of juren that year and just finished an a.s.signment as a county magistrate, so he's newly back home. I'm planning on going to Julu to pay him a visit. If he gets another appointment in the future, it may be a good connection to have.” His uncle said, “Well that goes without saying! You should be out there making connections. It wouldn't hurt to know some more people. Otherwise, no matter how great your scholars.h.i.+p, if you just stay at home, it's not like Liu Bei will visit your cottage three times to recruit you!” So saying, his uncle went back outside.
Li Mubai wanted to cry bitterly. But he did have a new and beautiful prospect floating before his eyes, a hope that was able to lessen his pain. He packed his things at home that day, and bright and early the next day, Xi Zhongxiao came by in one of his family's wagons. With his sword and travel roll on his person, Li Mubai came outside and got into the wagon. With Xi Zhongxiao straddling the wagon shaft, they set off for Julu.
Treasured Sword, Golden Hairpin Chapter 3 Part1
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Treasured Sword, Golden Hairpin Chapter 3 Part1 summary
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