Yeah, I’m in love with the Liao general Yelü Xie (耶律斜) from Shao Nian Yang Jia Jiang (少年杨家将) … and I really need to finish this series. I stopped before episode 10 last August, and now I’m nearly done with ep 18 but I only started watching earlier this week. And I was pondering, why isn’t there any actual wuxia/historical Chinese fanfiction? I think I only found one little collection of Jin Yong fanfics, and was quite disappointed, so I’m going to venture away from sci-fi into new territory.
That is, I’m going to write original wuxia/historical Chinese fiction in ENGLISH. Whooohoooo. I’m crazy. And I’m going to have so much trouble with setting/characters/plot when my brain must be set to ancient Chinese mode but I have to write in modern English. I don’t know how long this story will be, or how long it will take me, or even if I’ll ever finish it (since it seems to be my favorite method of procrastination, I’ll inevitably feel guilty every time I write).
But, for the sake of my drool that cannot be suppressed, and for the sanity of my equally Chinese-culture-obsessed twin, I will spearhead this new genre, creatively dubbed ‘Wuxia in English.’ It’s a dull category name but it’s spot-on. First off will be a teaser for an untitled story involving Yelü Xie, a certain mister mysterious, and two characters who will be the ancient counterparts of myself and my twin. This part only will refer to some scenes in the 2006 Young Warriors of the Yang Clan (少年杨家将). Which, by the way, you should totally watch. There is an English subtitled version somewhere in cyberspace. Absolutely worth every second of your time.
Yes, Yelü Xie is the villain, but he’s really an anti-hero type of character. Not set in black or white. Fierce, ruthless, proud…but also super romantic. Surprised me out of my mind. I hated him for almost an entire year, but the actor Yuan Hong is totally my dream guy, so I decided to see how his intriguing role plays out.
Now, enjoy the product of my daydreaming! This first part will not be password-protected because I want the whole world to love him.
Chapter 1: Roaming
He was free. The wind caressed his face, lingering over the long scar on his left cheek, as he sped across the endless grasslands. The hoofs of the swift steed he had stolen the previous night pounded a steady rhythm to which his heart drummed along. He inhaled deeply the refreshing, chilly morning air and scanned his surroundings. Glimpses of dawn’s blush streaked across the eastern horizon in wispy strokes of scarlet and tangerine. It was beautiful, really. He had already experienced this tranquility on the open plains for weeks now, but he still feared that it would vanish like mist in a dream. It was, after all, only the first moon since he last issued his bellowing war-cry, since his last sighting of a thousand mutilated corpses, since he had last taken a life. It had also been the same amount of time since he’d last seen her, dueled with her, and nearly killed her.
He would not think of her. She was the past, the forgotten. Yet a painful sting seared through his chest as his own words echoed back at him: “I will never forget you.” It had been the most magical night of his life. He pulled on the reins tighter and closed his eyes in reminiscence. He had met her at dusk, demanding payment from her, as he had gone to great lengths to help her seek vengeance on the venomous Liao scum who had killed her father and indirectly caused her mother’s death. All he wanted was for her to accompany him into the mountains and spend a peaceful night by a bonfire. But the stubborn girl had refused, so he had no choice, really, but to seal her pressure points, hoist her on his back, and carry her up to his favorite spot in the mountains.
She had awoken just as he was feeding more wood to the fire. She was so loud and defiant, unable to maintain a civilized conversation for more than a minute. No doubt her brashness was owed to living on the far outskirts of town, hammering and forging and sharpening fine swords for a living. And he wanted badly to see her temper flare by misunderstanding the ‘debt’ he told her he wanted to claim. He had all but jumped on top of her upon the grass, his hot breath condensing just above her, to test if she understood his character. She protested and insulted him, but she understood, unlike the night she called him a lecher when he was only trying to ease her into a better position for stargazing on the hill of wildflowers.
He was no gentleman, but he wanted to show her that his true intentions were still noble: without another word he hurled a smooth rock at the nearby fire with unerring accuracy and force, smothering the flames instantly. The black smoke dispelled to reveal a clear full moon, which cast its ethereal glow on the towering blue cliff of precious stones behind them. He knew, without seeing them, that the crevices of the cliff glittered like faint stars; he saw their reflections in her endearing eyes.
He imagined that every girl would be captivated by the midnight magic unraveling before their very eyes, and he had secretly prepared this moment for days, when he was tired of planning battle tactics against the Song armies. But she told him in a few simple, heartbreaking words that she could not accept his feelings, much in the same way she had once waved his incense-infused staff for attracting fireflies and traced a single word, “No,” in a shower of gold onto the black sky that instantly became repulsive to him.
That was exactly her nature: simple, honest, and direct. She was also boisterous and rude, fiery and at times inclined to violence. But it made him feel like a man of flesh and blood. He hadn’t cried when he met her in her bedchamber, dressed in red on her wedding night. He had bitterly offered her a cup of wine to sever their ties and celebrate her wedding…her union to someone that wasn’t him…to not a mere commoner, but his fierce rival Wu Lang, fifth son in the highly revered Yang family. He hoped she was happy now as Wu Niang, wife of a man good enough for any woman but her. But he, he was not happy, and he wanted so badly to curse her to the depths of the earth, but still loved her too much to do so…and a single drop of moisture rolled down his scarred cheek as he opened his eyes again.
He cracked the whip with more force than necessary and viciously wiped the tear on his sleeve. He couldn’t remember the last time he had cried; he hadn’t even shed a tear during the public executions of the female Liao spies who had set up headquarters at the Scarlet Teahouse. The beheading of all those women fiercely loyal to him and to the Great Liao was all his fault. It was his fault that their lives had been cut so brutally short, his fault for failing to send them home quickly enough when their plot had been exposed by the Yangs. He had promised to spill every last drop of the Yangs’ blood to avenge them, yet he was never able to personally attain that satisfaction. He had failed them even as they turned in their graves.
But now the tides had turned. He had already vowed to alienate himself from warfare and corruption, both of which he would have to resort to if he wanted to vanquish the remaining Yang warrior, Liu Lang. And what’s more, he now held a high regard for the entire Yang family, the dead and the women included. Only last month, when forced to retreat his troops from outside the Song capital, did he realize that the Yangs could never be defeated in spirit even if they perished in combat. His past hatred for the courageous warriors in red armor had been fueled by a mixture of jealousy and spite, initiated when Wu Lang fought him for the first time and marred his handsome face with a deep scar. From then on he had pitted himself against Wu Lang at every opportunity, but ultimately lost to him in both love and war.
And now, as he clutched the reins tightly and buried himself in the horse’s mane, he finally acknowledged the truth that had been gnawing at him for years. Yes, he was once the proud general of Great Liao, the Dowager Empress’s right-hand man. But he had already fought his last war and lost. And he didn’t feel a twinge of regret. Instead he felt a burst of relief as he began to truly see, to view the world through newborn eyes, no longer clouded by the single pursuit for Song blood. How often he had dreamed of carefree days like this, when there was nothing but flawless blue above him and the soft grass beneath.
But he couldn’t roam forever. One moon ago he had crossed from the Central Plains back into Liao. Now he was approaching the border once more, but this time thousands of li east. He would soon reach the Eastern capital Dongjing, not far from the coast. He would have liked to avoid contact with people for as long as possible, but he couldn’t continue to gain sustenance from hunting and occasionally robbing travelers. His emerging savage tendencies would subside once he reached civilization again.
He spotted the outline of a dense forest ahead, the border between the Central and Eastern regions. The split had been received with no opposition, so the forest was completely unoccupied and unguarded. Yelü Xie cracked the whip to hasten the steed through a relatively clear path directly into the silent forest. Ancient trees with their towering foliage thoroughly filtered out the weak sunlight. He sped through the semi-darkness with ease and relaxed. Within the next hour he would reach the gates of the Eastern capital, and he needed to be fully alert upon arrival. If he liked the place enough, he would settle there temporarily. Otherwise he would traverse the Southern region, and if that didn’t suit him, he wouldn’t oppose to residing in Song. But he would make sure to avoid Bianjing at all costs. Crossing paths with her or the Yangs again was the last thing he wanted in this lifetime.
It wasn’t long before the trees thinned and his eyes had to adjust to a growing brightness. Sunbeams greeted him at the edge of the forest, and he quickly dismounted near a massive shrub. There he discarded his fur cap, his heavy outer robe, and his pendant with the hanging silver crescent of Liao. It wasn’t safe for him to exhibit his former identity as the Great Liao general anywhere on the continent. The Eastern cities, especially Dongjing, were furthermore perilous because of their proximity to the Kingdom of Goryeo.
But his curved sword in its gilded sheath would remain on him no matter what. In one swift, practiced movement he climbed onto the horses’s back and sped onward. The thick underbrush soon dwindled to wild grass, then suddenly transitioned to an expanse of brown dirt with no end in sight. The steel gates of the Eastern capital loomed ahead, the sun reflecting harshly on the metal’s gray luster. He slowed his horse from a gallop to a trot as he approached the first row of sentries, who barely cast the lone man a glance. The inner guards were more apprehensive, their eyes lingering on the gleaming hilt of his sword, but let him pass wordlessly.
He had arrived in Great Liao’s most sequestered capital.