Quality Checker: Isalee
First Published on Chaleuria.
The scene was indeed quite unimaginable. As I continued to walk further into the yard, I saw a lot of tender shoots and flowers. It was already September—the summer heat had already passed—yet you could still smell the flowers everywhere here as if it was still spring.
Coming around the locust tree, the entrance to the main room of the residence appeared before me. The door was wide open for me in the same way as if the owner of the residence was solicitously welcoming me. However, I didn’t feel any solicitude, instead, it creeped me out.
Like all old-style residences, there were porch pillars on both sides of the door. A couplet was engraved onto both pillars in Shoujin style. The characters were already somewhat worn and indistinct, but one could still barely read it.
“For the thousands of times we have lived or died, together or apart, you already left before I even got to know you.”
Was this some kind of ancient poetry? I had never heard of it.
There was also a wooden plaque hanging right in the center above the doors, but what was strange about it was that there was nothing written on it. It was just a blank wooden board. I pulled myself together before stepping over the high threshold into the room.
It was very dark inside. I looked closely and found that all curtains were partially drawn. The room was very spacious, like some kind of parlor. I could hardly describe the furnishings in this room because everything laid out gave people the illusion that space and time were deranged here.
From the wall to the floor, to the tables and chairs, everything in the room looked antique, the wooden edges were black, giving a sense of olden times. But on the other hand, a television was placed on the redwood table, an iPad was on the low stool, and the bed was a soft Simmons mattress. The other places in the room were also filled with this sort of mixture between modern and antique furnishings. It was extremely odd.
However, I actually let out a breath of relief in my mind after seeing these modern facilities—if this was the case, then the owner of the residence should not be some monster or ghost.
A voice suddenly came from behind me. I freaked out and turned around at once. There was a faintly discernible gauze curtain right behind me in the center of the room, and one could vaguely make out a figure behind it.
The voice sounded exceptionably familiar, but I could not recall where I had heard it before no matter how hard I tried. Before I could think it through, the gauze curtain was lifted, and a man walked out. I was so shocked that I couldn’t even close my mouth—he was the man in my dream last night!
The man whose name was unknown was still wearing that dark-colored robe and a monocle over an eye. He was handsome; with his long hair floating behind him, he seemed like someone who had walked out from a historical drama.
He ignored my exaggerated reaction. Instead, he picked up a teapot from the wooden table next to him and poured some piping hot tea into a cup. “Want some tea? I just brewed it, but I don’t know if you like bitter chrysanthemum.”
He handed the teacup to me as he spoke. However, as I subconsciously reached out my hand to take it, I accidentally burnt my fingers with the tea that splashed out and failed to hold onto the cup. The teacup fell on the ground and broke into pieces with a crisp shattering sound.
“Ah! So-sorry!” I apologized in a flurry.
However, he showed no sign of anger and only gave a helpless expression before he bent over to pick up the fragments of the teacup. “Ah, you’re so careless just like always.”
“Sorry…” I apologized subconsciously.
But the situation didn’t seem quite right, did it? Who was this person after all? Why was he in such a place? Nevertheless, didn’t I come in search of the cat? Where was that damn cat?
“Nevermind. Sit down and rest awhile.” He smiled at me, his eyes curved.
“Well…” Of course, I did not sit down. Instead, I frowned and looked at the person suspiciously. “Do you know me?”
The man put down the teacup and stared at me for a few seconds before a smile appeared on his face, “Not at all.”
The sentence made me so mad that I almost spat out blood. What the heck was this guy doing?! Why did you pretend to be so polite, doing all sorts of things like greeting me and pouring tea, if you didn’t even know me? As I was about to say more, I suddenly heard a “meow” behind the gauze curtain and a black cat strode out gracefully.
I gritted my teeth in rage, blaming this little bastard that had run all over for bringing me to such a strange place.
“Is this your cat?” The man bent over and picked up the cat. That bad-tempered cat was actually very quiet in his arms and even started to meow in satisfaction.
“No. It’s not.” I clarified at once. “It’s my classmate’s cat. This guy runs around all over the place. I accidentally ran in here because I was searching for him. I’m really sorry.”
“Why the need to apologize?” The man gently caressed the fur on the back of the cat. “What’s your name?”
“Ah? Gu Yu.” I answered subconsciously. “Gu as in ‘take care’, and Yu as in ‘feather’.”
“Gu Yu.” The man slowly repeated my name once. All of a sudden, a smile appeared on his face. “It’s very dangerous to tell your name to a stranger so carelessly.”
What? I was puzzled. “But aren’t names meant to be told to strangers? Who would emphasize their name over and over to a friend?”
“That makes sense too. But even if it’s a stranger, it has to be a trustworthy stranger at least, right?” He looked at me thoughtfully. “Gu Yu, do you trust me?”
Why did this person keep saying weird things to me? Alerted by his questions, I took half a step back. I didn’t know whether to nod or to shake my head.
“Then let me introduce myself first.” The man seemed to be amused by my actions. “I’ll keep my given name confidential for now, but my family name is Wen. You can call me Mr. Wen.”
Mr. Wen took the seat in the center of the room and looked at me gently and asked, “So, what’s your request?”
What’s my request? I waved my hands at once, “Well, I think you misunderstood. I came in here accidentally while looking for the cat. Since I’ve already found the cat, I’ll leave right away!”
“Accidentally?” Mr. Wen pressed his finger against his chin and looked at me quietly, then he smiled. “However, there is no such thing as an ‘accident’ in this world. Cats will eat fish. Fishes will swim. Water will flow to lower places. All of these are ‘certain’ outcomes that nature has given them. Encounters, feelings, disputes, trust, and betrayal between people—none of them is an ‘accident’. Everything happening in this world has its own rules and reasons. Speaking from this perspective, the fact that you have walked in here and met me is not an ‘accident’. Or let me put it in another way, you could not have walked into this store ‘accidentally’ without some reason in your mind.”
“Wait a minute… Store?” I was getting more and more confused.
“Something has been bothering you a lot, right?” Mr. Wen’s eyes were blazingly sharp.
The sentence pierced my heart like a sharp arrow.
A smile appeared on Mr. Wen’s face as he asked, “By the way, did you notice the wooden plaque above the door before you came in? Is there anything written on it?”
I became even more confused. “I noticed it, but… there was nothing on it.”
Mr. Wen raised his chin and replied, “How about you go to the entrance and take another look?”
“Even if I look at it again…”