Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Chapter 1: The Girl in White (4)

Menghuan withdrew his energies at the sound of his master’s voice, and directed them into an evasive maneuver called the 18 Turns of Yanqing. He wrenched his qi energy upward from his dantian, the energetic reservoir located below the navel, and flipped about in mid-air. Though he changed course with astonishing speed, the warning had come too late. He felt an immense wave of force overtake him, and his body jerked toward the sky like a kite suddenly cut from its string. His finely tuned senses felt blood and qi momentarily reverse in their channels, then his perceptions clouded. Some time passed, and he became vaguely aware that someone was propping him up, and a fragrant breeze was blowing against his face. Then, a hand began pressing at vital points in his chest.

Just as the two monstrosities had unleashed their deadly palm strikes on Menghuan, Masters Yi Yang Zi and Cheng Yin had descended from the tops of the peach trees, with palms extended to meet the blow. The collision of the two streams of energy had whipped up a whirlwind that stripped the peach trees of blossoms and leaves alike. The paired Buddhist and Daoist monks felt a minor tremor, while the two ghoulish figures were jolted upward and sent skittering back, only regaining their footing after three our four desperate sliding steps. Yi Yang Zi, abbot of the Temple of the Unseen City, looked back at the fallen body of his cherished disciple, and anger involuntarily flared in his chest. With eyebrows arched, he addressed his foes:

“The Temple of the Unseen City has never interfered in the affairs of the Twin Fiends of Tiannan. What right have you to come here and deal such a cruel blow—to strike down my beloved disciple? Though my sword has lain sheathed these many years, and I have refrained from taking sides in the feuds of the Rivers and Lakes, your wicked deeds this day leave me no choice but to draw my blade anew!”

Before the Twin Fiends of Tiannan could respond, the prone bleeding figure on the path suddenly sat up and shouted while pointing to his barrel chest, “Master! The Monadic Codex—”

A nine-inch double bladed-dagger flew from the hand of the white-faced fiend, and entered the injured man’s chest faster than a bolt of lightening, cutting off his words. Yi Yang Zi hadn’t imagined that the Twin Fiends would act so boldly in his presence. He was unprepared for the blow and could do nothing to stop it. The large man cried out and fell back to the ground. Pierced clean through by the dragon whisker dart, organs shattered by the esoteric forces that propelled it, the man marshaled the iron will he had tempered in long years of internal training, and held fast to the spider-thin traces of life that still stirred in his body that he might fulfill a final desperate wish.

Yi Yang Zi stared at the dying man, and a pain stabbed at his chest as recognition dawned. It was Cai Bangxiong, his own disciple, aged 20 years since the day he had been expelled from the Kunlun Sect. An unfamiliar anger raged in the otherworldly heart of the abbot. A cold laugh was building under his breath as he turned his gaze back to the yin-yang faced fiend. He shifted his weight slightly, then soared to the side of his former disciple. No further harm would come to Cai Bangxiong. With a roar he unleashed his Wind and Lightning Strike.

Master Cheng Yin also felt an unaccustomed rage building within him, ignited by the sight of an injured man being so cruelly felled. Impelled by his sense of righteousness, he flicked his long sleeves forward and launched himself at the pale-faced man, using a technique called Fireflies Dancing in Emptiness.

The yin-yang faced Tiannan Fiend had only thought to make off with the body of Cai Bangxiong; he wasn’t prepared to engage in a fight with a renowned martial artist of Yi Yang Zi’s caliber, much less cope with the rare eruption of fury that rushed to meet him. Violent emotion had overridden the abbot’s habitual restraint, and unchecked forces poured into the attack. By the time the yin-yang faced man perceived the danger, it was too late. He had barely raised his right palm to deflect the blow when it caught him. A thunderclap shook the air; the right arm shattered, and the man’s body was rocketed into the trunk of a peach tree some seven yards distant. The tree splintered and folded in half amidst an eruption of peach blossom petals.

Master Cheng Yin similarly gave no quarter, though the true strength of his attack was concealed in the wake of his billowing sleeves. His corpse-like foe engaged, only to feel the energy of his counterstrike turning against him. Knowing there was no good in it for him, the man, too late, attempted to fall back. A thousand-pound mallet blow struck his chest and he sat hard on the ground, blood spurting from between his lips.

The Soulstealer, Li Tong, and the Yin-Yang Judge, Wang Xuan, jointly known as the Twin Fiends of Tiannnan, each had been dealt a blow that would have mortally wounded a normal man. However, the two monstrous men had undergone years of esoteric training that had toughened bodily tissues and enabled them to direct energies to absorb impacts and speed recovery from wounds. Despite the devastating force of the blows dealt by Master Cheng Yin and Yi Yang Zi, the Twin Fiends quickly leapt to their feet again. The Yin-Yang Judge lifted his chin to the sky and roared with laughter.

“Abott Yi Yang Zi, Master Cheng Yin, we will not soon forget the gifts you have bestowed on this day. So long as the Twin Fiends of Tiannan still breathe, you can expect a full return on your generosity, repaid in kind!”

With that, the Twin Fiends fled, wailing like condemned souls. Their ghostly forms flashed briefly between the peach trees before disappearing from sight.


  1. Hi Josh!

    I had a couple thoughts. I think the word "esoteric" has shown up a few times too many. I think "Rivers and Lakes" is a really interesting approach to Jianghu (I would have gone with pinyin personally, although Rebecca Tai went with "the martial world" in The Eleventh Son), but I'm worried you're going to exhaust yourself figuring out how to articulate some of the places, moves, schools, etc. Good writing though with a great flow. Keep up the good work~

  2. Wesley,

    Thanks for the input. Yup, you're right about all of the literal translations of moves, schools, nicknames. Though I am certainly conscious of not wanting to overload the reader with jargon, for now I am just forging ahead. Readers can get a taste of the density of the language while I take my time to think about how to best handle this stuff. At some point, a major re-edit will happen which will address this, and other issues.

    'Rivers and Lakes' came from John Minford's translation of the Deer and the Cauldron, where I thought it worked nicely. If I remember correctly, Albert Dalia did the same in Dream of the Dragon Pool.

    As always, this is an experiment, and I will certainly be rethinking it all as I go along. And because of that, feedback is important, so thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    PS I am looking forward to having a moment to dig into your paper!

  3. Jianghu is one of those terms that, no matter how you translate it, the reader is going to have to know the term to really understand it. There's no way to translate it with one or two words into English and retain the meaning.

    But I like "Rivers and Lakes" as well because it preserves the original, and it's always nice when you can do that.

  4. Hi Josh!

    I found this discussion interesting. I couldn't remember what I had done about "jianghu" in my novel, so I checked. Guess what! I don't mention the jianghu in Dream of the Dragon Pool and the phrase "rivers and lakes" only appears in the description of Li Bo's boatman having nothing to do with the jianghu.

    What I do in my Wuxia film and writing class is have my students learn Chinese - so to speak. We refer to the martial heroes of Chinese film and fiction as the "xia" and the realm they inhabit as the "jianghu." For I agree, these are terms that best understood in their native language and I don't allow the use of "knight-errant" in my class!

    Further, in my newest novel, I'm using "jianghu" and making its meaning clear (I hope) through the context. In my fiction, I do translate the xia as "wandering blades," but I'm using the fiction writer's "license" there as I'm trying to develop a popular, not scholarly, terminology for this literary genre.

    Best of luck on your translation!


  5. I don't translate the word Jianghu simply because it's faster to type than "the Rivers and Lakes," though I like the sound of "the Rivers and Lakes." In addition, the image of rivers and lakes just doesn't pop up when I hear the word Jianghu. It's a word that's long since grown beyond its constituent characters. It's also a wuxia staple that appears in print so often, people should get the gist of it even if they don't know what the word means coming in. If people can pick up Japanese historical fiction genre standbys like ninja, samurai, shogun and daimyou, then they should be able to learn Jianghu, xia, dianxue, and qinggong.

    Anyhow, Joshua, glad you're translating this. Just wanted to add my two cents. Keep it up.