Urban Tales of Demons and Spirits
Vol 1 Book of Thunder – Chapter 35 Return
First Published on Chaleuria.
Chapter 35 Return
It was then that a familiar voice spoke from behind me.
“You didn’t take the wrong charms, nor were my charms useless.”
I was startled, promptly turning around to face the speaker. Sure enough, the person who had appeared behind me was no other than Wen Jiubo. He stood about three meters away, watching me. It seemed like he had brushed back the hair at his temples slightly, but otherwise, he was still the same as always – long hair flowing, eyes narrowed lazily with his arms crossed.
What caught my attention was that today, Wen Jiubo was wearing that pitch-black Daoist outfit again. The wide lapel, embroidered with red patterns that I couldn’t make heads or tails of, fluttered with the wind. He also wore platform shoes patterned with clouds. I recalled him telling me previously that those type of shoes were called Yunlu .
Following that, those shoes took a step forward.
Wen Jiubo sighed, sounding almost despairing. “Even though I know you’re dumb, but I never thought you were dumb to this extent.”
Hearing this, I immediately got mad. “That’s the first thing you say to me? I don’t know who was the one who accepted this case and then suddenly ran away, dumping this entire mess in my lap!”
“Don’t get angry. I only did that because I trust you.” Wen Jiubo smiled at me as he approached. He squeezed the nape of my neck as if petting a cat. “I’ll make it up to you later.”
I felt goosebumps prickle across my entire body and the hair on the back of my neck stand. I could feel my anger burning even as I felt my face heat up. I inexplicably felt like rushing over and biting him. However, Wen Jiubo didn’t give me the opportunity to act on my childish urge, he swerved around me and headed straight to Xiaoying, who was still crying.
He crouched down before her. What happened next surprised me quite a bit; he gently lifted up Xiaoying’s injured arm and then blew softly across the bruise.
“Don’t be afraid, with one blow, the pain goes.” He said quietly as if singing a lullaby.
Xiaoying wiped her tears and stopped crying, seemingly entertained by Wen Jiubo.
“How is it? Does it still hurt?”
Xiaoying shook her head, sniffling.
My gaze caught on the side of Wen Jiubo’s face and I ended up staring. Indeed, as I had noticed from the start, he was a very good-looking man, with his slender body, pale skin, and that piercing but mysterious gaze. But I had never expected to see this man, normally teasing and arrogant, show this warm and caring side of himself.
However, not long after, any goodwill I had towards him vanished with just one sentence.
“I’m sorry that you were scared,” Wen Jiubo took Xiaoying’s tiny, delicate hands in his. “That big brother over there is entirely to blame since he’s just so useless.”
“Oi!” I hollered, displeased.
Wen Jiubo utterly ignored my objection, reaching out a hand to pat Xiaoying’s head. “Alright now, the ground’s chilly, and it’ll be easy for you to get sick. Why don’t you get up and go home for now? No matter how strong the ghost or ghoul, they still won’t dare to come out during the day. Tonight, that big brother and I will guard here and we’ll definitely catch that demon for you, okay?”
Xiaoying’s eyes filled with hope once more, probably feeling that Wen Jiubo was much more trustworthy than my vague dabbling. She nodded vigorously.
After watching Xiaoying return back to her home, I finally let out a small sigh of relief. The relief was also due to Wen Jiubo having returned. No matter how arrogant and unlikeable I thought he was, when it came to ghost and demons, he was hands down the most knowledgeable expert. Since he was back now, a heavy burden had been lifted from my shoulders.
As soon as Xiaoying left, Bai scrambled out from the hood of my jacket, waving a paw at Wen Jiubo in greeting.
“Oh! You’re back!”
Wen Jiubo smiled brightly in return. “You’re looking well, little ferret.”
“Don’t call me that!”
“Why did you return so soon?” I asked Wen Jiubo. “Didn’t you say you were… helping investigate a murder case? Did you solve it already?”
“No, not yet.” Wen Jiubo said. “The one responsible for the rapes and murders seems to have escaped from C City, leaving behind only a pile of corpses and atrocities for the police to puzzle over. It seems we’re after a serial killer this time who’s very good at what he does, as there’s very little evidence left behind. My two friends are deeply troubled even now.”
“Then wouldn’t you leaving so suddenly be a problem?”
“I figured that we might have an unexpected lucky break if I returned here. The problems we were having over there weren’t resolving themselves anyway.” Wen Jiubo shrugged, words vague.
Before I could decipher the meaning of his words, Wen Jiubo changed the subject.
“Anyway, can you give your friends a call now?”
“Eh? What for?”
“To tell them that you’re not returning to the dorms tonight.” Wen Jiubo looked towards at that eerie, box-like house. “Tonight we’re going to stake this place out and catch the real evil spirit.”
“Are you saying that you already know what sort of thing is haunting Xiaoying?” I asked, a little surprised.
Wen Jiubo smiled. “Something like that.”
I gave my dorm mates a quick call, telling them that I wouldn’t be returning tonight. They didn’t seem too surprised, barely acknowledging. After that, I also gave Shi Yitong a call, telling him that Mr. Wen had returned, and for him to not worry. Even though he made an eager attempt to join us in catching the ghost, I made up some forced excuse to refuse him. I was scared that his brash attitude might get us into some trouble.
Close to twilight, Wang returned home. It was also at this time that Wen Jiubo and I hid in some thickets of grass next to the box-like house, lying in wait silently. We made sure to face towards Xiaoying’s room.
A weird sort of silence fell between us and I eyed Wen Jiubo uncomfortably. Under the dimming light, Wen Jiu sat on the grass with his knees bent, one hand propping his chin up. He didn’t look like he wanted to speak at all. Bai lay next to his foot, eyes closed, having seemingly fallen asleep.
I really couldn’t stand this sort of awkward atmosphere. Coughing slightly, I started. “Um…”
“What is it?” Wen Jiubo glanced over.
“I feel like there’s something not quite right about this case,” I mumbled.
“Is that so?” Wen Jiubo seemed to be very interested. “What’s not quite right?”
“I can’t really say,” I muttered. “But… how do I say it? I just feel like… there’s none of that usual feel to it.”
“You’ve said before, that I probably have some sort of special constitution or something…” I tried to organize my jumble of thoughts. “When I came across similar cases before, I always felt something and I would always dream about something related to the case. A lot of the time, I would rely on what I saw in those dreams to search for clues.”
Wen Jiubo didn’t say a word, merely staring at me silently.