Friday, December 28, 2018


I'm re-reading the Eleventh Son as I work with Deathblade on a new Dark Wuxia RPG. I already posted PART ONE where I discussed Chapters 1-5. Here I talk about chapter 6- 
Shen Bijun, Lian Chengbi, Xiao Shiyi Lang and Feng Siniang
From the 2016 Drama Series


Chapter Six (The Heart of a Pretty Woman): In this chapter, Feng Siniang and Xiao Shiyi Lang go to a teahouse in Jinan, where the patrons shift their ogling from Feng to a carriage outside carrying Shen Bijun. An old man with a hunchback explains that Shen Bijun is now Mrs. Lian, having married Lan Chengbi of Flawless Manor of Gusu. She was married two years ago and has come back to Jinan to visit her family at Shen Manor. Feng and Xiao later bump into Yang Kaitai, a genteel swordsman who seems awkward with women and is clearly in love with Feng. He is also owner of Yuanji bank, and very good with money (though Feng finds him annoying an overly frugal). Feng Siniang uses his admiration for her to get him to cover their meal costs at a fancy restaurant called the Guest Pleasing Chamber. Yang says he and the other Six Ideal Gentlemen (Li Gang, Lean Chengbi, Liu Seqing, Zhu Baishui, and Xu Qingteng) were invited by Master Xu Luzi, the maker of Deer Carver, so he can give the sabre to one of them. He has yet to decide who to give it to and has two conditions: the person who gives Deer Carver to must always carry it, no matter what & they must agree to kill the world's most notorious bandit; Xiao Shiyi Lang. Xiao continues to talk with Yang, who doesn't realize he is Xiao Shiyi Lang, and learn about the fighting styles of the Six Ideal Gentlemen. Yang agrees to take them to Shen Manor. 

Chapter Seven (Awe-Inspiring Lady Shen): Xiao, Yang Kaitai and Feng all go to Shen Manor. We learn that Shen Bijun's parents were killed trying to wipe out bandits at battle of Jiayi Pass. Lady Shen, Shen Bijjun's grandmother, is now in charge of the manor and highly respected in the Wulin. Lady Shen tells people that Shen Bijun has morning sickness. Zhao tells Lady Shen that the Deer Carver was lost to Xiao Shiyi Lang. Everyone agrees that Xiao Shiyi Lang must die. Xiao departs quietly, leaving Feng behind with Yang and a note telling her to Marry Yang Kaitai. 

Chapter Eight (Hawk King's Secret): Xiao encounters injured Hawk King. Hawk King asks for help but attacks him, then flees. Xiao sees three figures in the woods come upon Hawk King's body: Hai Lingzi, Tu Xiaotian and a mystery person named Little Mister (who has the Deer Carver). Little Mister cuts off Hawk King's head and tells the others that it was Xiao Shiyi Lang's doing in an effort to frame him. Little Mister writes a poem on the tree claiming responsibility for the killing in the name of Xiao. Then he tells the others to cut out the section of tree and deliver the message to Lady Shen. It is revealed that Little Mister is working for a great master and has been tasked with obtaining the Deer Carver and abducting Shen Bijun (who Little Mister describes as the most beautiful woman in the aylin). They intend to use Xiao Shiyi Lang as bait, so he will be distracted while they go after Shen Bijun. 
Candy Wen as Little Mister (AKA Little Lord)
From the 1978 film Swordsman and the Enchantress

Chapter Nine (Beauty of Beauties): In this chapter, Little Mister tries to waylay Shen Bijun's carriage, but Xiao also arrives at the spot. Little Mister kills Shen Bijun's retinue, and Shen Bijun dramatically exits her carriage and attacks using needles. Little Mister stabs her with a poisoned boot knife and she falls asleep. Little Mister is revealed to be a woman (up to this point the character was presented as either an effeminate man or a boy) and uses this distraction to scratch Xiao's neck with poison in order to make an escape. 

Chapter Ten (A Murderous Look in the Eye): Xiao isn't harmed by the scratch after all (calling it a mere cat scratch) and goes after Little Mister, rescuing Shen Bijun and taking her to an abandoned temple. Before the rescue, Little Mister seems jealous of Shen Bijun's beauty and even on the verge of harming or killing her (for fear that her master will shift attention away from her and onto Shen Bijun). 


Chapters Six through Eight feel like the point where the plot really begins to take shape. I completely forgot how important Lady Shen is in the story. 

Deer Carver is described as a "Blade like a blue rainbow" (page 95). The poem Little Mister writes is:

Carving the deer is nothing
Compared with carving the head
Pare off everyone's head, if I can
Wound't that be a thrill!

I forgot how delightful Yang Kaitai is as a character. Gu Long does an especially good job breathing life into him and laying the ground work for he and Feng Siniang's future. 

Little Mister is also a very good villain. The way the character is described provides plenty of hints about her true nature, but cleverly done. I didn't realize Little Mister was a woman the first time I read it until the reveal and when you go back it is interesting to see the trail of hints. I also realize that in a novel, the trope in the genre of women passing as men by simply wearing different clothing makes more sense than in movies. Partly because you can see the other character's thought process (where they think she is just a boy or an effeminate man). 

Shen Bijun has a defense called Cloud Wrapping Shooting Stars (which protects her against needle attacks). 

One thing that I hadn't noticed before as much was the way the context of the story shifts and Xiao Shiyi Lang's personality feels different because of the contrast. Initially he is quite playful and seemingly carefree. He remains this way, but as it becomes clear there is a division between the more lofty and reputable members of the Wulin and the less respected characters within the broader Jianghu, this gives him a much darker shade. Much of the book is about this division, and about Xiao's inability to fend off accusations of wrong-doing because of his lower reputation (he is both lowborn and a notorious bandit, so people like the Six Ideal Gentlemen naturally assume he is guilty. 

This has given me a lot of fodder as well for thinking about wuxia RPG design. Particularly around building of the jianghu. 

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