Explore the story of the Hu family's enduring friendship, a unique marriage arrangement, and their encounters with mysterious fox soldiers in this intriguing tale.
In Zhili, there was a wealthy family who wanted to hire a scholar. One day, a talented scholar unexpectedly came to offer his services. The host welcomed him into the house, and the scholar was eloquent and pleasant to converse with. The scholar introduced himself as Mr. Hu, and the host hired him as their teacher. Mr. Hu was diligent in teaching, well-versed in knowledge, and not an ordinary scholar.
However, Mr. Hu often went out for excursions and would return late at night. Even though the door was securely closed, no knocking was heard when he entered the room. The host was astonished and suspected it might be a fox. Yet, since Mr. Hu showed no ill intentions, the host continued to treat him generously without letting his peculiar behavior affect their courtesy.
Mr. Hu knew that the host had a daughter and secretly sought her hand in marriage, hinting at it several times. The host pretended not to understand. One day, Mr. Hu asked for leave and departed. The next day, a guest came to visit and tied a black donkey at the door. The host invited the guest inside. This guest was in his fifties, well-dressed, and displayed a very dignified and elegant demeanor. After he took his seat, he explained his purpose for the visit, revealing that he had come as a matchmaker for Mr. Hu. The host remained silent for a long time before saying, “Mr. Hu and I are already close friends; why insist on a marriage proposal? Besides, my daughter is already promised to someone else. Please convey my apologies to Mr. Hu.” The guest said, “I’m fully aware of Miss Ling’s current situation. Why do you persistently refuse?” He pleaded repeatedly, but the host refused to agree. The guest felt embarrassed and asked, “Is Mr. Hu’s background not as noble as yours, even though he comes from a respected family?” The host then bluntly stated, “It’s not that, I just dislike that he is not human.” The guest, upon hearing this, became furious, and an argument ensued, escalating further. The guest tried to grab the host, while the host ordered his servants to drive him away with sticks. The guest fled, leaving the donkey behind. Upon closer inspection, the donkey was covered in black fur, had pointed ears, a long tail, and was a colossal creature. However, it wouldn’t move when pulled and easily toppled over when pushed, turning into a chirping grasshopper.
Upon hearing the angry words from the guest, the host knew that they would come for revenge, so he instructed his servants to strengthen their defenses. Indeed, the next day, a large force of fox soldiers poured in, including cavalry, infantry, some wielding spears, and others with bows. They shouted and neighed with a fierce demeanor. The host was too frightened to leave his house. The fox soldiers threatened to set the house on fire, further terrifying the host.
One brave servant led a group of household members to shout and charge out, throwing stones and shooting arrows. Both sides engaged in a heated battle, causing casualties on both sides. The fox soldiers gradually couldn’t withstand the fight and retreated. A shiny sword was left on the ground, resembling frost and snow. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be sorghum leaves. The people laughed and said, “Is this all they’re capable of?” However, they remained vigilant, fearing that the fox soldiers might return.
The next day, as people were gathered together talking, suddenly a giant descended from the sky, over ten feet tall and several feet wide, wielding a colossal sword-like door panel, chasing and attacking people. The household members threw stones and shot arrows randomly at him, and the giant fell dead. It turned out to be a straw man used for funerals. People felt that defeating the fox soldiers was quite easy.
Three days passed without any sign of the fox soldiers, and the vigilance of the household members relaxed slightly. On that day, the host happened to be using the restroom when he saw the fox soldiers approaching, bows drawn and arrows aimed. They fired, and the arrows struck the host’s buttocks. He was greatly frightened and hastily called the household members to defend. Only then did the fox soldiers retreat. Upon pulling out the arrows from his buttocks, they turned out to be stems of wormwood grass.
In this manner, both sides confronted each other for over a month. The fox soldiers came and went unpredictably. Although they did not inflict significant harm, the constant state of alertness caused great distress to the host.
One day, Mr. Hu led his fox soldiers to the host’s residence. The host personally went out to confront them, and when Mr. Hu saw him, he concealed himself among the fox soldiers. The host called for him to come forward, and reluctantly, he stepped out. The host said, “I believe I haven’t done anything to offend you, Mr. Hu. Why should we resort to violence?” The fox soldiers were about to shoot the host, but Mr. Hu stopped them. The host approached, shook Mr. Hu’s hand, and invited him to the original study, where he arranged food and drinks to entertain him.
The host spoke calmly, saying, “Mr. Hu, you are a reasonable person, and I’m sure you can understand me. Considering our deep friendship, how can we not be willing to join our families in marriage? However, your lifestyle, residence, and habits differ significantly from those of humans. It’s not suitable for my daughter to follow you, as you must already know. Moreover, there’s a saying, ‘A forced melon is not sweet.’ Why are you doing this?” Mr. Hu felt extremely ashamed.
The host reassured him, saying, “It’s alright; our previous relationship remains intact. If you don’t mind us, the worldly and mundane people, I have a young son who is fifteen years old this year and willing to become a groom in your household. Do you have a young lady of similar age and appearance for a suitable match?” Mr. Hu happily replied, “I have a younger sister who is one year younger than your son, and she is of good character and appearance. How about her serving as your young master’s wife?”
After hearing this, the host stood up and thanked Mr. Hu, and Mr. Hu also expressed his gratitude. They continued to drink and converse, dispelling their previous misunderstandings. The host then ordered a banquet to be prepared to treat Mr. Hu’s subordinates, and everyone enjoyed themselves. The host intended to inquire about Mr. Hu’s address in detail to arrange the marriage, but Mr. Hu did not reveal it. As the evening grew late, they lit a lamp and continued drinking until they were both thoroughly intoxicated. Only then did Mr. Hu take his leave. From that day on, there were no more conflicts, and they lived in peace.
Over a year passed, and Mr. Hu did not return. Some people suspected that Mr. Hu’s promised marriage was a falsehood, but the host insisted on waiting for him. Another six months went by, and suddenly Mr. Hu returned. After exchanging pleasantries, he said, “My younger sister has grown into adulthood. Please choose an auspicious day to send her over to serve her in-laws.” The host was delighted, and after setting the wedding date with Mr. Hu, they bid farewell.
That evening, a bridal sedan indeed arrived with the new bride, accompanied by a generous dowry that nearly filled the new house. The new bride paid her respects to her in-laws and appeared exceedingly beautiful and gentle, which pleased the host greatly. Mr. Hu and his younger brother came to escort the new bride. Both brothers were eloquent and skilled in drinking, and they didn’t leave until dawn. The new bride also had the ability to predict the yearly harvests, so the household relied on her advice for managing their livelihood.
Subsequently, Mr. Hu and his brother, along with their mother, frequently visited her, and everyone in the family had the chance to meet them.