“I would rather not know any martial art as long as you are safe and well,” Guo Jing said.
In her heart Huang Rong was very happy but she laughed and said, “Aiyo, if you want to flatter others you don’t need to blow such a big horn! If you don’t know martial art, you would be long dead. Let’s not talk about Ouyang Feng, Sha Tongtian and the others; even a black-dressed Iron Palm Clan member would be able to cut your head with a knife.”
“No matter what I can’t allow you to be injured anymore,” Guo Jing said, “Last time when I was injured in Lin’an I felt all right; but these past few days looking at you suffering so much pain, ay, that was really not good.”
“Humph,” Huang Rong smiled, “You are a heartless man.”
“Why?” Guo Jing wondered.
“You would rather be injured,” Huang Rong said, “Do you think I will feel all right?”
Guo Jing was taken aback; and then he let out a long laugh. His legs kicked the little red horse’s ribs and the horse ran faster; it looked like its four feet were flying above the ground that by noon they had arrived at Taoyuan prefecture. Huang Rong had not yet recovered fully; after half a day of riding she was very tired, her cheeks were flushed and she was panting for breath. There was only one decent restaurant in the city of Taoyuan, it was called ‘bi qin jiu lou’ [evading qin (dynasty) wine shop; lou – multi-story building]. Its name came from the ‘tao hua yuan ji’ [a note on the origin of peach blossom] a literary work of Tao Yuanming [Translator’s note: different characters from the ‘Taoyuan’ prefecture].
Guo Jing and Huang Rong took a seat and immediately called for food and wine. To the wine shop attendant Guo Jing said, “Brother, we need to go to Hankou; I am wondering if you could go down to the river and invite a boatman to come over here to talk to us.”
The wine shop attendant said, “If Sir is willing to ride the boat together with other people, you will save quite a bit of money. To charter a boat just for the two of you will cost you a lot of money.”
Huang Rong rolled her eyes; she took a silver ingot worth five ‘liang’s and tossed it to the table. “Is it enough?” she asked.
“Enough, enough,” the wine shop attendant busily said with a smile. He turned around and went downstairs.
Guo Jing was afraid Huang Rong’s condition has worsened, so he forbade her from drinking wine; as a result, he also restrained from drinking himself, they only ate the meals. They just ate half a bowl of food when the wine shop attendant came back with a boatman; saying that the boatman agreed to take them to Hankou, the rice was included but the dishes were not, and the total cost would be three ‘liang’s and six ‘qian’s of silver. Huang Rong did not bargain; she simply gave the silver ingot to the boatman. The boatman took the silver and cupped his hands in an expression of gratitude; he pointed to his own mouth and made several hoarse throaty ‘Ah’ sounds. Turned out he was a mute. His hand flailing to the east and pointing to the west, making some hand signals. Huang Rong nodded and also made some hand signals. It seemed like their signals were very complicated and they were communicating at length, exchanging signals incessantly. At last the mute looked pleased, he nodded his head repeatedly and left.
“What were the two of you discussing?” Guo Jing asked.
“He said we’ll leave as soon as we finish eating here,” Huang Rong replied, “I told him to buy several chickens, several catties of meat, some good wine and vegetables; and not to worry about money. I will reimburse everything later.”
Guo Jing sighed, “If I met this mute boatman by myself, I wouldn’t know what to do,” he said. Since all the servants on the Peach Blossom Island were deaf and mute, Huang Rong had learned how to communicate in sign language since she was two years old.
The honey-steamed cured fish of that restaurant was really tasty; Guo Jing ate several pieces and remembered Hong Qigong. “I wonder where ‘en shi’ [benevolent master] is, and how is his injury?” he said, “Thinking about him makes me worried.” He wished he could wrap some cured fish and gave it to Hong Qigong.
Huang Rong was about to reply when she heard footsteps coming up the stairs. A Taoist priestess appeared. She wore grey Taoist robe with a veil over her face to protect her against the dust. The veil covered her mouth and nose so that only her eyes were visible. The priestess chose a table in the corner and sat down. The wine shop attendant promptly greeted her. The priestess talked in low voice. The wine shop attendant gave his reply and went downstairs. A short moment later he came back with a bowl of vegetable noodle. Huang Rong thought this priestess looked familiar, but she could not figure out where she saw her.
Guo Jing followed her gaze and turned his head toward the priestess, who hastily turned her head around. Apparently the priestess was also looking at him. Huang Rong smiled and whispered, “Jing Gege, that priestess’ heart is moved by worldly desire; she must thinks that you are outstandingly good-looking.”
“Pei,” Guo Jing spat, “Don’t talk nonsense. How can you make fun of ‘chu jia ren’ [lit. people who leave their homes to become monks or priests]?”
Huang Rong laughed, “If you don’t believe me, just wait and see.”
They finished eating and walked to the stairs. Huang Rong was still in doubt, she cast another glance toward that priestess, who at that moment lifted up her veil a little bit, revealing her face. Huang Rong gasped and almost cried out in surprise. The priestess shook her hand, put the veil back down immediately and lowering her head she resumed eating the noodle. Guo Jing had walked down and was oblivious to what was going on.
They went downstairs and settled the bill. The mute boatman was already waiting outside the restaurant door. Huang Rong made several hand signals, saying that they needed to buy some things and would be little bit late coming to the boat. The mute boatman nodded, pointed to a boat with a black sail by the river. Huang Rong nodded, but she saw the boatman did not leave, so she took Guo Jing walking to the eastern end of the road. As they walked to a corner they stopped and hid behind a wall, so that they were not visible from the restaurant while they could still see the restaurant entrance.
Not too long afterwards the priestess left the restaurant; she looked at the little red horse and the pair of eagles nearby. It appeared she was looking for Guo Jing and Huang Rong. After looking at four directions without seeing anybody she turned and walked to the west.