Quality Checker: Isalee
First Published on Chaleuria.
I blanked out for a second. “Where will I stay… Wouldn’t it be in the dorms?”
After hearing my response, Shi Yitong also went blank momentarily. “No. School check-in starts tomorrow, so the dorms are definitely not open today. I thought you would know.”
What? I quickly took out my cell phone; the date displayed brightly on the screen was “31st August”. I was dumbfounded. Staring at Shi Yitong, I uttered, “I thought this month only had thirty days.”
Shi Yitong looked at me, caught between a cry and a laugh. “Are you an idiot?”
I stared at the ground and hesitated. Adding together the cash on me and the balance in my card, I only had a total of 1,300 yuan apart from the travel expenses, and it was my entire living expenses for the month. If I stayed at a hotel, spending eighty to a hundred yuan for the night, then I probably would not have enough living expenses to last this month. However, it was really too hard to ask my parents for money simply because of something like this.
She Yitong seemed to have noticed my expression, as he suddenly opened his mouth and asked, “Are you afraid of ghosts?”
This question was indeed too abrupt. I looked at him with a puzzled expression. “What did you say?”
“I said, ‘Gu Yu, are you afraid of ghosts?’” Shi Yitong repeated once again. His expression was serious. It didn’t seem like he was joking at all.
My eyebrows furrowed, but I still answered the question as earnestly as possible. “Umm… I’ve never seen anything like ghosts or demons. Like the ‘ghost pressing the bed’  that people often talk about, I’ve never come across it myself. I don’t really believe in these sorts of things.”
Shi Yitong seemed to have let out a breath of relief. Before I could understand what he meant by it, he had already restored the smile on his face, as if he had never asked such a strange question in the first place.
“Well, since you have nowhere to go, why don’t you come and stay at my house for tonight? As long as you don’t mind that we only have a bungalow, and it’s a little run-down.”
I replied immediately, “I don’t mind. I don’t mind. Of course, I wouldn’t mind. I’m too busy cheering. It’s just that I’m afraid it would be too much of a trouble…”
“Pff. Since I have already invited you, there’s no need for you to be so courteous.” Shi Yitong smiled and dragged me by my arm. “Besides, it would be a bit lonely for me to stay at home by myself. You’ve come just in time to keep me company.”
Talking about random topics all along the way, we soon arrived at the school. The two of us took a cursory walk around the campus, taking a look at the lecture halls and dormitories. Just as we expected, it was not the time for check-in yet, and the gate of the dormitory building was firmly locked. We then continued walking around to confirm the locations of the dining hall and the supermarket. After we had finished, I glanced at the time and it was already 5 pm in the afternoon, close to dusk.
Shi Yitong and I were still carrying the luggage, stinking all over from the sweat. Shi Yitong could not stand it any longer. He ran to the snack shop and bought a bottle of soda. After he took a gulp of it, he waved his hand at me. “This is enough, Gu Yu. Let’s hurry and go back. Anyway, it’s not like you can memorize the entire map of the school today, right?”
I nodded, also feeling tired, planning to go with Shi Yitong to take a look at his home. Right at this moment however, a figure suddenly caught my attention.
At this time, we had already walked near the entrance of the school. But as I turned back, I suddenly saw a man standing next to the lecture hall. The man was quite tall, at least 180 cm, gauging by my sight. He looked extremely handsome, with his fine, delicate features. But none of these were the reason that he had attracted my gaze. The strangest thing was that the man was wearing a long dark gown, and his hair was also long, trailing over his shoulders — appearing as if he had walked out from a historical drama.
At this time, the man seemed to have noticed my gaze and even replied to it with a smile, his head slightly tilting.
I felt it was a bit strange, so I turned around and asked Shi Yitong, “Hey, is that person a teacher in school?”
Shi Yitong was still drinking soda. It took him quite some time before he replied. “Huh? Which person?”
“That guy!” I pointed to the direction behind my back.
Shi Yitong looked over my shoulder, gazing with widened eyes for quite a while. “What? Where? Where’s the guy? How come I don’t see him?”
I turned my head and found out that there was simply nobody at the spot, only a Chinese parasol tree.
Could it be me just seeing things? I rubbed my eyes, but still, there was nobody.
“What’s wrong? Did you see a ghost?” Shi Yitong stared at me perplexedly.
I hurriedly shook my head. “No, no. It seems like I was mistaken. Look at that tree. Aren’t its leaves like human hair? And its branches like human arms?”
I just sprouted barefaced nonsense like this, and yet to my surprise, Shi Yitong actually bought it. He stopped questioning further and dragged me along, telling me to try his grandmother’s tofu stew as he exaggerated about how good the chopped onions and shelled shrimp in it smelled.
There was quite some distance between Shi Yitong’s home and the school. It seemed to be located in a suburban area far away from the city center. We hailed a taxi. The taxi driver was a kind-looking middle-aged woman almost in her fifties. Shi Yitong sat in the front passenger seat. During the entire trip, he was talking to the taxi driver about Yan City University to the local snacks of the city, then to national affairs. I was sitting in the back and didn’t really pay attention to their conversation. My eyes stared at the scenery flying by outside of the window as I emptied my mind.
A winding creek crawled up into my sight. There were also thick willow trees and abandoned old residences at a distance. Everywhere was warning me, the outsider: The land under my feet was filled with a long history and many ancient cultures that I must not violate.
Leaning against the window, I tried to take a nap along the way back, but before I could even fall asleep, Shi Yitong’s loud voice had already woken me up.
“Gu Yu! Wake up, we’re already here.”
I went to remove my luggage from the trunk while Shi Yitong said goodbye to the taxi driver. I looked around. The taxi driver had brought us to a quiet and remote village. Only later did I know that the village was called Tonghe Village, located on the river bank of North Tonghe. It was the largest village in suburban Yan City, and Shi Yitong’s home was right in it.
We took a shortcut and entered the village from along a small path. Shi Yitong was obviously familiar with the place, clearly knowing even the positions of the ditches on the ground. But compared to his brisk steps, his expression was a bit grave. Following after him, I was somewhat baffled. Just as I was hesitating whether to ask him, he was the first to start talking.
“Well… even though it might sound weird that I’m saying this, you should be mentally prepared when you enter my home in a moment.”
“What? What mentally prepared?” Shi Yitong’s words were indeed a little strange. I stopped, standing right where I was, puzzled.
Possibly due to the experience of a “ghost encounter” just now, or maybe just because of the sky that had gradually darkened, I suddenly felt like I couldn’t recognize this childhood friend of mine in front of me anymore. All of a sudden, a number of ghost stories and supernatural posts on Tianya Forum rushed into my head, stories like spiritual possession, or reincarnation…
“Hey, Gu Yu!” Maybe he had seen through my thoughts, Shi Yitong waved his hands at me incessantly and explained in a helpless tone, “I don’t mean that. How should I put it? It’s just that my home… Aiya, you’ll know what I mean when you get there. Just relax. I’m definitely not going to kidnap you to some other place. None of the men in our village needs a wife.”
 “Ghost pressing the bed”: Slang for sleep paralysis.