Saturday, September 24, 2011

Chapter 1: The Girl In White (6)

Cheng Yin was confused by all that had transpired, but he realized it was not the time for questions. For now, all he could do was lead Xialin silently through the grove to the temple.

Menghuan and the abbot stayed behind to cremate the body of Cai Bangxiong. Once the flames had died down, they gathered the ashes into an urn and interred them in the temple cemetery, which lay alongside the peach orchard. Summoning vast internal forces, Yi Yang Zi directed his finger at the headstone that marked the grave. Smoke issued forth as finger slid over stone in graceful strokes. When the smoke cleared, these words were visible, etched in the surface of the stone: “Here lies Cai Bangxiong of the Kunlun Sect, disciple of Yi Yang Zi.”

* * *

It was dusk by the time Cai Bangxiong’s remains had been properly interred. Above the eastern horizon a bright moon flooded the the orchard with a light as pure as spring water. Yi Yang Zi started towards the temple, his heart laden with a sorrow born of events decades past. Suddenly, he stopped and spoke: “Menghuan, there are things I must explain to you about your martial brother, Cai Bangxiong.

“Once, in an act of anger, he injured a member of the Shaolin Sect. This nearly destroyed the relationship between our two temples, and I had no choice but to expel him from the Kunlun Sect. Bangxiong deeply regretted his actions and returned to the temple three times to beg forgiveness, but each time I refused him. On the last occasion, he begged that I assign him a penance. He raised a finger to the Heavens and swore through his tears that he would fulfill whatever task I assigned him, if only it meant he could return to the Kunlun Sect.

“I told him that unless he could bring me the Map of Concealed Truth, a most-likely mythical artifact, that he would do best to abandon all thoughts of reinstatement. Little did I know my flippant and angry words would be taken to heart. Here, 20 years later, he has indeed brought the map to me, and I can only wonder at what cruel fate saw him nearly to the gates of the temple, only to be brutally slain by the Twin Fiends of Jiangnan.”

The abbot paused. When he resumed, his voice quavered with conviction. “Menghuan, you must strive to achieve mastery of your powers, and never harm the good. But more importantly, never show mercy to these wicked men that defile the Rivers and Lakes with their greed and arrogance!”

Menghuan understood his master's words, but was disconcerted by the emotional depths from which they arose. He nodded vaguely in response, then master and disciple continued their slow return to the temple under the moonlight.

Master Cheng Yin and Xialin had been impatiently waiting in the temple’s Cinnabar Chamber. Cheng Yin had been hoping to pepper Yi Yang Zi with questions as soon as he arrived, but seeing the aging Daoist entering the hall—his face solemn and pained—the words caught in his throat. Cheng Yin gave Xialin a stern glance to warn her against speaking, then stood silently in a corner of the room watching unfamiliar emotions play across his old friend’s face.

Menghuan stood to one side, and watched his master move to the center table, open a drawer and pull out a red lacquer box. The abbot placed the box on the table, then knelt and bowed once before opening it. Inside was a scroll, which the abbot unrolled and hung on the back wall to reveal a portrait of an elderly man in Daoist garb. Menghuan marveled at the image limned in white paint on yellow satin, noting the sword strapped across the figure’s back and the masterly technique that made it seem the old Daoist might step from the painting living and whole. The spell of wonderment was broken by his master’s voice: “Disciple Menghuan, pay your respects to the founder of the Kunlun Sect, and the originator of the Garrison Mountain sword method.”

Master Cheng Yin’s heart stood still. He briskly brought fist to palm and bowed to the painting, then gently ushered Xialin out of the room. Menghuan remained and knelt down before the painting, bringing his forehead to the floor three times. He stood, then repeated the complete obeisance twice more. Yi Yang Zi rolled the painting and returned it to the lacquer box before speaking.

“The various schools of martial arts all believe that the Kunlun Sect’s Spectral Light sword technique consists of 96 movements, but they are mistaken. In truth, there are 108, twelve of which embody the essence of the entire set. These last twelve are known as Chasing the Twelve Spirits, and they span an extraordinary range of moves marked by rapid and unpredictable strikes.

“By custom, they cannot be taught to a disciple unless all three heads of the sect agree. Just now I had you bow to the founding ancestor of the sect because I have decided to break with this tradition and teach you Chasing the Twelve Spirits without the consent of my peers. Starting tomorrow you will begin learning the sequence, one move per day.”

The master paused; a shade of sorrow passed across his solemn visage. Sighing, he continued, “Go now, and invite master Cheng Yin to see me. In the meantime, take advantage of the full moon to practice with sister Xialin. The two of you are not permitted to return to the Cinnabar Chamber until you are called.”

Menghuan’s head swam with questions accumulated over a long day of strange events—questions he dared not ask. Resigned to his confusion, he bowed to his master and exited.

He found master Cheng Yin in the courtyard critiquing Xialin’s empty-hand technique. Menghuan relayed the abbot’s invitation, then told Xialin he would take her outside the temple to practice swordsmanship. She responded with a dimpled smile that suddenly unburdened him of worries better suited to the minds of aging monks.


  1. When is the next update?

    P.S: This just a suggestion! Maybe book could be translated faster if you allow a selected few to help you translate and edit the book when you are busy!!

  2. A very good tranlation and a very interesting story. Keep translating plz.