Partings and reunions are impermanent.
Once again, this quiet and peaceful moment didn’t last very long. Just a little while after Guo Xiang fell asleep, from the east came the distant crunching sounds of someone walking on the snow in quick steps. Yang Guo stood up and gazed out from the east side window. Then he saw two old men walking side by side on the snowy ground. One was fat, and the other was thin. And with their ragged clothes, they looked just like people from the Beggar Clan. Stranded in the snow, they had to be looking for a place to rest their feet. Yang Guo didn’t want to meet any people at this time and specially detested those from Wulin [the martial world]. He turned around and said, “There are people outside. You should go lay in the bedroom, pretending to be sick.” Xiao Longnü picked up Guo Xiang and went into the bedroom to lie down in bed as suggested. Then she pulled up a tattered wolf skin from the edge of the bed to cover her body.
Yang Guo scooped up some firewood ash and wiped it all over his face and neck. He pulled the hat lower over his face and hid his black iron sword inside a room. Then he heard the two people coming close and knocking on the door. He randomly smeared deer grease on his gown to make him look like a hunter and then went to open the door.
That fat old beggar said, “The snow is coming down heavily in the mountains. It is really miserable out here. May we ask the gentleman to let us beggars stay in your house tonight?” Yang Guo replied, “We are just a hunting family. How could senior call me a gentleman? You may stay here for the night.” That fat old beggar then thanked him profusely. Yang Guo recalled how he once displayed himself at a heroes meeting and didn’t want to be recognized by them. So he ripped two strips of meat from the roasted deer leg, handed them to the two people, and said, “There are so many things to do to survive in the snow. I’ve got to get up early tomorrow to catch a fox. I’m afraid I can’t keep you two company.” The fat old beggar replied, “Please do as you please, little gentleman.”
Then in a coarse tone Yang Guo said, “Old wife, how’s your cough?” Xiao Longnü replied, “It’s the weather change. My chest hurts.” While saying that, she let out a loud cough and her hand gently shook Guo Xiang to wake her up. The sound of a coughing woman was mixed with that of a crying baby and so the three of them really presented a perfect picture of a hunting household.
Yang Guo walked into the bedroom and banged the door shut after him. He lay down in bed next to Xiao Longnü and thought to himself, “This fat beggar looks familiar. Where have I seen him before?” But he couldn’t remember.
The fat and thin beggars thought that Yang Guo really was a poor hunter living on a wild mountain and didn’t suspect anything. While eating the deer leg, they started talking. The thin beggar said, “Today Mount Zhongnan was blasted to the sky. That was well done.” With a laugh the fat beggar added, “The Mongolian Royal Army is attacking from east to west and defeating all their enemies under the sky. Wiping out those little Quanzhen Taoists was as easy as crushing an ant nest.” The thin beggar said, “But just recently Jinlun Fawang suffered quite a loss. That was difficult enough.” The fat beggar laughingly said, “That’s even better. It will let the prince know that he must depend on the Chinese to conquer the beautiful homeland of China. Using only the Mongolians and the Western warriors isn’t enough.” The thin beggar then said, “Peng Zhang Lao [Elder Peng], when this business of establishing the Southern Beggar Clan is all done, how is the Mongolian emperor going to reward you?”
Having heard this, Yang Guo suddenly remembered something. He’d seen this old fat beggar at the Dashengguan hero banquet but at that time the beggar was dressed in Mongolian attire with a fur coat, and he was whispering advice to Jinlun Fawang. It was this person. So he thought to himself, “These two fellows are actually the country’s traitors. I will just quickly get rid of them to avoid causing any disturbance here.”
This fat old beggar was precisely one of the four big elders of the Beggar Clan, Peng Zhang Lao [Elder Peng], who had earlier fallen in with the Mongols. Yang Guo heard him continue, “The emperor will bestow on me the position of “Chief General of the Southern Province” but, you know, they say ‘Beg for three years and the emperor still might not see it.’ We are members of the Beggar Clan. Why would we want to become a Government Official?” But while saying this, his tone actually revealed a fervent desire for the position.
The thin beggar said, “Let me congratulate you in advance.” Peng Zhang Lao chuckled and said, “Your accomplishments during these many years are not lacking. Naturally, your own reward won’t be small either.”
That thin beggar said, “I don’t wish to become a public official. You’ve promised to teach me the great “Soul Absorbing Technique”. When will you pass it on to me?”
Peng Zhang Lao replied, “Wait until the Southern Beggar Clan is established and I become the chief of the clan. Both of us will have a lot of free time. Then I will definitely pass it on to you.”
The thin beggar said, “By then you’ll be the Chief of the Southern Beggar Clan and also the Mongolian Chief General of the Southern Province. You would only be even busier. How would you have any free time?”
With a laugh Peng Zhang Lao said, “Lao di [Old little brother], is that to say you still don’t trust your big brother?” That thin beggar said nothing and snorted, showing that he didn’t believe him.
Yang Guo thought to himself, “There’s only one Beggar Clan in the world and it’s never been divided into northern and southern sects. His planning to set up this Southern Beggar Clan must be a devious scheme to help the Mongols.”
The thin beggar continued, “Peng Zhang Lao [Elder Peng], you’ve promised someone something. Sooner or later you’ve got to do it. You seniors keep putting things off, disappointing other people.”
Peng Zhang Lao blandly asked, “What would you do then?”
The thin beggar retorted, “What would I do? My martial skills are low. My courage is small. I don’t have any great skills. But I’ve been accompanying you, helping you deceive numerous sect brothers. Later on when Chief Huang and Chief Lu come to investigate, I think I’ll tremble with fear and spill everything to wash my hands from this mud.”
Yang Guo thought, “The thin beggar doesn’t want to live. How could he dare say such thing? That Peng Zhang Lao has a lofty aspiration and an evil and cold-blooded nature. You’re really both venomous and foolish.”
Peng Zhang Lao let out a ‘ha-ha’ laugh and said, “We’ll discuss this in time. You don’t have to worry.”
The thin beggar didn’t say a word. But after a while he said, “One tiny deer leg is not filling. I’ll go out and get more food.” While saying that he took down the spear from the wall and pushed the door open.
Yang Guo looked through a crack in the wall and saw that as soon as that thin beggar went out the door, Peng Zhang Lao straightened up his body, drawing out a short knife and hiding it behind the door. He then heard the sounds of footsteps moving towards the west and disappearing out of the door. With a chuckle Yang Guo told Xiao Longnü, “This pair of beggars are about to kill each other, saving us a lot of trouble. That fat beggar is very dangerous. That thin one is definitely not his match.”
Xiao Longnü said, “It’ll be best if the two of them don’t come back. This house is quite peaceful. I don’t want people to come and disturb us.”
“True,” said Yang Guo. Suddenly he lowered his voice, “I hear the sounds of footsteps.” They then heard someone making a detour around the mountain side and come back behind the house.