The cripples of Wuhu.
Original translation by Sunnysnow
Guo Jing went toward where the snake noise came from. After dozens of steps under the bright moonlight he saw millions of green snakes crawling together as a flock. There were more than ten men wearing white clothes carrying long poles herding the snakes.
Guo Jing gulped; he was greatly surprised, “What are these people with so many snakes doing here? Could it be that Western Poison has arrived?” Without regard to his own safety he came nearer, sneaked behind trees and followed them heading north. Luckily the men who herd the snakes did not have high level of martial arts, otherwise he would be detected.
A deaf and mute servant of Huang Yaoshi was seen in front of the herd, showing the way. They walked through winding path for several li’s through the forest and crossing a small hill before finally arrived at a big stretch of grass meadow. Toward the north of the meadow was a bamboo forest. As soon as they were all on this meadow, the men in whites blew their whistles and the snakes stopped. They all stayed on the ground with their heads raised high in the air.
Guo Jing knew there must be something in the bamboo groove, he wanted to take a look; but he did not dare to reveal his presence by walking across the meadow. So he stealthily walked to the east and then circled back north, keeping his ears open at all times; but the forest was quiet. Finally he arrived and immediately entered the thick green bamboo groove.
Inside the groove there was a small pavilion built from bamboo. Under the bright moonlight Guo Jing could see across the pavilion opening was written these three characters, ‘ji cui ting’ [old jade-green pavilion]. While on the either sides hung two couplets: ‘tao hua ying li fei shen jian’ [under the shadow of peach blossom divine sword flew] and ‘bi hai chao sheng an yu xiao’ [with the jade-colored ocean tide jade flute arose].
Several bamboo chairs were placed inside the pavilion; the chairs looked rustic and old. Under the bright moonlight the bamboo looked longer green but smooth and shiny yellow. The pavilion was built in between two big pine trees. Their trunks and branches spread out looked like dragons lurking in the dark. The trees were several hundreds years old. The dark green bamboo surrounding, the bamboo pavilion, the trees, all gave a feeling of serenity and beauty.
Guo Jing looked back and saw the snakes were still staying in row after row on the meadow. Only now did he realize that the snakes were not only green snakes, but other types of snakes as well: there were rattlesnakes, golden-scaled snakes, black snakes, all kinds of venomous snakes. The snakes kept moving their heads, which made the meadow rippled like ocean waves. The snakes’ tongues flicked in and out their mouths, looked like tiny flames dancing chaotically.
The snakes’ shepherds divided the flock to open up a pathway right in the middle. Dozens of females dressed in white walking by carrying red lanterns. Several zhang’s [1 zhang is approximately 10 feet/3 meters] behind them two men were walking slowly. The first was wearing a white satin long gown, embroidered by gold threads; with a folding fan in his hand. It was none other than Ouyang Ke.
Arriving at the bamboo groove he said in a loud and clear voice, “Mr. Ouyang from the western region pays a visit to the Peach Blossom Island Master Huang.”
“It really is Western Poison,” Guo Jing thought, “No wonder all these pomp and fanfares.” He turned his eyes to the man beside Ouyang Ke. He was big and tall, also wearing white clothes; but because the light was coming from behind him, Guo Jing could not see his face clearly.
Those two people stood there waiting; out from the bamboo grove came out two people. Guo Jing’s heart leaped to his throat, he almost cried out in alarm; they were none other than Huang Yaoshi holding Huang Rong’s hand to welcome the guests.
Ouyang Feng rushed forward and raised his hands to salute. Huang Yaoshi reciprocated by cupping his fists. Ouyang Ke actually knelt down where he was, kowtowed four times and said, “Son-in-law kowtowed to the Honorable Father-in-law; wishes Honorable Father-in-law’s peace and prosperity.”
“Enough!” Huang Yaoshi said, extending his hand to raise him up. Guo Jing could hear clearly what these two people were saying; his heart was tumultuous, he didn’t know what to do.
Ouyang Ke had anticipated that Huang Yaoshi would certainly test his martial art, so he had been prepared early on; even when kowtowing he was fully alert. But suddenly he felt his own right hand moved toward his left hand and pushed him upward. He stumbled and almost fell down face to the ground, only by exerting his energy was he finally able to stay standing, but his body was still staggering. “Aiyo!” he cried out. Ouyang Feng immediately stretched the staff in his hand and tapped gently on his nephew’s back. Ouyang Ke took advantage of this force and steadied himself.
Ouyang Feng smiled. “Good!” he said, “Yao Xiong [Brother Yao, translator’s note: different character from Huang Rong’s ‘Brother Jing’ – ‘Jing Gege’], was that your way of greeting your son-in-law in your first meeting, by making him do somersault?”
Huang Yaoshi sneered. “Once he helped others bullying my blind disciple; other time he scared her with his snakes. I want to see what ability he possesses.”
Ouyang Feng laughed. “That was children’s small misunderstanding, Yao Xiong, please don’t mind him. This child of mine, is he worthy enough to be your precious daughter’s match?” He turned toward Huang Rong to check her out, clucking his tongue in admiration he continued, “Elder Brother [translator’s note: this time he used ‘lao ge’ – ‘old elder brother’] Huang, by having this beautiful young lady, your life is lacking nothing.”
He groped his pocket and produced a small embroidered box. He opened the box and showed a pigeon-egg-size sphere. The sphere shone brightly in the dark, dazzling to the eyes. He turned to Huang Rong and smiled, “This is the rhinoceros’ dragon pill; western region’s rare animal. I further refined it with some other medicinal substances. When you wear it, you won’t be affected by hundreds types of poison. It is one of its kinds in the whole wide world. Later on you will become my nephew’s wife; you won’t be afraid of your uncle’s venomous snakes and insects. This dragon pill’s usefulness is not small, but it cannot be regarded as the most precious treasure in the world. Your father has traversed the world, what kind of treasure he has not seen? This is only a countryman-from-a-remote-area’s first meeting’s gift. I am afraid he would laugh at it.” Then he presented to box to Huang Rong.
Ouyang Feng was an expert in using poison; by giving this precious poison repellent as a dowry he showed his sincerity and was hoping to win Huang Yaoshi’s heart.
Guo Jing saw everything. “Rong’er has always been good to me; she won’t change her mind. Surely she doesn’t want first meeting gift of yours,” he thought. But unexpectedly he heard Huang Rong said with a smile, “Many thanks to you!” and extended her hand to receive it.
As soon as Ouyang Ke saw Huang Rong’s snow-white skin and face as pretty as a flower his soul had already been sold; now that she was smiling at him his whole body melted, he thought, “Since her father had given her hand in marriage to me, naturally her attitude toward me is not the same as it was before.” He felt smug. But suddenly some metal flashed toward him. “Not good!” he cried, and immediately bent his body backward using ‘tie ban qiao’ [iron bridge] stance.
“What are you doing?” Huang Yaoshi scolded his daughter. His left sleeve flicked and struck down the steel needle shot from Huang Rong’s hand, while with the back of his right hand he pushed her shoulder back.