Urban Tales of Demons and Spirits
Vol 1 Book of Thunder – Chapter 19 The Old Woman’s Story (1)
Quality Checker: Tezuka
First Published on Chaleuria.
Chapter 19 The Old Woman’s Story (1)
Wen Jiubo handed the bag of medicine to the girl on the far left, saying, “You’re so skinny and pale, and your vitality is weak too. You often have diarrhea as well, right? If your spleen and stomach are weak then, of course, you’ll have menstrual disorders. Remember to boil and drink the medicine every night. Apart from that, you also need to remember to eat and sleep regularly and don’t eat spicy food. You can eat more barley congee, that will be good for you.”
The young girl hurriedly took the medicine and thanked him incessantly. Signs of adoration flashed across her eyes.
“Atractylodes 9g, Dried tangerine peel 4.5g, Bitter orange 9g, Chicken gizzard skin 6g, Grain 9g, Malt 9g.” Wen Jiubo handed over the bag to the second girl. “Your problem is bad digestion. Don’t always stay at home, go out and get more exercise. Eat more green veggies, and don’t touch cigarettes and alcohol.”
“T-Thank you, Mr. Wen!”
“Peach kernel 15g, Safflower and Angelica root 10g each, Chuanxiong 7g, red peony and licorice root 5g each.” Wen Jiubo handed the final bag to the last girl. “Your complexion is pale, and your lips are slightly purple. There are probably blood clots inside which haven’t been completely removed. Drink more hot water during your menstrual period, and if you can, black-boned chicken soup is also very good. If you have time, put wormwood in hot water and soak your feet, that should alleviate it.”
The three girls paid for the prescriptions, then repeatedly expressed their thanks to Wen Jiubo. I watched until they left, throughout this time, my jaw was in a state of being unable to close.
“For the same kind of illness, there are actually these many different prescriptions?” I couldn’t help but ask.
However, Wen Jiubo only glanced at me indifferently. “What’s so weird? Different people have different constitutions. From this perspective, everyone’s illness is different. The ‘prescribing the right medicine for an illness’ is to treat people by selecting the appropriate herbs based on the differences of everyone’s body.”
It seemed like Mr. Wen’s really deserved to be referred to as “Mister”. I clicked my tongue, and my impression of this person was slightly less terrible than before.
I spent the whole afternoon helping Mr. Wen fill prescriptions like this. To my surprise, there were actually a lot of people who came to treat illnesses and fill their prescriptions. I was busy until nightfall before the number of customers in the store gradually decreased until there were none.
However, Wen Jiubo seemed like he was already used to this pace. He was now lying on the long chair which was originally used to receive guests, recuperating with his eyes closed. I sat behind the counter, with my chin resting on my hand, staring at the locust tree in the yard. The setting sun’s afterglow splashed down, painting the entire horizon red, yet it gave people a cold feeling.
Just as I narrowed my eyes and was about to doze off, I suddenly heard a voice coming from the entrance.
“Hello, may I ask if… Mr. Wen is here?”
I immediately awoke and looked toward the door. An old woman with grizzled hair was standing there, looking to be in her sixties. She seemed a little ill at ease and was peering inside.
“He’s here.” I stood up immediately, asking her, “You’re here to fill a prescription, right? Just come in.”
The old woman nodded, carefully stepped over the threshold and walked into the room. Wen Jiubo on the sofa opened his eyes as he looked at the old lady.
“Is there anywhere on your body that’s uncomfortable?” I asked enthusiastically. After a day of busying about, I had more or less now learned how to care for the customers.
“No, I’m not here to see a doctor,” However, the old woman shook her head. There was an unspeakable sadness on her face. “Medicine can’t cure it anymore…”
Wen Jiubo and I exchanged a glance, then the former turned to the old woman.
“You, are you worried about something?” Wen Jiubo asked.
“Yes, I… heard this place can resolve people’s worries and problems, so I came carrying my last bit of hope to give it a try.”
I walked out from behind my counter and got a chair for the old lady. She quickly thanked me and sat down.
Wen Jiubo had told me before that not everyone was able to come into this store. Apart from having something they wished for, they also had to be ‘destined’ to be able to visit this old residence. But as for what this destiny was, Wen Jiubo refused to tell me. He only said arrogantly, “You won’t understand even if I tell you.”
Which meant this old woman was just like me back then, someone who was ‘destined’ to come here.
Her complexion was not well. Her face appeared a bit yellowish, and if one looked carefully, there were bags under her eyes. This was why at first I thought she was coming to see a doctor to fill her prescription. She was a little nervous, her hands touched each other on her knees. She seemed to have thought about it for a long time before she finally said,
“I… want to beg you to help me look for a god.”
A god? I looked at Wen Jiubo with surprise and saw him also raising one of his eyebrows. His eyes were filled with interest.
“Oh?” Wen Jiubo looked at the old woman. “What kind of god is it?”
“About that… I can’t remember very well now.” The old woman shook her head, and said regretfully, “That was something that happened a long long time ago.”
Just like that, the old woman began her tale.
“This story may sound absurd. Many many years ago, when I was still a little girl, this place was not yet a city. There were no tall buildings, but only small villages built along the water. I was born in one of those villages by the river. Because I was very mischievous when I was young, the adults all nicknamed me the ‘fuzzy girl’. I could go places where other girls dared not go for things like catching snakes on mountain and fishes in water, they were all a piece of cake to me. At that time, not far behind our village was a forested mountain, adults often told us not to play there, that it was very dangerous. But I would not listen. There were many times I would escape their notice and run into the mountain to hunt pheasants or pick mushrooms. However, there was one time I followed a pheasant deep into the forest and because of a careless moment, I missed a step and fell off a cliff.”
“That cliff was very high, so high that I still don’t understand until now how I survived. But when I woke up, I found myself already lying at the bottom of the cliff without a scratch. A very good-looking big brother was sitting next to me, wiping my face with the spring water from a mountain brook. Now that I think about it, he was probably the one who had saved me after I fell off the cliff, but back then, I didn’t even thank him. He sent me back to the foot of the mountain that day, patting my head, indicating that I should go home early. I was reluctant to part with him, so I asked him, ‘Can I come play with you again?’ He didn’t say anything, he only smiled and nodded.”
“Therefore, on the second day, the third day, I secretly went to the mountain without letting my parents know. Just as I expected, I met the big brother every time. I played with him on the mountain, and he would show me all kinds of amusing little tricks. Once I asked him why he lived on the mountain by himself. He pondered a moment, then told me that he was actually the guardian god of the mountain. For hundreds and thousands of years, he had been staying on the mountain, protecting the creatures living here. I was extremely surprised and asked him a lot of questions, and he answered every single one. He said that he could make trees stay evergreen, make rivers flow forever, allow people to live to a ripe old age, and could even restore vitality to dying people.”
 Mister in Chinese is also used to refer to teacher or doctor.