Friday, April 29, 2011

Chapter 1: The Girl in White (2)

A hint of pain colored the monk’s solemn expression. He lightly stroked the girl’s hair, and said, “That is something I have always intended to discuss with you, but it is not yet the proper time. For now, you must study well elder Yi Yang Zi’s Spectral Light sword method.”

Having spoken this far, the old monk caught sight of a youth with regal bearing approaching on the secluded path through the peach grove. Clothed in a long green silk gown and cloth-soled shoes, his refined dress and manner did little to conceal his strength and vigor. He made his way around the peach trees, his clear eyes sparkling with the reflections of blossoms, the long sleeves of his gown fluttering in the breeze. Approaching the monk, he bowed with hands joined at the chest, and spoke.

“My master said that elder Cheng Yin would be arriving today. He asked that I be here to greet you. I didn’t realize that the Buddhas would speed you to such an early arrival.”

The old monk laughed, “Xia Lin will be disturbing the accustomed calm of the temple for the coming three months. I fear that she will not only interfere with your master’s ascetic practices, but will hinder your progress in the martial arts, as well.”

Flustered, the young man quickly dropped his hands. “By my understanding, sister Xia Lin is extremely gifted. My master said she has already received the complete transmission of elder Cheng Yin’s teachings, and that there are no limits to her potential. Given my inferior skill, I’m sure that I will learn a great deal practicing with her in the coming months. How could this be called a ‘disturbance’?”

Xia Lin couldn’t quite suppress her joy at hearing this litany of praise. Her eyebrows darted upwards, and color danced across her cheeks. Moments later, the corners of her mouth attempted a second smile, and the final traces of her recent dejection were swept from her face. Tilting her head to hide the depth of her feelings, she gazed at him from the corners of her eyes, but the young man offered not even the briefest sidelong glance in return. He stood quietly, his hands at his sides, a model of restraint.

The old monk caught the look in her eyes, and mulled over its meaning as he quietly exhaled. Xia Lin had met him a year before, and ever since she had nagged the old monk to bring her to the Temple of the Unseen City. She had said it was because she loved the peach trees, but that was plainly just an excuse. From the look of things, Xia Lin was in love, and the object of her affection hadn’t the slightest interest in her.

Memories of the monk’s own impassioned youth passed before his mind’s eye: his near-death on Mount Huang, a disaster that yielded boundless fortune: a fated meeting with a master, and the chance to study martial techniques esoteric beyond reckoning.

Gazing deeper into the dust of his youth brought on the panic of waking from nightmare. Unbreakable threads of past loves and enmities rose to ensnare him as he stood in full wakefulness. “Have twenty years spent in prayer done nothing to rid me of these foolish attachments?” he despaired. In every midnight dream, still, her voice, her face, her smile… then, the vicious blow that sent her spiraling towards death; the final confession of love; the tearful entreaty to rear the child, Xia Lin, her only family. If ever he allowed Xia Lin to live a similar life of regrets, would he not have failed her mother’s spirit in the realm of the heavens?

Unaware of the cold sweat beading on his forehead, the monk raised his eyes to see Xia Lin’s face illuminated by the late-afternoon sunlight that filtered through the spring blossoms. A naive half-smile had formed at the corners of her lips and upon her brow as she gazed at the young man in green, but, as before, his solemn countenance betrayed no awareness of her gaze.

That Yi Yang Zi had accepted this youth as his disciple clearly indicated that he was a young man of some distinction, but the fact that he could completely ignore the presence of Xia Lin, an incomparable beauty with a smile blossoming upon a her lips, spoke volumes more: this was an exceptional young man indeed!

Again, the youth bowed, saying, “My master awaits your presence in the Cinnabar Chamber. If it so pleases elder Cheng Yin, let us make our way to the temple.”

The old monk nodded and turned towards the path that rounded the peach grove and led to the Temple of the Unseen City. As soon as he took his first step, a desolate wailing arose in the distance, as piercing as the night cries of an injured crow. The hairs on his neck stood erect, and Cheng Yin wrinkled his brow in alarm. He turned his head to see Xia Lin and the young man in green standing shoulder to shoulder, also looking back in surprise.

The cries grew louder, and a confusion of other voices were soon heard. Suddenly the wailing stopped, replaced by the distant sound of clashing swords.


  1. Excellent work. I can see the careful thought behind your work. Thanks and keep it up

  2. Joshua, this is superb translation work. Easily head and shoulders above all other wuxia translations I've seen online. Please give us more!

  3. I agree with the other comments. The flow of the sentences really do stand out amongst the translations I've seen so far as well.