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Fox Genie (short story)

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发表于 8/8/2016 08:07:34 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式
A full moon high in the sky, its cool light robed the bleak mountain in the silvery splendor. A fox trotted out from the thicket.  She sat up on her hinds, holding her front paws up like in a prayer towards the shining lunar face.  She kept this stiff position for a long time. A thin white thread of breath could barely be detected coming in and out of her mouth while she was inhaling and exhaling alternately.  It was believed that the fox was absorbing the essence from the moonshine, which would give her magic power and immortality. Actually this fox genie was already five hundred years old.  Then she issued a long howl and made a swift pirouette.  When she stopped, there stood a beautiful girl, but dressed in rags, with some dirt on her face, which could conceal her beauty, though.
A village hugged the foot of the mountain. A two-story house, surrounded by a magnificent garden, erected on the southern side of the village. It was Bing family's residence.  The old couple had a son by the name of Jiang, at the age of eighteen.  During the daytime, he kept busy, reading all the books by Confucius in his study and in the evenings he liked to take a stroll about the village, talking a little to the neighbors. Occasionally he went to a nearby town to have a gathering with her friends.
Once a year there was a local test for all those who studied the works of Confucius.  Those who passed the test got a title "XIUCAI", something like "The Talented". Then they could go to the capital of the province they lived in to take another test. When passed, they were given another title "JUREN", something like "Scholar". Then every three years, they gathered in the national capital for still another test. Those who passed were assigned still another title "JINSHI", something like "Arch-scholar". The first ten of the arch-scholars would go to see the emperor in his palace, who would gave them the final test right in his presence. The emperor himself would choose from the ten three best ones and made them his close officials, working somewhere within the palace.  All the other arch-scholars were appointed officials, too. Some would stay in the national capital while others would go to work in the towns of other provinces.
When all those future-scholars met together, they generally showed one another their articles written for practice and made comments or criticisms on the articles for improvement. They also recited poems of their own or of ancient poets demised long ago, such like the one--"Plum Blossoms" by Wang Anshi of Song Dynasty:

At a wall corner some plum trees grow;
Alone against cold white blossoms blow.
Aloof one knows they aren't the snow,
As faint thro air soft fragrances flow.

Once he came back late at night, and on his way home, he saw a girl of about sixteen, leaning on a tree on the roadside and sobbing.  He was a nice boy with a golden heart; so he approached her to inquire about the cause of her distress.  "My parents are dead.  My uncle sold me to a brothel." She uttered these words between sobs.  "I escaped from there.  Now nowhere to go."  Therefore, the good-hearted youth took her home and made her his maidservant.
In old China, sons of rich families were always waited on by maidservants, not menservants. Since the maid came, the boy had become negligent of his books. The usual loud readings were no longer heard.  It was imaginable what would happen when a vigorous boy of eighteen and a beautiful girl of sixteen were together all the time. The different status was never a hindrance.  The boy get thinner and thinner day by day and finally he was so sick that he was confined in bed. It was believed that he had lost a lot of his life's essence, sucked by a fox genie. The parents suspected the new maid, but they could do nothing about it if she was really a fox genie. One day a relative came and knew the situation.  He recommended a Taoist who could exercise magic power. The Taoist temple was located some distance away.  The father sent his head servant to the temple to ask the Taoist to come over. The travel took a few days forth and back. The girl learned the news and got nervous. She could flee to the mountain she came from before the Taoist arrived, but she would not do that.  She wanted to take the chance:  if the magic of the Taoist was not so powerful as hers, she could drive the Taoist away and stayed on. If she was defeated, she could escape then. So when Taoist arrived, she hid herself in the boy's bedroom, pretending to wait on him.
The Taoist had a platform built on the lawn in the garden and a table put on it.  On the table he burned some joss-sticks in a burner and a pair of candles on candlesticks.  He rested on the table a sword made of peach wood and then laid out some pieces of special yellow paper. When all these were ready, he drew some bazaar characters on the paper with vermilion. Then he ignited one slip of paper on the candle fire while chanting some magic words. The burning paper shot up into the mid-air like a thick red beam of light towards the boy's bedroom.  The girl inside felt a sucking force on her body. She knew that she could not avoid the combat.  So she flew out through the window towards the lawn, and in the process spat out a luminous crystal ball, which was really the condensed essence of the moonshine.  The burning paper met the crystal ball, the red light was dispersed, like fire quenched by water. The Taoist kindled another piece of paper, with the same result when collided with the crystal ball, till all the paper was burned.  Then the Taoist took up the wooden sword and flung it into the air, chanting louder. The sword threw out a thick golden beam of ray, which darted towards the crystal ball. It cut the ball into halves like a kitchen knife cut a boiled egg.  The girl sucked the two halves of the ball back into her mouth and fled.  
The parents thanked the Taoist and sent him back with taels of gold. Then they sent for a doctor and the boy recovered quickly. It was said that later the boy passed all the government tests and became an official.
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