Repentance of the haughty dragon.
Original translation by Mojo Jojo
Huang Rong was on the point of cutting up the chicken when they heard a voice behind them:
“A third portion, I will take the tail portion!”
The two youngsters started: how had somebody been able to approach them without them realizing his being there? They turned and beheld a beggar, old, but forceful. The man had a rectangular face, a goatee beard, and vigorous but rather massive limbs. His clothes, frayed on all sides, were however very clean. He held with one hand a green cane, made from translucent bamboo like jade, and carried on his back a large red gourd. He looked so greedy and impatient, one had the impression that if his portion were not given, he was going to seize some by force! Before the two young people had time to answer, he had already sat down in front of them, without further ado. He took his water-bottle and opened it, and a heady alcoholic perfume spread itself in the air. He gluttonously swallowed several mouthfuls before tightening the water-bottle.
To Guo Jing:
” A drink, little urchin,” said he, “with you!”
Guo Jing found the man rather impolite, but sensed distinctly that he was no ordinary individual, so he did not dare to show disrespect:
” No, thank you,” he said courteously, ” I do not drink alcohol, but you doing so causes me no inconvenience.”
” And you, little girl,” asked the beggar of Huang Rong, ” Do you drink?”
Huang Rong shook her head. Suddenly, she saw that the hand which held the water-gourd had only four fingers: the index had been severed at the root. She started and thought of the conversation between the Taoists and the Odd Ones, whom she had overheard behind the window of the inn the other day, concerning the Divine Beggar with the nine fingers. “Would this be a stroke of luck,” she wondered, ” that we fall thus, by chance, on that Elder one? Let us try to probe him a little… ” The eyes of the beggar were fixed on the chicken held in his hand and he salivated with greediness. She could not stop secretly laughing.
He then cut out the bird into two and the tail portion was tended to him. Captivated, the beggar seized some and took a full bite. While devouring it, he did not cease praising:
” Delicious! Delicious! Even I, who am the ancestor of all the beggars, I could not improvise such a delicious “Beggar’s Chicken”!”
Huang Rong traced a smile and tended the other piece to him.
” But no,” protested the beggar, ” you have not eaten yet, you all!”
This attempt at manners was in vain, purely for form’s sake, as that did not prevent him from seizing what was offered to him: in a flash, there remained nothing any more but bones!
He tapped his belly then and exclaimed:
” Ah, my belly! My belly! Hasn’t it been a long time that you have been starved of such a good chicken?”
Huang Rong burst out laughing:
” By the greatest good chance, I prepared a “Beggar’s Chicken” and here it has entered the majestic belly of the ancestor of the beggars! It’s a true honor!”
The beggar burst out laughing:
“Little girl, you are quite brave!”
He withdrew from his pocket several gilded projectiles:
” Yesterday,” he explained, ” I saw several individuals brawling… The missiles which one of them launched shone like gold. I was the one who benefited from it, I took some of them. In fact, inside, it is cheap metal, but outside, to look good, it is genuine gold. Hold, little urchin, take them and have fun. Where necessary, you can draw some funds from them.”
Guo Jing shook his head:
“We regard you as a friend, and when one invites a friend to eat, one does not accept gifts in payment!”
In doing so he honored the rules of hospitality of the Mongols.
The beggar, feeling thwarted, scraped his head:
” Then, I am also embarrassed! I have no trouble begging for scraps from people, but today, you provided me such a good chicken! Such a benefit, that I cannot return it, that…”
“Why speak about benefit and repayment, for such a small chicken?” Guo Jing said. ” And, to be honest, we stole this chicken too…”
” We took this chicken in passing,” confirmed Huang Rong, you ate it while you passed here, very well done…”
The beggar still burst of laughing:
“You two,” said he, ” funny enough, I like you well. Good, if you have a wish to formulate, tell it to me.”
Guo Jing, understanding that he proposed to help them, which again infringed the rules of hospitality, shook his head again. But Huang Rong intervened:
” In fact, this “Beggar’s Chicken” is really not a great thing, I have other small favourite dishes, that I would readily make for you to taste. Why won’t you come with us?”
” Splendid!” exclaimed the beggar, enchanted. “Splendid!”
” What is your honorable name?” asked Guo Jing.
” My name is Hong, the beggar. And as I am the seventh in my fraternity, you can call me “Qi Gong” (“The Seventh Elder”).”
“It is indeed him!” Huang Rong said. ” The Divine Beggar with the nine fingers! But it seems to be younger than the Taoist Master Qiu, how could he be a contemporary of the master of the Quanzhen Seven? Hmm…actually, my dad himself isn’t old, but yet he is a peer of Qi Gong! That must be explained by the incompetence of these seven old Taoists, who wasted their time! ” She always held some resentment against Qiu Chuji for his having wanted to force Guo Jing to marry Mu Nianci.
They went towards the South and arrived in a small town, where they took a room in an inn.
” I’ll go to the market,” said Huang Rong. “You men, it’s better for you to rest a little.”
” She…isn’t she your little wife? asked Qi Gong of Guo Jing while watching her depart with a smile.
The young man reddened, not daring to agree nor to disagree. Qi Gong burst of laughing, and started to drowse on a chair. More than one and a half hours later, Huang Rong returned finally and settled in the kitchen. Guo Jing wanted to help her but the girl closed the door while laughing. Another half an hour passed. Qi Gong yawned, stretched, and inhaled deeply:
” That smells jolly good,” he said. ” But what could that be, well? It’s odd…”
He stretched his neck, trying to look through the door of the kitchen. Looking at him, both impatient and greedy, Guo Jing could not stop himself from secretly laughing. Delicate aromas emerged from the kitchen, but Huang Rong remained always invisible.
Qi Gong did not hold still any more, he scratched his head, rubbed his cheeks, rose, sat down, stood up, as if he were on burning coals.
” I am like that,” he confided to Guo Jing, ” I have this unpleasant vice of greediness: when I think of eating, I forget everything else!
He tightened his right hand and showed its four fingers:
The old man said: “The index finger moves because of greediness.” It was completely true! Each time I see or feel a dish that is original or exquisite, the index of my right hand cannot prevent itself from quivering. Once, because of my greediness, I ruined an extremely important business. Then, I was so much in anger against myself that, with a blow of a knife, I sliced off my index finger!”
Guo Jing started, but Qi Gong sighed: