Urban Tales of Demons and Spirits
Vol 1 Book of Thunder – Chapter 34 Prelude
First Published on Chaleuria.
Chapter 34 Prelude
Xiaoying thought about it for a moment. “He went to a faraway place.”
I paused. “A faraway place…”
“It’s a very far away place. My mom said that it’s somewhere I can never go.”
So he passed away. I ran my hand through my hair. Trying to communicate with a child this age was actually quite difficult.
“Then when did Uncle Wang join your family?”
Xiaoying tilted her head thoughtfully. “Not that long ago.”
“Not long ago?”
“Uncle Wang used to live here, my mom and I moved in afterward.”
“Then this room of yours…” I hesitated, looking at the fine decorations around the small room.
“Uncle Wang helped me decorate it.” Xiaoying smiled.
“Oh, I see… Uncle Wang seems to treat you really well.” I said, somewhat surprised.
I chatted with Xiaoying a little while longer about inconsequential things before we left this strange house. Xiaoying’s mother still stared at us coldly, giving us goosebumps. We hurriedly said goodbye and left.
Not long after we left the house, Bai piped up with a comment, still sitting on my shoulder, “You’re pretty good at handling kids.”
“Ah. I’m alright.” I scratched my head. “It’s because there used to be a lot of young children where I used to live. Once you’ve interacted with them for a while, you learn how to talk with them.”
“Speaking of which, where is your home, Gu Yu? I’ve never heard you mention it.” Bai asked, suddenly interested.
“Ah… It’s in Bei Ning.”
“Hm, Bei Ning.” Bai scrunched up his face, trying to recall the location. “Oh, oh, that place. It’s a city in the north right? It’s a pretty big city as well, I think. You’re so lucky to be born in a big city.”
“It’s not that great….”
“If your home is in such a great place like Bei Ning, why did you come to study in Yan City?” Bai asked, baffled.
“Oh. That’s… I just wanted to study in a place a little further away from home.”
“How could you want to study in a place further away from home?” Bai stared at me, uncomprehendingly. “Don’t humans value family over everything else?”
Bai’s words went straight through my heart. That feeling of discomfort and pressure returned, pressing against my chest. I really didn’t want to lose my composure in front of Shi Yitong and Bai, but if the conversation continued like this, then I didn’t know what would happen.
“Ah — That, speaking of which!” Shi Yitong took this opportunity to loudly interrupt Bai. He scratched his head, staring upwards at the sky. “I’m so hungry! Look at that cloud, doesn’t it look like a really massive hamburger?”
“What? Where? Where?” Bai immediately perked up, jumping onto Shi Yitong’s shoulder.
“That one. Look!.”
The topic change couldn’t be more forced. Only someone like Bai would fall for it hook, line and sinker. I let out a quiet sigh of relief and looked at Shi Yitong gratefully. He returned it with a subtle thumbs up.
This was the first time I had ever felt in my heart that friendship was such a great thing to have.
I originally thought that Xiaoying’s problem would end like that. I returned back to school with Shi Yitong but Wen Jiubo still had not returned to the old residence. When I tried calling him, he didn’t pick up either. I figured that he was probably still busy with the murder case.
Before I fell asleep, I was still feeling pretty proud of myself, thinking that I finally solved a case without having to rely on Wen Jiubo. That night, I fell into a dreamless slumber almost immediately.
The next day had excellent weather. Not only that, but I was also in high spirits as the ‘Introduction to Marxism’ class I had in the morning was pushed to the next week due to the teacher calling in sick. However, this good mood didn’t last too long before it was broken by the news that Bai brought.
“Gu Yu! Something’s wrong!” Bai yelled as he barged directly into my dorm room. He must have been in a real hurry, he did not even care who saw or heard him at all. I jumped, startled, but thankfully my dorm mates slept like the dead, and I doubt anyone heard a thing.
“What happened?” I picked up Bai’s tiny body. His breathing was ragged, probably because of running flat out.
“It’s about Xiaoying. She… I can’t explain clearly.” Bai panted out in between breaths, making it hard to understand a word. He waved his paw. “Anyway, you should go see her!”
Since the situation was like this, I didn’t have time to call Shi Yitong. I rushed over to the box-like house with the greatest haste. I was still approaching it when I saw Xiaoying sitting on the curb next to the road. Her little head was buried in her knees and it looked like she was crying.
I frowned slightly, hurrying over to her.
“Xiaoying?” I called out to her gently. “Why are you sitting here?”
Xiaoying heard my voice and raised her head. What startled me was that her eyes were filled with fear and she jumped up, putting some distance between us. While I hesitated, Xiaoying seemed to recognize that it was me and she relaxed.
“Big brother?” she called out timidly.
I nodded, using my gentlest and warmest voice to speak. “Are you okay? What happened?”
Hearing this, the little girl’s eyes immediately filled with tears. She wiped at them non stop with her hands, sniffling.
“I’m so scared… I don’t want to go home.”
I was surprised. “What on earth happened? Unless… did you see the black shadow again last night?”
Xiaoying nodded, still crying. “The shadow was there again, in my room. I did as big brother told me and spat at it. But… but it didn’t leave and instead, it got angry. And when it got angry…”
It was then that my sharp eyes noticed that Xiaoying’s arm was injured.
There was a large patch of bruising and you could faintly see the imprint of five fingers. No matter what it was, the strength used had to be immense. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have left such a scary-looking bruise.
My heart lurched and I lifted up Xiaoying’s arm. It was then I discovered that not only was her arm bruised, but there were also suspicious marks on her throat.
“Did it do this?” Unbeknownst to me, my voice had gotten louder.
Xiaoying might have been scared by my voice, nodding her head timidly. “It really hurts…” she said softly.
It was then that I noticed that I was holding Xiaoying’s arm too tightly. I let go hurriedly, but could not relax the expression on my face. I curled my fingers tightly into fists, out of her line of sight.
I was too careless. Was the ghost responsible for the haunting, not just a simple lost soul? Weren’t the charms and a dog’s tooth enough to exorcise the spirit? Why was it no use at all?
Did I perhaps take the wrong charms? Or were Wen Jiubo’s charms completely useless?
This was the first time I felt panicked since taking on this weird case. Unfortunately, this clearly wasn’t something I could handle on my own. If it continued this way, then Xiaoying might be more deeply affected.
With that in mind, I pulled out my phone from my pocket, scrolling through my contacts for Wen Jiubo’s name. I needed to contact him now…