A Snake Lies Waiting – Read-along, Chapter 5

Or, I bet you forgot about all these side characters

The Legend of the Condor Heroes was written in the 1950s so I doubt the following line was intended to be as meta as it seems with our modern perspective, but it’s still pretty funny. 

Condor Heroes was meta before meta was cool.

We left Guo Jing in dire straits last week and Lotus has sworn to keep them locked in the secret room at the inn for seven days and nights until Guo Jing is fully healed. Since Lotus is a woman of conviction, so we’ll just have to bring the story to them!

After less than a day of using the healing techniques of the Nine Yin Manual to heal Guo Jing, a group of travelers enter the inn, demanding food and drink. Of course, it is Wanyan Honglie’s group, fresh off their victory at the Imperial Palace, giddy with their newfound treasure of General Yue Fei’s writings. 

Lotus watches carefully through a peephole, ready to defend Guo Jing to the death should they be discovered. Thankfully the men are only interested in the writings. Yang Kang opens the box and…

There’s nothing inside. Baffled, he smashes the box to pieces and finds a secret compartment within!

And there’s nothing in there either. Wow, kind of a let down. 

The group decides to go back to the Palace the next day and continue the search. Gallant Ouyang, still injured, will stay behind at the inn. 

Watching Yang Kang from so close, Guo Jing is tempted to burst from the secret room and kill him. Guo Jing realizes from their conversation that they are in Ox Village, his parents’ home. Lotus calms him down, knowing that if he goes after Yang Kang now, the other masters will surely defeat him. 

After Guo Jing settles down, he and Lotus have a cute moment, the kind of starry eyed kids in love thing where even the thought of any romantic interaction is enough to make everyone blush twelve shades of red. How did people in this era figure out how to have kids? I’m imagining all the awkward fumbling and colliding noses of two characters like Lotus and Guo Jing when they finally get down to it and…oof. Awkward, man.

The next day Browbeater Hou, Tiger Peng, Hector Sha, and Graybeard Liang return from the Palace, beaten up six ways from Sunday. Hou lost both his ears! The men gather in the inn and recount their experiences in the Palace, conveniently enough for Lotus to overhear. It seems they met a master of the wulin, but Hou is convinced it was a ghost because of its terrifying face. In fact, all of the assembled masters fought against someone with a different terrifying demon face.

Lotus is amused because she bought those masks for Zhou Botong in the last chapter. (I may have skipped over that, sorry!) So she knows that the Hoary Urchin is still in the Palace and making trouble for Wanyan Honglie’s men. The only one to not return is Viper Ouyang.

The men are hungry and make themselves a meager meal. In doing so they stumble across the hidden switch to open the secret closet where Lotus and Guo Jing are recuperating. Thinking fast, Lotus grabs the two skulls in the room and plops them onto a watermelon. When Hector Sha opens the door he is greeted by a two-headed skeleton (lol Lotus is wearing the watermelon on her head). 

After all the talk of ghosts and demons the men scream and slam the door shut. They run out of the inn, leaving Gallant Ouyang behind (poor guy, all forgotten on his sick bed!) and leaving the inn conveniently empty for the next set of side characters.

Who walks in next? Miss Cheng! Remember her? The young woman who was rescued from Gallant Ouyang by Guo Jing, Lotus, and several members of the Beggar clan. (Yeah, you thought she wouldn’t show up again, didn’t you?)

The next person to show up is Laurel Lu, the master of Roaming Cloud Manor (I’m sure you remember this guy). As Laurel enters the inn, sparks fly between him and Miss Cheng. They discover that they are both looking for Ox Village, and they are both looking for Guo Jing.

Miss Cheng is looking for Guo Jing because she’s in love with him. But I mean, is she really? Because she hasn’t even found him yet and she’s already going moony eyed over this new guy.

Before we can get into why Laurel is here, Browbeater Hou returns, determined to roust the demon from the inn. When he returns he finds Laurel and Miss Cheng, and of course deduces that the demon has split into two human forms. What?

They fight. Of course they do. Even Miss Cheng pitches in and she and Laurel mostly hold their own, although Lotus determines that they are not a match for Hou, but she can’t leave Guo Jing’s side. Hou does some disgusting stuff with manure because he thinks he’s fighting demons. It mostly works, because, manure.

Harmony Yin is the next one to show up (blast from the past!) Do you remember him? He’s the Taoist who showed up in Mongolia to test Guo Jing before he’d even left home with the Seven Freaks. If you don’t remember him that’s ok, it’s been a while since we’ve seen him.

Harmony jumps into the fray and now the three of them are able to overwhelm Hou and restrain him. Laurel is ready to kill him but Miss Cheng stops him. 

Now, how many guesses do you need to guess what village Harmony is looking for, and what young wulin master he is looking for?

Harmony is looking for Guo Jing because he has been trying to find the Seven Freaks of the South, in order to warn them that Apothecary Huang is out for their blood. 

Laurel is also looking for Guo Jing because he has been trying to find the Seven Freaks of the South, in order to warn them that Apothecary Huang is out for their blood.

Huh. Small world. 

This actually takes place over a painfully long sequence where the two men speak indirectly so as to not actually violate their vows of loyalty to their respective masters.

It is also so representative of the wulin masters’ adherence to the letter of the law, and not the spirit, that seems to be the root of so many of their problems.

Also true to form, despite looking for the same person, for the same reason, Laurel and Harmony still find a way to disagree and begin fighting inside the inn. :facepalm: Miss Cheng takes up arms alongside her new heart flutter, Laurel Lu.

Hector Sha, Graybeard Liang, and Tiger Peng return to the inn. They had been waiting for the return of Browbeater Hou (still tied up on the floor) and came to see what had happened to him. Even the strange girl who works at the inn shows up!

Sha, Liang, and Peng make quick work of the youngsters. In a panic, the young woman who runs the inn cries out for Lotus to come out and save her. But just before things can go really bad, Apothecary Huang shows up in the doorway, wearing — get this — a mask made of human skin.

Dr. Lecter? Is that you?

Apothecary Huang and the family take time out for a Sears portrait

Sha, Liang, and Peng recognize Huang once he speaks and they decide they need to run for it. They are seriously outmatched and they know it. 

Huang recognizes the young woman’s kung fu as his own, and deduces that she must be a disciple of one of his students. He demands that the wulin masters leave but he does not move from the doorway. No, if they want to leave, they will need to get on their hands and knees and crawl between his legs.

Browbeater Hou, enraged at this treatment, launches himself at Huang. Huang proceeds to calmly rip Hou’s arm off, and throw him to the ground where he bleeds out and faints. Yow. (Is he dead? I don’t know.)

All of Wanyan Honglie’s party decide that discretion is the better part of valor and they drag their wounded comrades away through the space under Apothecary Huang’s legs. Wow, pretty dark.

Leave a Reply