Translator : Casualtranslator
~ Enjoy ~
Zhang Xiaolong hurriedly kept the thing which had just saved his family into his breast. Lu Yueming did not wait for Zhang Xiaolong to reply as he instructed the party, “The four of you should ride your own horses and return quickly, do not touch the things of these bandits, and leave the bodies and horses at their original positions. I have heard that Xicui mountain has three heads, and it seems that I have just killed them all, I believe that the foxes will leave now that the trees have fallen, so you do not have to worry about any revenge. You do not need to hide that the fact that I saved you, but do not mention my name or the Piaomiao sect, understood?”
Zhang Xiaolong was quite confused but he nodded deeply in respect. Then, the four of them rode on the same horse as they returned back to Guo village.
Lu Yueming also jumped on his horse and just as he was about to leave, he looked at the mess by the road and wrinkled his brow. Then, he jumped off his horse and threw the seven corpse onto a horse each and freed the horses to let them roam before getting back on his own and continuing his journey. Thus, the road returned to its former peaceful state.
After a meal worth of time, the people who had hidden themselves nearby crept back out, and seeing that the bandits have left, they picked up the sedan and respective times. Having thought that the bride and groom have been kidnapped, they prayed fervently for their sake while feeling grateful for their own fortune and returned slowly back to Guo village.
After Zhang Xiaolong and the procession left Guo village to pick up the bride, the people who were left in the Zhang household had their hands tied as they hosted their neighbors and prepared the presents as required by custom. Zhang Cai and Guo Sufei were running about without rest, their mouths were talking nonstop, and their eyes were looking back and fro as if they were afraid to have missed something out.
After three poles in the morning, the couple finally sighed in relief and sat down exhausted, thinking in their heads how did the rich households managed to do such a larger scale wedding when they were already so dead beaten. However, it never crossed their minds that rich households had their own attendants so why would they have to move their own hands? After everything was tidied up and all the tasks were done, the sun had risen to the highest point in the sky and the couple walked over the chef where they filled their stomachs.
After a short rest, the time for the procession to return has arrived, so Zhang Cai and Guo Sufei went into the grandmother’s room. The grandmother had woken up early that day, and Guo Sufei had already prepared a new set of clothes for her a few days ago. When the grandmother heard her enter the room, she asked, “Sufei? Xiaolong and the rest have returned, right?”
Guo Sufei smiled brightly as she replied, “Mother, not yet. The time has not arrived yet, and you can follow us into the main room to wait there instead.”
The grandmother was naturally elated, and she agreed happily.
The couple carefully supported the grandmother into the main room and onto a chair in the middle of the room. The grandmother’s body was already very weak by then and she would usually be resting on her bed. Zhang Xiaolong’s wedding would require the parents and elder’s participation, and the grandmother had gathered all her spirits just for this day so that she could receive the bows from her grandson and granddaughter-in-law, thereby fulfilling her last wish.
However, as time passed, the sounds of the firecrackers and music did not appear despite the auspicious hour having arrived. The village was very particular about their wedding customs, missing the auspicious hour would mean that the couple would not have a happy life ahead. Thus, Zhang Cai and Guo Sufei began to worry, and even the grandmother began to show signs of collapsing.
Right at that moment, a person suddenly shouted, “Look, that is Liu Er who was playing the trumpet, why did he come back alone?”
Indeed, over the short walls that surrounded the Zhang courtyard was a man running anxiously towards them who was also part of the bridal procession!
Zhang Cai had a bad premonition and he immediately rushed out of the house. Even before he stepped into the courtyard, he heard from the hoarse voice of Liu Er, “This is not good, Ziaolong and his bride has met with the Xicui mountain bandits!”
These words were like a spoon of water dripping into a pan of hot oil, the Zhang courtyard exploded into an uproar, while some of the less brave people disappeared into smoke. Almost everyone was discussing frantically, some had faces of joy from reveling in another’s sorrow, and others had faces of sympathy.
Before Zhang Cai could rush to the courtyard entrance, he heard a wail from behind, “Mother…..”
A pin seemed to fall from Zhang Cai’s heart as he immediately turned back. Indeed, in the main hall, he saw the grandmother whose face was green like rust lying on the floor in an unconscious state. Guo Sufei was at a side crying while her hands were busy on her mother’s body, massaging her chest. Zhang Cai rushed forward and pat on the grandmother’s back continuously, and after a while, the grandmother’s throat jerked and spat out a mouth of thick phlegm followed by fresh blood. Then, the grandmother let out a weak cry, “Xiaolong-ah…..”
Guo Sufei could not even worry about Zhang Xiaolong at that time, she cried as Zhang Cai and Zhang Xiaohu helped her carry her mother back into the room. Then, the couple exchanged glances as they wondered how could a joyous occasion suddenly turn into something so devastating?
The couple looked at the pale faced grandmother as they felt knives stabbing into their heart. Zhang Xiaolong and the rest over there were in a life or death situation while the mother in their house was about to pass away, what should they do at that time?
Zhang Cai left Guo Sufei to look after the grandmother as he and Zhang Xiaohu returned to the main room. A portion of the people in the courtyard had left, while many of them had entered the main room to listen to Liu Er’s account. When Liu Er saw Zhang Cai enter the room again, he told his story from the beginning. This Liu Er was quite eloquent, he was able to vividly paint the image of Zhang Cai and Zhang Xiaohua’s triumphs in shooting with the bow and passing the bride’s questions, and he even remembered every single word in Zhang Xiaolong’s self-composed ‘poem’. The audience praised that Zhang Cai has produced two good sons, but they also expressed their sympathies as these children were not likely to live past the accident. Zhang Cai was even more heartbroken when he heard the story and was anxious to learn the ending, but Liu Er’s description was so detailed that the former wanted to rip his mouth to pull the last words out.
When Liu Er said up to, “… and the four fierce bandits brandished their weapons around to chase us away.”, he stopped talking which made everyone ask anxiously, “And then?”
Liu Er replied innocently, “There is nothing else, I do not know what happened next. However, I thought of elder brother Zhang so I ran back to make my report.”
Zhang Cai felt as if he was holding onto the last glimmer of hope as he asked, “So you did not see how the mountain bandits deal with Xiaolong and the rest?”
Liu Er replied, “Nope, the mountain bandits had chased us away by then. Xiaolong, Xiaohua and the two ladies in the sedan were left there.”
Zhang Cai’s heart felt some hope as he said, “Perhaps Xiaolong and the rest are still alive.”
Everyone nodded their heads in agreement, but their thoughts were all alike. Since the mountain bandits had forced them to stay, the likelihood of them living is low, and even if they managed to survive, the innocent bride and bridesmaid would be entering the wolf’s den. No matter what has been said, this wedding could no longer continue. Even though the Zhang household had treated people kind and sincerely in the past, the heavens have played a cruel joke on them that day.
After Zhang Xiaohu heard the story, he got up from his seat and said, “Father, I will go over now to see what has happened to eldest brother and third brother.” After he finished his sentence, he started to walk towards the door while Zhang Cai remained silent, but the crowd immediately held him back and persuaded, “Second son, you are the only man of the house now so you can’t play the hero so casually. Wait awhile as we gather all the young men in our village and our weapons, then we can go together.”
Thus, the people in the courtyard rushed out and starting moving the village youths. Then, everyone carried their hoes in their hands as they prepared to leave the village and investigate the scene.
Just as they were about to leave, they saw a horse carrying four passengers galloping towards the village.
Some of the sharper-eyed people recognized the people on the horse and they shouted, “It is Zhang Xiaolong, Zhang Xioahua-ah, they are alive and they have returned…..”
The crowd cheered as they rushed over.
When the crowd received Zhang Xiaolong and the rest, they noticed the tattered clothes and fresh blood stains on their bodies. A few men carefully supported Zhang Xiaolong down the horse, while Zhang Xiaohu carried Zhang Xiaohua as he looked painfully at the wound on the latter’s shoulder. Liu Qing and Liu Yueyue did not get off the horse, they were still shocked from their experience and were unable to walk. Someone took over the reins and led the horse onwards, while another person ran back to share the news with the Zhang household.
Even before the crowd crossed half the distance to the Zhang courtyard, Zhang Cai and Guo Sufei who had received the news ran over and upon seeing their children and daughter-in-law still well and alive, they broke down into tears of relief. The couple gently checked on their sons’ injuries while they said gently, “Good, good.” By the time they reached the entrance of the courtyard, Guo Sufei seemed to snap out of her mood and she said emotionally “Xiaolong, Qingqing, come in quickly and look at your grandmother.”
Even though Liu Qing could not walk, Guo Sufei supported her down the horse and all the way into the grandmother’s room. The grandmother was semi-conscious by then, and when she heard that her grandson was still alive, and expression of joy appeared in her face. It was as if her glazed eyes could see her beloved grandson and granddaughter-in-law, and she muttered, “Wedding ceremony, wedding ceremony.”
Hearing her mother’s words, Guo Sufei understood her intention. The village has a custom that disallows weddings and the celebration of any other joyous occasions after an elder’s death, and the grandmother did not want to postpone Zhang Xiaolong’s wedding any longer.
Hence, Guo Sufei clenched her teeth as she helped Zhang Cai prepare the wedding materials. And at that moment, the grandmother seemed to have regained some of her energy and insisted to go to the main room to receive the bows from her grandchildren.
Thus, Guo Sufei and Zhang Cai helplessly supported the grandmother into the main room.