Chapter 15 Song of the Sky Pacers
When Liu Qiaoye was teaching Zhang Jiaohua, Jinhu et al., were also inclining their ears to listen. They were even showing expressions of understanding. After that, when Zhang Jiaohua was flipping over the sweet potato vines, the sweet potato vines at several places were also being flipped over.
At first, Liu Qiaoye thought that there was a snake, but Zhang Jiaohua didn’t have any misgiving because he could see Jinhu et al, were also flipping sweet potato vines alongside him. In his view, it was most natural. He still treated Jinhu et al, as his best companions. Although they could not talk to him, but it didn’t affect his companionship with them.
After watching the scene occur several times today, Liu Qiaoye saw Zhang Jiaohua’s look and only then she came to know that Jinhu et al. were there. Unexpectedly, her heart actually felt at ease. At least, till so far Jinhu et al, hadn’t caused any harm to her son. If it was like this, then so what even if there are several little ghosts by the side of her son? It wasn’t that Liu Qiaoye wasn’t afraid, rather she was afraid that there was no solution to this issue.
With the help of Jinhu et al, the farm work that originally would have taken several hours was finished successfully in no time at all. Zhang Jiaohua actually relished the joy of working happily, though he didn’t have to suffer the dry and dull arduous labour. Therefore, his mood was exceptionally good and he was hopping and skipping all along the way.
Since the flipping over of sweet potato vines had been completed ahead of schedule, Liu Qiaoye took up another work in the meantime which was conveniently harvesting the leftover corn sticks before going home. Mother, Child and Jinhu et al, had a high efficiency working together. By the time sun had risen nearly to the top of the head, Liu Qiaoye was already leading Zhang Jiaohua back home. Shelling the corn to pull out the corncob from inside could be accomplished under the shade of a tree.
Zhang Jiaohua was very much interested in this kind of a work since the very beginning, but in just a while of doing it, he started yawning incessantly.
Liu Qiaoye seeing her son’s appearance knew that her son was sleepy, “Son, go wash your hands & face, and take an afternoon nap. Later, Mother will call you for lunch.”
Zhang Jiaohua was finding it really difficult to keep his eyelids open, so he just obediently went to the water jar and scooped out a ladle full of water, to wash his face. After lying down on the bed, he at once went to sleep making sleepy “hu hu” noises.
After falling asleep, he heard the Old Daoist Priest saying, “Today we will learn footwork. First, memorize the Song of Sky pacers. The North Pole Central Palace is the Purple Wei Palace, the North Pole Five stars in its midst. The throne of the Heavenly Emperor is the second pearl, the third star the abode of the concubine’s son……” [TLNote: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Song_of_the_Sky_Pacers; Translations courtesy The Hall of Light: A Study of Early Chinese Kingship Study of Early Chinese Kingship by William Edward Soothill, Dorothea Lady Hosie, G. F. Hudson]
The Old Daoist Priest was singing and moving in predetermined steps at the same time. These steps of his were very exquisite. On the ground, he drew a matrix marking the positions. As each sentence was spoken, he would move to the margins. Sometimes he advanced, sometimes he retreated, but at all times there was a law.
Old Daoist Priest only taught once regardless of the subject. Later, he would make Zhang Jiaohua do it. If he made a mistake, he would hit first and then he would teach again. Zhang Jiaohua wanted to run away, but the body was not under his control. Zhang Jiaohua’s mind was full of anguish. What irritated Zhang Jiaohua the most, was the fact that he obviously understood how to do it, but his body just wouldn’t listen to him, and every time there was a mistake, his palm would be thrashed by the Old Daoist Priest making a “pi pa” sound. In his heart, he scolded Old Daoist Priest innumerable times, but he was very helpless, he couldn’t even speak out. However, even if he could really curse, he was afraid of asking for only more beatings.
After an unknown amount of beatings, he was finally able to walk correctly. Just as he was planning to stop and catch his breath, he was shaken awake.
“Darling son, stop sleeping, get up and eat.” Liu Qiaoye was shaking her son.
“Mother, my Master asked me to hopscotch (Popular game amongst rural children). He would always hit me. With great difficulty, I managed to catch a rest, and just then you woke me up.” Zhang Jiaohua was grumbling while pouting. Was that dream really real, how is he, a kid, able to distinguish between fantasy and reality?
“What squares did your Master teach you to jump?” These days every time her son slept, would say that his master had taught him something, Liu Qiaoye couldn’t help but pay attention to this.
“Mother, you come, I will jump so you can see.” Zhang Jiaohua pulled his mother’s hand bringing her to the courtyard and under the shade of the tree. Picking up a broken tile, he drew many matrices in the corn drying area. This compared to the ordinary children’s hopscotch field was much more complicated. Zhang Jiaohua on one side chanted mnemonics, on the other, he jumped back and forth on the aforementioned. After jumping for a while, Zhang Jiaohua stopped annoyedly, “Made a mistake while jumping, if Master was here, he would definitely want to beat me. Master’s plank is really painful.”
Zhang Jiaohua acting so earnest made his mother not able to restrain her smile.
“Taking advantage of the fact that Master’s not here, why don’t we first have a meal?” Liu Qiaoye said laughing.
“Mother, is there something tasty to eat today?” Zhang Jiaohua looked at her mother with eyes full of hope and expectation.
“Today we eat poached egg.” Liu Qiaoye smiled. Her son was really gluttonous, but the family couldn’t really put out the kind of dishes that her son liked to eat.
“Awesome!” Zhang Jiaohua jumped about in excitement.
“Darling son, listen to your mother, whatever hopscotch that Old Daoist Priest taught you in your dream, you cannot tell anyone. Your matters with Master, you cannot tell others. You can only tell it your parents. Understood?” Liu Qiaoye realised that this matter of her son’s dreams is not simple, so she promptly warned her son. She was worried, that in the future when her son goes out, he would be regarded as a freak by others.
“Understood, Mother.” Zhang Jiaohua nodded forcefully.
People of Meizi’ao ate only two meals a day. The meals consisted of cooked rice. Meal in the morning was around 9’o clock. Meal in the afternoon at around 2-3’o clock. After eating the meal, and resting for a while, Zhang Jiaohua would go cattle herding.
Zhang Jiaohua’s cattle herding on the boundary ridges between the fields had resulted in a big war. Mother hurriedly urged him to not cattle herd on the boundary ridge between the fields, and rather go to Meizi Mountain. Meizi Mountain was a very big mountain, and in the deepest reaches, it had untouched forests. Meizi Mountain was a treasure-trove for the people of Meizi’ao, and was also the spiritual home for the people of Meizi’ao. Cattle herders could only herd at the foothills of the mountain, the bushes were sparse and had a lot of sod comparatively . Moreover, the topography was smooth, and the cattle could walk above it easily. The only shortcoming was that it was nearby to the vegetable plots of the farmlands. If one was incautious, the cattle could run down the mountain and steal food. A water buffalo had an enormous appetite, if it was permitted to eat to its fill, even the rice grains in one-two parts of the field wouldn’t suffice.
At this time, Zhang Jiaohua on his own initiative was carrying a small bamboo basket, intending to pick up and carry back firewood from the mountains.
Zhang Jiaohua was singing a song while walking, although he could only able to remember one-two verses, “Our Asia, heads held up high in the mountains, En……”
Finally reaching the mountain, the weather being really hot, as the water buffalo was let out to graze in the mountains, he spoke especially threateningly, “You must not go steal others food, otherwise I will beat you with a bamboo stick.”
“Heng.” Don’t know if the big water buffalo understood or not, but it let out a snort and shook its head with ears constantly flapping, and the tail constantly swinging.
Zhang Jiaohua rolled the rope for pulling the water buffalo around its two horns, after which he softly patted the buffalo’s butt. The water buffalo immediately started walking. The first thing that the water buffalo wanted to do after reaching the mountains, was to find a tree to scratch its itch. The bodies of cattle were simply breeding farms for cattle lice, cattle fly, gadfly……they could enjoy their life to the fullest on the large body of the cattle. The water buffalo’s body was enormous, but it didn’t have any means to deal with these little fellows.