Veiled woman in the black marshes.
Original translation by Foxs
Riding on the back of the eagle Guo Jing repeatedly shouted, calling the little red horse on the ground to follow them. In a short moment the pair of eagles had covered quite a distance. Although this pair of eagles was extraordinarily big, they were not able to fly too far while carrying humans on their back. Not too long afterwards, they started to descend and finally landed on the ground.
Guo Jing immediately jumped down the eagle’s back and rushed to see Huang Rong’s condition. He found out that Huang Rong had passed out while on the eagle’s back. Hastily he untied her belt and massaged her pulse. After a while Huang Rong regained her consciousness, but she was still in a daze and was unable to utter any word.
By that time the dark clouds were hanging on the sky, blocking the moon and stars from shining their lights to the ground. Having barely escaped from death, when he recalled what had just happened Guo Jing still shivered with fear. He held Huang Rong in his hands, standing in the middle of the wilderness. He felt the world was vast and obscure and did not know where he should go. He did not dare to call his little red horse for fear that Qiu Qianren would hear his call.
After standing still for half a day, he had no choice but to start walking. Every step he took he treaded on either a bush or tall grass; there was no pathway at all. His calves were pricked by thorns along the way. Although feeling the pain, he doggedly walked forward. All around him was pitch-black; even if he tried to open his eyes wide he still could not see his hands in front of his eyes. He was forced to walk very slow, for fear that he would step into an empty space; yet because he feared the Iron Palm Clan people would pursue, he did not dare to pause.
After walking miserably for about two ‘li’s [1 li is approximately 0.5 km] suddenly he saw a big star twinkling low on the horizon to his left. He looked attentively, trying to get his bearing; he found out that that was not a star, but a fire light. And where there was light, there were bound to be people around. Guo Jing was delighted; he sped up his footsteps walking directly to that light. He saw that the light sometimes disappeared among the tree; it looked like the source of that light was inside a thick forest ahead of him. But once he entered the forest he was unable to walk straight, the pathway was bent to the east and turned to the west, so very soon he lost sight of the light. It was difficult to see where he was going in that thick forest, so he jumped up a tree and looked around; he found out that the light was already behind him.
He walked back, but very soon he lost sight again. After seemingly walking in circles his head was spinning; no matter where he went, he simply could not reach that light. He was thinking about his pair of eagles and his horse, but did not know where they went. He was thinking about jumping from tree to tree, but it was so dark that he could not see where to step; also he was afraid the tree branches would hurt Huang Rong. But they had to find lodging for the night for he knew they could not stay in this dark forest waiting for dawn. He determined to keep walking even if he had to bump his head on the trees. Therefore, he decided to calm down and caught his breath first, taking a short break.
By now Huang Rong had slowly regained her consciousness; on Guo Jing’s back she felt how he walked around, turning to the east and curving to the west. Although she could not see anything she began to understand the pathway of the forest. “Jing Gege, walk diagonally to the right,” she said in low voice.
“Rong’er, are you all right?” Guo Jing happily asked.
Huang Rong mumbled indistinctly, she was still too weak to speak. Guo Jing walked following her direction. Huang Rong silently counted his footsteps. After about seventeen steps she said, “Walk to the left eight steps.” Guo Jing followed her instruction. Huang Rong again said, “Walk diagonally to the right again for thirteen steps.”
With one giving direction the other following, two people made a good progress in that pitch-black winding forest pathway. When Guo Jing walked back and forth earlier, Huang Rong had deducted correctly that this pathway was manmade. She had partially mastered Huang Yaoshi’s wonderful ‘wu xing qi men’ [five ways strange/wonderful/mysterious gates] technique; even though the pathway was confusing, she could see it clearly with her eyes closed. If it were daylight, she would have arrived sooner, but in the dark she could not identify any safe trail at all.
By following Huang Rong’s instructions, Guo Jing walked sometimes to the left, sometimes to the right, sometimes diagonally several steps to the left or to the right; sometimes seemingly he walked further away from the light, but in less than a time needed to drink a cup of tea the light source suddenly appeared in front of them. Guo Jing was delighted, he dashed forward.
“Not too fast!” Huang Rong anxiously called out. “Aiyo!” Guo Jing cried out. His feet sank straight into a moat. Quickly he kicked his feet to pull out from the moat. Once they were back on solid ground, a strong fume of mud from his feet attacked their nostrils. They looked ahead and vaguely saw two thatched huts surrounded by a thin layer of mist. The light was coming from these huts.
Guo Jing loudly called out, “We are passing visitors, also suffering a serious injury. We beseech the master of the house to grant us a place to rest and some water to drink.” But after waiting for half a day no reply came out from the huts. Guo Jing called again, but still nobody answered. After calling out for the third time a female voice answered from the huts, “You can get this far, certainly you have the ability to enter the house. Must I come out to greet you?” Her voice was exceptionally cold and indifferent; obviously she did not welcome the visitor and did not want to be disturbed.
Under normal circumstances Guo Jing would prefer spending the night in the forest, he also hated to deliberately disturb unwelcoming host; but for now Huang Rong’s well-being was more important to him. However, in front of him was a wide marsh, which he did not know how to cross; therefore, with a low voice he discussed this thing over with Huang Rong.
Huang Rong thought for a moment then said, “These huts are built in the middle of a pond of mud. Take a look clearly and tell me whether the shapes of those huts are one square and the other round.”
Guo Jing opened up his eye wide for a moment then he exclaimed, “That’s right! Rong’er, you know everything.”
“Go to the back of that round hut, from there walk straight to the light three steps, then turn diagonally to the left four steps, then straight three steps and diagonally to the right four steps. By carefully walking straight and diagonally like this, you won’t make a wrong step,” Huang Rong said.
Guo Jing followed her instruction to the letter; and sure enough, every time he stepped his foot down, he would step on a submerged wooden stake. Only those wooden stakes were not firm, some of them wobbled and some were planted on an angle; if his lightness kungfu was not good, they would fall into the marsh. He focused all his attention to walk three steps diagonally and four steps straight; and after walking a total of 119 steps they arrived at the front of the square hut.