Urban Tales of Demons and Spirits
Vol 1 Book of Thunder – Chapter 43 A Painful Night
First Published on Chaleuria.
Chapter 43 A Painful Night
“It’s no use.”
Wen Jiubo said quietly, sighing in both sorrow and helplessness.
“Gu Yu, we are bound together by fate. Reincarnation and karma, you can’t escape either.”
“Shut up!” My voice suddenly got louder, my chest heavy with an anger that I didn’t even understand. “Fate or karma or whatever, you just need to sever it altogether.”
“If only it were that simple,” Wen Jiubo said in a quiet voice. I couldn’t tell if he was talking to me or just mumbling to himself.
Before I could say anything else, Wen Jiubo cut off my thoughts.
“Before I leave, let me tell you one thing.” Wen Jiubo said calmly. “The ‘zhen’ from the Zhen diagram can be interpreted in another way other than the heavenly sign of ‘thunder’.”
“What do you mean?” I asked before I could help myself.
“The eldest son.” Wen Jiubo said clearly. “In a family, the firstborn son. To your family, you’re the only son right?”
I woke abruptly from the dream. It took a long time for me to return to reality and when I finally did, I found that not only my forehead but my entire body was covered in sweat. Wen Jiubo’s voice still seemed to echo next to my ear.
“Eldest son…” I muttered this phrase to myself involuntarily, trying to awaken my sluggish mind.
The sky outside the window was pitch black. I sat up on my bed and picked up my phone. Checking the time, it was only three in the morning. I breathed out, relaxing slightly, feeling like my sudden pointless panic was quite absurd. I was just about to get out of bed and go to the bathroom when my phone suddenly started vibrating.
Startled, my entire body started shaking and I almost threw my phone to the ground. After securing my grip on it, I looked at the name on my screen and froze.
The shrill sound of my ringtone echoed in my empty room, ear-piercingly loud. I chewed on my lower lip, wanting to ignore this call, but in the end, I still pressed ‘answer’ out of the fear deep in my heart.
In the instant before the call connected, my mind blanked.
What do I do? What do I say?
Before my confusion resolved, I heard a voice from the phone. It was a woman’s voice, very gentle, and you couldn’t hear any sort of hostility from it.
“Xiao Yu, is that you?”
“Yeah.” I didn’t even hesitate before I answered.
What a pointless question. Even though it had been months since we’ve talked, she still insisted on pretending to be intimate from the get-go, as if we had just spoken yesterday.
But even so, I had still answered her, not even hesitating. Compared to my sham of a mother, my response was even more disgusting.
“It’s so late, you still haven’t slept? What are you up to?”
“No… I only just woke up.” I forced myself to answer. “As soon as I woke, I got your call.”
“Lying again?” My mother’s tone was as if we were discussing the weather. As if me lying was such a natural phenomenon. “How could you possibly be awake just in time to pick up a call? Tell me the truth, what were you doing?”
Again… she was at it again. But, if I hadn’t picked up the call just then, I fear I would’ve been in for an even sterner rebuke.
“Really, I only just woke up…” I said, weakly trying to offer an explanation that I didn’t even believe. I had prepared myself for a violent rebuke.
There was silence on the other end of the phone for a moment before my mother brushed it off arrogantly. “Whatever, I knew you were a lying little bitch already. Can’t expect any better from someone like you, so I won’t bother asking if you don’t want to tell. You’re going to drown in that pile of crap that comes out of your mouth one day, mark my words.”
The hand I had curled around my phone tightened, my entire body shook violently. I felt that if I used any more force, I would crush my phone entirely.
But, I couldn’t help but endure it. My opponent was none other than my very own birth mother.
“Alright, how’s school?”
Even though I knew she was asking just to go through the motions, there was no emotion in her voice at all.
As I expected, as soon as the words were out of my mouth, she had already switched the topic to something else.
“Are you still growing out your hair?”
My heart thudded, beating extremely fast. I unconsciously reached up to touch my short fringe, but still managed to keep my cool, retaining my calm as I answered her.
“Yeah, still growing it out.”
“What are you wearing now?”
A shirt and a pair of jeans.
“It’s… the new dress that mother bought for me.”
“Really?” My mother asked suspiciously. “You aren’t lying are you, you little bitch!?”
“N-no, I wouldn’t…”
“That’s good then.” My mother cleared her throat. I realized then that her words before were nothing but a cover. She was only starting on her actual reason for calling now.
“You should take this break as an opportunity to come home,” she said calmly. “Don’t bother with school anymore, I already applied for you to withdraw from your class.”
It was as if a grenade had gone off in my mind. I didn’t notice my voice getting louder. “What did you say?!”
“I was clear enough. You come home tomorrow, I already bought your train ticket.”
“I refuse!” I was almost yelling, “I want to attend this school!”
“What school?!” Her voice also rose, almost screaming into the phone. I was more than familiar with this tone of voice.
“Don’t you know that there’s been an incident at home? I’ve never seen a less filial child than you! It’s a rare occasion for us to talk and you don’t even ask about how I’ve been. Hmph. School? Fuck your school! I know you just want to avoid me and avoid this home. Did you think that your school fees were just dropping from the sky? Why can’t you ever think of your mother at all?”
“But I really love this place!” I yelled as loudly as I could.
“I knew it! You’ll love anywhere but your home, is it?” My mother’s voice was painful to my ears and I couldn’t help but put the phone a little ways from my ear. “Other children can’t wait to come home for break. But you, look at you! When I was your age, all I wanted was to stay at home with my mother and father, I would’ve probably cried in gratitude! At that time, I didn’t have a single pretty dress to my name and don’t even talk about keeping my hair long, there was absolutely no way. You don’t even know how lucky you are!”
“But mother, I really don’t want…”
“Want want want, what do you want! Don’t think about what you want! I’ve already submitted all the paperwork for your withdrawal. You can go argue with your principal about it!” My mother left me with a parting remark. “Gu Yu, I’m warning you. Your train is tomorrow afternoon at 2 pm, bring your ID with you to pick up the ticket. If you don’t come home, then don’t bother ever coming back again. Do you hear me?!”
Leaving those harsh words behind, my mother hung up the phone. I threw my phone down onto my bed, my chest heaving up and down rapidly, but I still couldn’t say anything out loud. My fingers tightened around where they were gripping the headboard of the bed and I thought vaguely:
…I really wish that I was dead.