The fox spirit imbues Jian Jingsheng Jiuliang with life. Jian De meets Yifei Liu.
Busy as he was with his adoration for Spirit Drinker, Jian De could not avoid but to notice the ruckus Jinshu, the apprentice, made while fabricating blade and armor, and the ensuing commotion the army caused as it marched on towards the skirts of Tie Mao.
“I should be the one accompanying the army, not that weasel of an apprentice,” he thought, seething with envy, when Jinshu was accepted into the service of Xiong and the Shan Shi.
At the same time, the fox spirit, having passed the requisite five full moons, stole into Jian De’s habitation and seizing the absence of the sword master, located Spirit Drinker.
“True is your beauty, noble steel, but it’s regrettable the lapse in judgment it has caused,” the fox spirit said. “Become now your hidden self and help me set things straight.”
It then blew kindly on the sword, which took the shape of an equally beautiful, fair maiden.
“My name is Yifei Liu,” she said. “Long have I basked in that old man’s worship, but I’ve seen what you have seen. I will help you.”
“Thank you, essence,” the fox spirit acknowledged.
“There is a price, however,” Yifei added. “I am still Spirit Drinker and only one battle I can wage. This will be it.”
The fox spirit considered those words. A great weapon such as Jiang Jinsheng Juliang could be of great aid in the pursuit of The Way and the preservation of the Shang dinasty. But the harm it was causing now far exceeded its potential benefits. Besides, he thought, Jian De, once freed of his materialistic shackles, could be guided once again into the warm embrace of The Way and his craft.
“Agreed, then. The task is yours,” the fox spirit said and returned to his own plane.
As Jian De made his way back to his home, all dark and brooding because of his apprentice and the army he had joined, he happened into Yifei and was smitten on sight, all thoughts of Jinshu and Spirit Drinker forgone in an instant.
“Lucky are the eyes that set on such a pristine beauty,” Jian De said.
“Good morning, master Jian De. It is I who should be lucky for I am greeted by a man of such stature and importance,” she replied.
“Nothing of the sort,” Jian De said, bashful. “Say, what brings a lady like you to this piddling village?”
“Tis you, master, the object of my visit, for I am Yifei Liu, a simple woman with a simple request, one I cannot ignore even if I wanted to. I’ve been told you are the man to go to when it comes to the art of metal,” the woman said, leaning dangerously and enticingly closer to Jian De’s face.
“I am versed in the craft, yes, but I am retired, you see?” he replied, nervous. Fine beads of sweat adorned his forehead.
“Nonsense,” Yifei continued. “Your prowess with the steel is well known across the land. Now, will you refuse your services to a lady in need?”
“You are clever, for I could not. Very well, come, share some tea and tell me of this need of yours.”
They entered Jian De’s home, where he prepared two cups of steamy red tea. They both sat, facing each other, and discussed the matter while sipping the earthy, sweet brew.
“You see, a spirit came to me in a dream,” she begun, finding the fabrication funny in its irony. “He spoke of you and your feats, which are sorely needed in the East where King Zhou’s forces are gathering in order to strike a definitive blow on the insurgents,” she said.
Jian De knew what she was referring to and saw in this the perfect opportunity to exact revenge on Jinshu and what he thought of as treason on the part of the apprentice.
“Say no more and let us make haste, beautiful Yifei,” Jian De said, eager. “Guide me to this gathering place and allow me to help the Shang squash these pesky rebels like flies.
See how easily our shallow wants and needs sway our allegiances and make us stray from the path of The Way? If you want to know what happens to Jian De and his companion, read on.