Jin Yong’s A Hero Born is a fantastical generational saga and kung fu epic, filled with an extraordinary cast of characters. This Chinese classic—coming to the U.S. for the first time on September 17th as translated by Anna Holmwood for St. Martin’s Press—is a tale of fantasy and wonder, love and passion, treachery and war, betrayal and brotherhood.
Want to start reading now? Tor.com is serializing A Hero Born all summer long—you can find all the previous chapters here! And check back every morning this week for another installment of the second chapter/episode: “The Seven Freaks of the South”.
“The Seven Freaks of the South”
The following afternoon an attending monk ran in to speak with the Abbot.
“There’s a Taoist in a rage outside. He says Commander Duan must come out at once.”
Withered Wood sent for Justice Duan.
“It’s him, the Taoist,” Duan said, trembling.
“What a despicable excuse for a monk. To which sect does he belong?”
“I have no idea where this crook is from. I don’t think his martial arts are anything special. But he’s strong, to be sure. Stronger than me.”
“Then I shall speak to him,” Withered Wood said, and made for the Great Hall.
Qiu Chuji was just then engaged in a tussle with the guards, trying to push his way into the Inner Hall. Withered Wood walked up to him and, using his neigong inner strength, tried to push Qiu out with minimal pressure to the shoulder. To his surprise, however, the Taoist’s upper arm felt like fresh cotton. He tried to pull back but it was too late; he was stumbling backward, and with a peng! his back smacked against the altar table, which collapsed, the incense burner and candles crashing down around him.
“What brings Your Reverence to my humble temple, may I ask?” Withered Wood said from where he sat, smarting.
“I am looking for a beggar by the name of Duan.”
Withered Wood understood the extent of the Taoist’s kung fu, so tried another tactic. “We spiritual men must show mercy and benevolence. Why is the monk behaving as if he were no more enlightened than a mere farmer?”
Qiu Chuji ignored him and strode into the Inner Hall. Justice Duan had already escaped into a secret chamber with Lily Li. Cloudy Perch Temple was fogged with plumes of incense as worshippers crowded the halls for spring pilgrimage season. He would struggle to find the commander in there. Qiu Chuji snorted and left.
Justice Duan emerged from his hiding place.
“Who is he?” Withered Wood said. “He could have killed me if he’d wanted to.”
“He’s an agent working on behalf of the Jin. Why else would he be picking a fight with an officer of the Song?” Duan replied.
At that moment, the attendant monk came back in to confirm that the Taoist had left.
“Did he say anything as he went?” Withered Wood said.
“He said he would not rest until the temple had surrendered Commander Duan.”
Withered Wood glared at his nephew. “You’re not telling me the whole truth. The Taoist is accomplished in the martial arts; you would never come out of an encounter with him alive.” He paused briefly before continuing. “You can’t stay here. I only know of one person who could fight this Taoist: a fellow disciple of my Master. His name is Scorched Wood. I think you should seek shelter with him for a while.”
Withered Wood provided Duan with a letter and hired a boat to take him through the night to Jiaxing to seek refuge with Scorched Wood of Fahua Temple.
Excerpted from A Hero Born, copyright © 2019 by Jin Yong.