Translator : Casualtranslator
~ Enjoy ~
When the procession finally reached its destination, the sky was already bright. There were many people waiting at the entrance, and Zhang Xiaohua led the horse to in front of them where he finally stopped. When Zhang Xiaolong got off the horse, Zhang Xiaohua passed the reins of the horse to one of the Liu household members.
Everyone came forward to shake Zhang Xiaolong’s hands while they congratulated, “Congratulations to the groom.” Zhang Xiaolong was naturally happy to receive their well wishes, and after a while, everyone made a path for him to walk through. When Zhang Xiaohua looked ahead, he saw a large wooden board on the side of the door, and there was a bow on the wooden board. There was a rule in the village, the first thing the groom has to do when he picks up his wife was to shoot three arrows towards the sky as if he was chasing all the evil demons and spirits away. Zhang Xiaolong has seen this custom being practiced before, but his arms had just recovered enough for him to work in the fields so how could he have the strength to pull the bow?
It seemed that this responsibility had to be passed on to the best man Zhang Xiaohua. However, Zhang Xiaohua was only a twelve or thirteen year old boy, so it was too much to expect such a thing from him. Thus, there were expressions of dismay among the onlookers. Just as Zhang Xiaolong was about to step forward to pick up the bow, Zhang Xiaohua immediately snatched it away and said, “Eldest brother, your arm has just recovered, how could you play around with this? If you injure yourself, then wouldn’t all the recovery time spent so far be wasted, let me do this instead.”
Zhang Xiaolong smiled and said, “It is no problem, I can still do something as simple as pulling a bow. You are still young, how would you have the strength to pull it?”
Zhang Xiaohua smiled back and said, “Eldest brother, you are looking down on me too much. I can reclaim my own field, so how would I not have enough strength for this. Let me try first, and if I fail, you can do it instead. Anyway, it will not be a loss of face, so what do you say?”
Zhang Xiaolong pondered and agreed. He thought that the best man was supposed to help the groom do such things in a wedding, and even if Xiaohua could not pull the bow, he could still do it himself. Teacher Liu would have already known about the condition of his arm, so the bow on the wooden board should be a flexible one that did not require much strength to pull.
Just as Zhang Xiaohua walked over to the wooden board and picked up the bow which was as tall as him, his hands looked like they were struggling with its weight. After all, Zhang Xiaohua has never strung a bow before. Then, he picked up a headless arrow and placed it on the bow, before turning his head back towards Zhang Xiaolong and asked “Eldest brother, where do I aim the arrow?”
Zhang Xiaolong pointed towards the sky in the direction of the village entrance and said, “Shoot it there then.”
Zhang Xiaohua agreed and as monkey see monkey do, he adopted a horse stance and raised the bow towards the sky. He tried to pull the string back, but it was taut and stiff, and his face flushed from the effort. By rights, he could have released the arrow then, but this being his first time, and he had seen other people pull the bow until it formed the shape of a full moon, he assumed that the bow was not pulled enough so he took another deep breath, tightened the muscles in his arms, and with a roar, he extended the bow into the shape of a full moon. Seeing the results of his effort, he looked towards the sky confidently and released the bow. The arrow shot like a comet into the distance, while Zhang Xiaohua’s heart jumped in joy.
Zhang Xiaohua shot the remaining two arrows with hesitation, and after they flew far away beyond the view from Bali Gou, Zhang Xiaohua’s arm began to feel the tingling sensation of exhaustion, and he had difficulties raising the bow to put it back onto the wooden board. At that moment, everyone in the audience was full of praise of Zhang Xiaohua’s strength, and only Zhang Xiaolong noticed his fatigue and took the bow from the latter to return it to its original position. When he took the bow from Zhang Xiaohua, Zhang Xiaolong was surprised went its weight exceeded his expectations, how could a flexible bow be so heavy? However at this moment, everyone crowded around him leaving him no time to ponder about the issue, and they pulled him into the courtyard as the bow was left alone the wooden board.
Just as Zhang Xiaolong was dragged into the Liu courtyard, hunter Zhang from the north of Bali Gou was packing his bundle in preparation to go hunting. As he entered the small room where the bow was kept, his temper rose as he asked his wife, “The children’s mother, where the bow which was placed on the board?”
His wife was confused and she asked, “What bow? How would I know, I have never entered that room before.”
Hunter Zhang became anxious, and he said, “That was my family’s heirloom, the five stone bow, it was placed at the rightmost side of the board. I saw it there two days ago, but it disappeared today, could it be that our house was broken into?”
His wife was currently placing breakfast on the table; suddenly, she seemed to have remembered something and ran out urgently, saying, “I recalled, the children’s father. Yesterday, teacher Liu sent someone to come over to borrow a bow, most probably to use for his daughter’s wedding today, and was afraid that the groom could not pull a normal bow so he specifically asked for a flexible one. I was folding the children’s clothes at that time, so I let them invite themselves into your room to take one out. I remembered you saying that you had made one for fun and placed it on the board, so I relayed that to the other party.”
Hunter Zhang asked, “Then did you see which bow he took out?”
His wife answered apologetically, “He did show it to me, but I was too lazy to take a look because it was the toy you made casually.”
Hunter Zhang immediately scolded, “You failure of all mothers, not even bothering to look at what people had borrowed from us. They have taken our family heirloom, and you were too lazy to take a single glance. Furthermore, teacher Liu has been very good to us, and our children were all taught by him. I am sure that he has borrowed a flexible bow for a good reason, and now that you have given him a bow which no one has managed to pull in decades, aren’t you making a laughing stock out of him? Just wait and see how I will punish you when I come back.”
After he finished his sentence, he ran out in a hurry. By the time he reached the entrance of the Liu household, Zhang Xiaolong and the party had already entered the courtyard, and his bow was displayed out there on the wooden board beside the entrance. From his conjecture, the groom or his best man must have failed to pull the bow, and had left it here after entering the house in shame. At that moment, he saw one of the Liu household helpers, and he said emotionally, “Liu third boy, let teacher Liu know that I have taken this bow away.”
The person inside replied in acknowledgement, “Alright, I got it.”
Hunter Zhang quickly carried the bow back home, while hiding it under his arms in fear that someone would obstruct and scold him for making a fool out of the occasion. Thus, he did not notice that the three arrows which should have been placed together with the bow were missing.
At that moment, Zhang Xiaolong was accompanied by Zhang Xiaohua as he walked to the door of Liu Qing’s room which was closed under the village’s custom when the groom has to answer the bride’s question satisfactorily when he wishes to enter her door. Zhang Xiaolong was now under a difficult situation, teacher Liu was a learned man and all the people who were in the house were all scholars with no knowledge of martial arts. If not, they would have been able to spot the abnormality when Zhang Xiaohua drew the bow. Even though teacher Liu had told his friends and students not to put his son-in-law into a difficult situation, there were quite a few of the men who were unhappy that their proposals were rejected, and while they did not dare to go against teacher Liu’s instructions too blatantly, they had pondered deeply to formulate a question to embarrass Zhang Xiaolong. Liu Yueyue was the bridesmaid for the occasion, and that girl seldom used her brains when she did things so the first question which Zhang Xiaolong faced was, “Write some words to display your calligraphy.”
When the question appeared, Liu Qing who was waiting in her room patiently glared at Liu Yueyue and asked, “Whose idea was this? Why did you not inform me?”
Liu Yueyue teased as she replied, “Elder sister, a bunch of people outside suggested it. Even though this would embarrass brother-in-law, but it is fine as long as it spurs him to learn to write in the future. What do you think?”
Liu Qing smiled bitterly as she thought to herself, what can I do? The question has already been announced, can I pull it back? Sigh, I wonder if Xiaolong will blame me after this.
Teacher Liu who was in the main room had an ugly expression on his face as well; this was obviously a ploy to embarrass his son-in-law. However, a wedding is supposed to be a bustling merry affair, and he could not blame anyone for playing such a joke on this occasion. For now, all he could do was to watch Zhang Xiaolong write some random words, after all, he was only a farmer.
The faces on the two Zhang brothers also turned into surprise, but Zhang Xiaolong thought, what is there to be afraid of, so he took a deep breath and walked forward thinking that he would just write some random letters. At that moment, Zhang Xiaohua pulled his brother’s arms and said, “No harm being cautious, eldest brother. Let me try this as well.”
“You, can you do it?” Zhang Xiaolong asked doubtfully.
Zhang Xiaohua patted his arm and said, “My answer is the same as before: if I fail, you can take over.”
Then, Zhang Xiaohua walked up to the front and announced to the audience, “Esteemed guest, as we have mentioned, my eldest brother’s arm is not fully healed, so I will write the words in his stead.”
Then, he walked to the brush and ink which was already prepared beforehand, and he lowered his head in deep thought. Then, his eyes brightened, and he raised his head and announced, “Esteemed guests, since today is a happy occasion, then I will not use this brush and paper to dampen the mood.”
Everyone was curious as they asked, “Then what will you use?”
Zhang Xiaohua answered, “Is there a mop? I would like to use a mop to write some large calligraphy for everyone.”
“Mop? How do you write with that?” Some people asked in curiosity. As they were discussing, someone already took out a mop, and Zhang Xiaohua had found a pot. He poured the ink into the pot and dipped the mop into it. Then, using both hands to hold on to the mop, he carefully dragged the mop across the green stone floor as though he was dancing and wrote the two words, “Piaomiao”.
The words were written in an old-style cursive, which was elegant with its own distinctive flavor. When they saw Zhang Xiaohua wrote the words, the spectators were all surprised into a daze. When teacher Liu heard the sounds of their gasp, he walked out of the main hall and saw the two large characters on the green stone floor, and turned silent as he admired the words in surprise.
About these two words “Piaomiao”, they were the words on the plaque which Zhang Xiaohua had asked someone to read for him, and was now etched into his heart without missing a single detail of its strokes or cursive lines. Therefore, even though Zhang Xiaohua did not know how to write, he was able to produce these two words easily. Of course, since he had no practice in calligraphy, he had chosen to use a mop which would distract everyone’s attention due to the ridiculousness of the idea.