Peach Blossom GIrl Dueling Magic – Chapter 5


Friday, August 6, 2010

Copyright © 2010 – Jeff Loh. All rights reserved
 

A Way Out Sent From Afar, A Filial Son Escapes Calamity,
Relying On Magical Arts, A Loving Mother Reunites With Her Son.

The poem says:
 
White clouds are no different from those seen from the Han Palace in autumn.1
Far away war beacons are burning bright – setting souls a fear in lofty watch towers.
My general, where art thy war horses now?
Only grasses and wild flowers grow in despair.

Let’s talk about Shi Tsung Fu in the broken cave dwelling. Just as he was about to drift off to sleep during the early part of the hour when suddenly he heard a voice crying from outside,

“Shi Tsung Fu, my son! Come home quickly!”

His heart gave a jump and opened his eyes immediately. He was all alone and silence swirled around him. He thought to himself,

“This is really strange. A moment ago, I distinctly heard someone called my name. Did I imagine it?”

The rain stopped, he got up and walked out of the place. The sky was filled with stars and the new moon looked like a hook glowing faintly. The grass was wet and slick like oil. He wanted to leave this place and hurry on with his journey even though he knew there was no shelter ahead. Finally he went back in the abandoned cave dwelling and sat down thinking,

“Perhaps I’m just imagining things. It must be that I was thinking about mother too much and so the whistling wind sounded like her voice. I’m this far away from home, how can I hear her calling me?”

Pondering left and right and in grogginess he soon fell asleep. Right in the middle of a dream, he heard someone calling him again and pondered,

“Strange indeed! Is my imagination running amuck again?”

And at that, he jumped and shouted,

“Mother!”

Unconsciously his tears rained from his face but he rationalized his silly predicament. Then he burst out laughing,

“This is so ludicrous! Just now in my dreams, I heard mother calling me. It’s not possible that she’s here in the middle of nowhere. As I can see, I am the only person here. No one knows how hard it is to endure this loneliness! O mother! Not even you know that your son’s in such a desolate place.”

The more he pondered, the more his feelings became mixed. Very soon he became anxious and was fully awake,

“All this worry about mother! Don’t think I’ll have any peace in my sleep. When dawn breaks, I shall be in the city. Why don’t I just sit and wait till the fifth watch? This way, I can determine if indeed someone is calling me.”

He sat down and concentrated for a moment. The moon was still glowing softly outside. Around the third watch he became tired. Then he heard clearly in the night,

“Shi Tsung Fu, my son! Come home quickly!”

He could no longer contain himself and cried out loudly,

“Mother! Your son’s here! The voice is definitely mother’s. Could she really be here in this desolate wilderness?”

He got up to have a look outside. As he stepped out, a thunderous roar rose behind his brains. Shi Tsung Fu was so blown away that his soul almost flew out to Heaven’s beyond. Quickly he looked back and saw the shelter had collapsed completely.

“Aiyah!”

He was so overwhelmed that he plopped down to the ground, sitting in horror. After a while, he gave a sigh,

“This abandoned cave dwelling has been neglected for so many years and with this torrential rain its walls are so soaked and weakened. How could they remain up any longer?”

It was fated that Shi Tsung Fu was crushed to death in this cave dwelling, but fortunately Peach Blossom had instructed Old Mrs. Shi on how to save him. Even though Peach Blossom’s magical powers were awesome, it was fortunate that Shi Ren Fu was a filial son. Otherwise he could not have escaped from this ill-fated calamity.

Shi Tsung Fu was fully awake by then. After gathering his thoughts he let out a sigh of relief,

“O great deliverer of sorrow and perils, Divine Honorable of the Second Heavenly Stem2!”

Then on second thought, he bemoaned,

“A second later, I would be crushed to death inside there! How long would it be before my corpse is dug out? Mother would never know what had happened to me. One life lost and so would another. No one else will take care of my aged mother!”

Just then, distant sounds of the fourth hour were carried by the wind to Shi Tsung Fu’s ears and he suddenly realized what had happened and laughed out aloud,

“What a fool I am! I should be considered lucky in having the protection of Heaven and escaped from this calamity. Early in the morning, I can enter the city and see mother soon. We’ll be reunited. There will be joy and smiles in our conversations. Isn’t that a grand affair?”

As a result, sorrow departed and happiness flowed into Shi Tsung Fu. Right there and then, he sat on a rock until the five drum beats of the fifth watch were heard emanating from Morning Song. Highly excited, he exclaimed,

“One more hour and dawn will be here. Alas my luggage is buried deep inside and there’s no way to dig it out. Fortunately, my twenty taels of silver are with me. No use to wait here any longer. Might as well hurry to the city walls and wait there instead.”

He stood up, tidied his clothes and in quick large steps, he raced to the City of Morning Song with just his life and two empty hands. Shi Tsung Fu arrived at the city gates and waited alone. Soon the sky brightened and the gates opened. With winged-like feet, he flew home and in no time he arrived at the main entrance and began to knock on the door. There was immediate response. You see, old Mrs. Shi although long ago was in bed could not sleep. On one hand Lord Chou’s words coursed through her mind; on another hand, she worried that Peach Blossom’s instructions were useless. Tossing and turning she had found no peace. It was deep into the fifth hour when she was about to doze off when there was a sudden knock on the door. Almost immediately she jumped up from the bed fully awakened and answered the knock. Great joy filled her heart when she realized that her son had come home alive. To the main entrance she raced and upon opening it, she shouted,

“Shi Tsung Fu, my son! Is that really you? Great anxiety and anticipation are killing me!”

Was this an ordinary reunion between mother and son? Of course not, it was a reunion that was snatched from the jaws of death. Boundless joy was on hand but at the same time the weight of immense sorrow was too much to bear. Old Mrs. Shi did not say a word but with one great step forward, she hugged her son crying out in angst,

“My son! You really did come home alive! Did you not?”

Shi Tsung Fu was greatly puzzled on hearing his mother’s words, through his tears he asked,

“Mother, your son really did escape from death and came home alive. Let’s go inside and let me explain the details to you slowly.”

Old Mrs. Shi held his hands and went into the inner hall. Shi Tsung Fu related to his mother how he was caught in the rain; had sought shelter in an abandoned broken cave dwelling; then at such and such a time, thrice heard his mother calling; then had run out for a look when the place collapsed, just avoiding being crushed to death; that his luggage was still buried under the debris but luckily he had his money on him. When the narration ended, old Mrs. Shi could not help herself and started sobbing again. Soon both mother and son were in lament together. Finally when they were done, old Mrs. Shi said,

“We mustn’t be this sorrowful; you have a great saviour to thank. She is our next door neighbour. Let’s go quickly and give thanks to Miss Ren!”

Shi Ren Tsung quickly asked,

“Mother, who is this saviour you are taking me to?”

Old Mrs. Shi explained how she yearned for her son’s return; had gone to Lord Chou for a divination to be told that on the third hour of last night her son would be crushed to death in a cave dwelling with no hope of escape; that her cries had caught the attention of the daughter of the neighbouring Rens who then instructed her on how to save him and thus he was able to escape death.

“You see the paper horses are still on the table, isn’t this a chicken and that a winnowing sieve? Well, here’s the lamp, your clothes, a mirror and your shoes!”

As Shi Tsung Fu listened and compared the night’s events in the cave dwelling, he had an epiphany and exclaimed,

“Mother, if all you said is true, we owe our lives to Miss Ren. We must go and thank her but not like this. Won’t other people chide our bad manners? Your son now has twenty taels of silver; we must spend two or three taels of silver to buy a goat and some sacrificial wine. These will be our gifts of thanks to show them our most sincere gratitude.”

Old Mrs. Shi heard her son’s words and was in deep thought before replying,

“My son in wanting to buy a goat and wine is really a filial sign and respect for others. Bless you. Why use our money? Didn’t that Lord Chou charge such high fees of one tael of silver and three pence because his predictions are always accurate? He boasted to refund ten times the amount if his divinations proved wrong. Wouldn’t it be better to collect the refund to buy a goat and wine instead? The problem is that Miss Ren warned me about disclosing her name. In demanding a refund he would surely ask questions. Then how would I be able to respond?”

Shi Tsung Ren replied,

“Mother, don’t worry. Just say that I came back by myself and that’s that. How could he possibly know that it was Miss Ren who saved me?”

When mother and son finishing planning, they had breakfast, locked up the home and together they headed toward the divination stall.

Just then Lord Chou had finished his ten divination consultations for the day. Pang Jiang was taking down the sign when Old Mrs. Shi called out to him. Pang Jiang looked in the direction from where the voice had come. He saw it was from Old Mrs. Shi and asked,

“Old sister-in-law, what brings you here again?”

The moment he finished asking that he espied Shi Tsung Fu standing beside her. He gasped in shock and exclaimed,

“My good brother! Are you a man or a ghost? Is today the day you return to claim someone’s life?”

Shi Tsung Fu feigned innocence and with a face full of smiles he answered,

“How are you my Lord Pang? Having not been around for half a year, it really suits me in having some fun now. Sorry to bother you to go in and ask for the divination fee refund.”

Pang Jiang heard the words but feigned ignorance. He approached and laughing out merrily in sarcasm,

“My good brother, you came back. So nothing happened on the third watch of last night? Milord’s divination was proven wrong and such a coincidence that mother and son would come here today to ask for a refund.”

Old Mrs. Shi being more experienced, knowing what is good from the bad, quickly chimed in,

“Lord Pang, we are poor people, how could we dare ask Lord Chou for a ten fold refund? We plead only for the return of the original sum. You see, this was a borrowed sum. This old body would like to return what was owed. Our gratitude to Lord Pang will be deep.”

Can old Mrs. Shi get her refund back? Please read the next chapter.

NOTES:

1. 白雲猶是漢宮秋,
    烽火魂消百尺樓。
    將軍戰馬今何在?
    野草閒花滿地愁。

    An allusion to a play named, The Autumn Han Palace (漢宮秋). The full name is 破幽夢孤

    雁漢宮秋. In some sources, the word秋 was replaced by the word for sorrow (愁). The
    story is about the Han Dynasty Emperor Yuan dreaming about Wang Chao Chun (王昭
    君) and their love affair being broken up by her marriage to a Hsiung Nu barbarian.

    For a more scholarly paper, see  http://sunzi.lib.hku.hk/hkjo/view/7/700160.pdf

2. Usually 太乙天尊 is translated as the Great Monad. Mine is a more literal translation. 乙

    is the second of the Heavenly Stems, a system used to denote calendars, hours etc.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heavenly_stem
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earthly_BranchesOriginal Text桃花女陰陽鬥傳/第五回

傳解法孝子離災,
依妙術慈母會子.

詩曰:

白雲猶是漢宮秋,
烽火魂消百尺樓。
將軍戰馬今何在?
野草閒花滿地愁。

再說石宗輔在破窯,於初更將盡,靠在壁邊眼倦了,剛剛要睡去,忽聽得有人在外叫了一聲:“石宗輔,我的孩兒!你快快回來!”心中吃了一驚,忙睜眼一看,隻身坐破窯中,再聽時又不見叫了,暗暗自言:“好奇怪!方才明明是有人叫了我一聲,難道是心里糊塗錯聽了不成?”此時雨已止了,便走出窯外,抬頭一看,只見得滿天明星,新月如鉤微明,草濕如油。意欲仍想趕路,離了這破窯,自知前途又無棲身之處,只得仍舊走進窯中,在前坐之處,只得坐下,心內狐疑道:“莫不是疑心生暗鬼不成?想來多是我思念母親的心切,我的魂送風之音,巧遇此這一聲相似,也未可知。但今此地離家這樣遠,母親叫我如何聽見?”左思右想,朦朦朧朧的又睡著了。正在睡夢中,又聽得有人叫他一聲,說道:“果奇了!難道又是錯聽不成?”一翻身,趴了起來,叫一聲:“娘呀!”不覺流下淚,呆想一回,忽然冷笑道:“可知我心糊塗!方才不是夢中聽見我的母親呼喚,豈能連夜出此郊外來?但今獨自一人在此,有誰知我受此孤棲的呀?母呀!連你也不知兒獨自一人,在此荒涼之所。”當晚胡思亂想,已混醒了魔頭,心中越加煩燥起來,道:“我今睡又睡不寧,心又掛念母親,何不坐到五更?等天明了,就可以入城,且又聽明還有人叫我沒有。”打定主意,抖擻精神的坐著一刻,還有月光微亮。剛剛坐到三更時候,目又倦了,耳邊聽得是真正切切道:“石宗輔,我的孩兒!快快回來!”當下,由不得他大哭起來,應道:“母親!孩兒在這裡呀!這明明是我母親的聲音,難道是母親真個來近這郊外也?”想罷,即出外來尋找。

他正出了窯門,只聽腦後響聲,猶如天崩地塌一般。把個石宗輔唬得魂飛天外,忙回頭一看,只見那一間破窯,已倒將下來。 “噯喲”一聲,身不由主,便坐在地下。定了半晌神,方轉嗟嘆了一番,又言:“這間破窯因日久年深,今又遇著這場破塊大雨,是濕透了。四面牆壁如何站得住?”實前生造定石宗輔今晚這時候該在這破窯壓死,偏偏就有個桃花女教了石寡婦這個解法,致石宗輔才能脫了這一場大災難。雖是桃花女的道法通神,也幸虧石宗輔是個孝子,方才有這一段因果。那石宗輔是晚醒定神思,念了一聲:“救苦救難太乙天尊!”心中一想,反痛哭起來道:“我若走遲—步,豈不壓死在裡面!不知何年拖出我的屍首?母親在家如何知道?活活的就盼望死了!豈不是因一命又害一命?況且誰來收拾他的老身呢?”正在言哭之際,忽有一陣風速速的送來,城上的更鼓已是打四下了。石宗輔翻然醒悟,又笑起來道:“我呆也!我今得皇天庇佑,脫了這場大災,就算是萬幸。明早進城,就與母親相見。那時候娘兒們又說又笑,豈不是一件大好的事?”於是破悲為喜,就坐在路旁一塊石頭上。一刻,等待朝歌城內更鑼暗暗的送了五下,心中大悅,便想道:“再等一更,天是能亮了,但只是我的行李被埋覆在裡面,料想此時不能扒出,幸得二十兩白銀帶在身邊,如今守著這間破窯也是無用,不如且奔到城下,在那裡等侯,倘天明城門一開,就好進城去見母親。 ”想罷,便忙站起身來,穿好了衣服,大步如飛的直奔朝歌城而來。只落個隻身得命,兩手空空。

石宗輔忙忙趕到城門口,獨自一人立候。不多時,天就亮了。城門開啟。石宗輔即踏進城,兩足如飛,竟到自家門首。忙伸手,才敲一卞,裡邊就應了一聲。原來是石婆子是晚雖然就枕,但那裡還睡得著?又恐周公之言是真,桃花女之言是假,翻來覆去,直到五更殘,剛剛合眼,忽聽得敲門之聲,早又驚醒了,連忙答應,心中大悅,知道是兒子有命回來。一翻身爬了起來,飛奔出大門,一面叫道:“石宗輔我兒!你回來了麼?為娘盼望殺也!”忙忙開門。 

他二人那裡是母子相逢?竟如相見重生再遇,這番喜歡無窮,只又是傷感難盡。石婆子開言不問別的,一步趕上前去,雙手抱住石宗輔在懷內放聲大哭道:“我的兒!你果然得命回來了麼?”石宗輔見母親說出話有些古怪,就流淚道:“母親,孩兒真是死裡逃生得命回來的。且到中堂去,待孩兒慢慢的告禀。”石婆子聞言,就拖著兒子的手,一齊來至堂中坐下。石宗輔便把路上如何避雨的,躲在破窯中至什麼時候,“聽見母親呼喚我有三次,我即忙跑出破窯外看時,那知此所破窯就倒陷了,險些壓死在內。如今行李俱埋在窯裡,幸喜銀子帶在身邊”的話,說了一遍,即大哭起來。石婆子一聞此說,不覺也太哭。母子二人哭了一場,石婆子道:“我們且不要傷悲,你有個救命的大恩人就在隔鄰,快快同娘去叩謝了任小姐!”石宗輔忙問道:“母親同兒去謝那個救命的恩人?”石婆子便將“盼兒不歸,到周公處問卜,說你昨夜三更,就會壓死於破窯之內,並無解救,因此大哭回來,被隔鄰任太公之女小姐教了娘一個破解之法,如此如此,才救了你的性命”的話,也說了一遍,“你看桌子上不是擺著紙馬?這不是雞子、篩兒,那不是燈兒、衫兒、鏡兒、鞋兒呢?”石宗輔聽了娘這篇言語,與他在窯中之事恰合,方才如夢方醒,道:“母親這等說來,一些也不錯,實在虧了任小姐救了孩兒一命。我娘兒們豈可就這樣子到他家去?豈不被旁人談說不成?孩兒如今身上現有二十兩銀子,你即拿出二三兩,買個羊,買壇酒,送將過去,方見得盡心。”

石婆子聽了兒子之言,猛想起道:“我兒要買羊酒,也算是一點孝敬之心,只是用不著自家銀子了。那周公起卦,是一兩零三分銀子,若是不靈,一倍還十倍。我今何不與你去問周公討了銀子回來,再去買羊酒,豈不是好?只是任小姐對我說過:萬不可提出他的姓名。如今去問周公要銀子,他若問起你如何回,將何言來應答於他?”石宗輔道:“母親放心。只說我自己回來的就是了。難道他就知任家救我不成?”母子二人商酌定了主意,隨用了早餐,把門倒扣了,一齊來至卜市。

此時周公已算完十卦,門首只有彭剪一人,在那裡收拾招牌。石婆子便叫他一聲。彭剪回頭一看,見是石婆子,便道:“老嫂又來做什麼?”一言未罷,忽見石宗輔站立在他娘一旁,吃了一驚,道:“我的好兄弟!你是人還是鬼?今日的日子你回來阿,是要誰的命?”石宗輔裝做不知,反滿臉陪笑道:“彭老爺一向可好麼?才別半年,竟合我說起玩耍來。煩你進去說聲:昨日那兩卦資與我們罷。”彭剪聽了這話,心下明白,走近前笑嘻嘻的道:“好兄弟,你回來了。昨日半夜三更安然無事麼?就是我家公爺算不靈的,今合你母親來要倒賠銀子哩。”石婆子是有年紀之人,知道好歹,連忙接口道:“彭老爺,我們是個窮人,怎麼敢與公爺要倒賠銀子?只求將昨日那個卦資賞回我們就是了。原來這個卦資是老身問別人借貸來的,待我回去還了人家,就感公爺大恩非淺矣!”

不知石宗輔如何討得回卦資,且看下回分解。

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