Grand birthday celebration.
The following day was the beginning of the Heroes’ Summit. Guo Xiang had decided not to join the feast, so Huang Rong had instructed their kitchen workers to prepare some food for her to have her own feast. Guo Fu had been musing for several days on the possibilities as to how her husband would win the Beggar Clan Chief position, so her sister’s special feast was very far from her mind.
The Heroes’ Summit continued for the next several days. Among other things, they discussed plans on how to unite the valiant and patriotic men and women across the country; plans on how to disrupt the Mongolian troop’s swift movements, and plans on how to reinforce Xiangyang’s defenses. Everything was properly discussed. The attendees were itching to fight the enemy; they were impatient to slaughter the arriving enemy troops. Guo Jing was happy to see the group’s boldness even though he was aware of the strength of the Mongolian army for a long time; definitely not the match for these several thousands Jianghu people. Hence he could not avoid feeling anxious.
The Summit was concluded on the twenty-fourth of the third month, with a very satisfactory result. Just before the closing ceremony, everybody agreed to have the Beggar Clan Chief’s election around noon that very same day. And so it was, right after lunch, everybody headed toward the field used for military exercises on the west side. Upon arrival, they all saw a huge stage located right in the middle of the field. On and around the stage nothing was set, not a single chair. This was in accordance to the Beggar Clan rules and regulations, no matter how big or how small a meeting was, beggars could not lose their identity by sitting on chairs. Toward the south of the stage there were hundreds of chairs prepared for ‘outsiders’.
Before one o’clock there were more than two thousand Clan members sitting around the stage. They were the higher level members of the clan. The lowest grade was the fourth. According to the Clan bylaws, these two thousand some members were under the direction of four elders.
There were originally four Elders of the Beggar Clan, namely Elder Lu, Elder Jian, Elder Liang and Elder Peng. Lu Youjiao was promoted to be the Clan Leader, but met a tragic end just recently. Elder Peng had become a traitor and was killed by the Monk Ci’en. Elder Jian had died due to his old age and ailments. Therefore, Elder Liang held the highest position in the Clan. He had three eighth grade disciples as the newly appointed Elders assisting him.
The beggars ushered thousands of valiant men and women from the Heroes’ Summit to the chairs. Yelu Qi and his wife Guo Fu, Wu Dunru and his wife Yelu Yan, Wu Xiuwen and his wife Wanyan Ping and the other younger generation sat towards the back. They had trained hard for more than ten years and had achieved significant improvements; they secretly wondered if they would have any opportunity to show off their skills in front of the several thousands heroes that day.
Guo Polu was sitting next to his eldest sister, watching this magnificent setting with awe. He whispered, “Second Sister is so weird. Why doesn’t she come and attend this meeting?”
“What’s inside that ‘Little Eastern Heretic’s’ mind, nobody can guess,” Guo Fu snickered.
In not too long, an eighth grade disciple toward the east side stood up and blew a giant shell horn, “whooo … whooo … whooooo …!” It was the signal that the appointed time had come (it was between one and three in the afternoon).
While the sound of the horn was fading away, Huang Rong leaped on stage and bowed in all directions. She then began her oration with a loud and clear voice. “Today is the big meeting day of our clan. On behalf of the Beggar Clan, I would like to extend our gratitude and respect to all Seniors and Heroes who have made the effort to join us here.” She then bowed one more time, and the guests reciprocated.
“Our beloved leader, the late Chief Lu, was a wise and patriotic man, who devoted his life to the clan and our nation,” Huang Rong continued. “Unfortunately, he was cowardly attacked and killed by that scoundrel Hou Du at the Yang Tai Fu Temple over the hill yonder. This is an un-avenged deep resentment, not mentioning great disgrace to our Clan …”
These words created loud response from the Beggar Clan members. They remembered Lu Youjiao’s benevolent heart, his impartiality and his patriotism. They were very saddened by his death. Some were sobbing loudly, while the others cursed Hou Du uncontrollably.
After the commotion subsided, Huang Rong continued, “By keeping in mind that the Mongols might attack any moment, we have made the decision not to put our Clan’s need above that of our country. Therefore, we will hold the thought of revenge until a more appropriate time, and we will discuss this matter at length after we defeat the enemies.”
This statement was met by the unanimous approval of the beggars.
“With Chief Lu’s untimely death comes another more pressing matter,” Huang Rong said, “our Clan member’s number in the tens of thousands, scattered across the country. They cannot be left leaderless. Therefore, we have to elect a new Clan Chief, today. We need someone wise and benevolent, who knows martial arts as well as literature, and who will have the love and respect of our entire clan. As to how we are going to elect such leader, Little sister will have to ask Elder Liang to give us further instructions.”
In another moment Elder Liang stood ready on stage. His hair was silvery-white, but his body still erect and his movements fluid. This Elder was welcomed with loud cheering and applause from the audience. In this gathering of about four or five thousands attendees, the applause resembled the rumble of thunder in the middle of the day.
Elder Liang cupped his fists to thank the people for the applause and after it subsided he said, “Former Chief Huang is exceptionally intelligent. What she just said would not be incorrect. She was just being modest by asking the four elders plus the eight eighth grade members to decide on how to elect the new chief. What ability do we, twelve smelly beggars, have in such an important matter?”
Elder Liang paused for a few seconds. The field was quiet. Everybody was straining their ears to hear what this Elder had to say.
After sending his penetrating gaze across the field, Elder Liang continued, “In our humble opinion, even though the beggars are good for nothing, we do have a great number of members scattered throughout the country. As Former Chief Huang has mentioned, we cannot afford to be without a leader. We need a leader who is wise, benevolent and highly skilled in martial arts and literature. We believe with all of our hearts, that leaders like Former Chief Hong Qigong and Former Chief Huang are one in a million. Leaders like the late Chief Lu, who was loved by all of us. These are not easy to duplicate. Therefore, after a long and careful deliberation, we came to conclusion that the best course to take is to ask Former Chief Huang to get her feet wet and again lead our Clan.” Speaking to this point he paused again because the audience burst out in cheers and applause, even louder than the previous one. The audience thought, “A talented person of Huang Rong’s caliber is not easy to find in the world, let alone within the Beggar Clan.”
Elder Liang waited for the applause to subside; then he continued “If she refuses, then we’ll have to ask again and again. Unfortunately for us, we have a bigger problem threatening our country. The Mongolian armies are attacking Xiangyang and, as a devoted wife as well as a patriot, Former Chief Huang has to stand by the side of Chivalrous Hero Guo (Guo Da Xia) to defeat the enemy and defend our country. This is a formidable task to bear. Thus, if we bother Former Chief Huang with all the nitty-gritty business of the Beggar Clan, wouldn’t the people across the nation curse us stinky beggars until our deaths? And so, after careful consideration, we have made our final decision: Elect a new Chief.”