Urban Tales of Demons and Spirits
Vol 1 Book of Thunder – Chapter 47 The Tenderness of the Night
First Published on Chaleuria.
Chapter 47 The Tenderness of the Night
Huh? I stared at Wen Jiubo blankly. What was he saying? Was it possible that… he was complaining?
Was he complaining to me?
“That’s why I’m absolutely starving now.” Wen Jiubo lay on the table, blinking at me.
“Then go buy a lunchbox. There are lunch boxes for sale on this train, you know. I heard someone hawking them before.” I told him, confused.
“So, therefore —” Wen Jiubo said, sprawling lazily and also pointing at me with a finger, waving it about. “You have to buy it for me.”
“Huh?” I couldn’t help but raise my voice.
“It’s because of you that we didn’t get a chance to eat. If you don’t take responsibility, who will? Buy me food.”
Did Wen Jiubo actually use the royal ‘we’ to refer to himself? I looked at him, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. The difference between the immature child before me, and the knowledgeable exorcist always with a plan from before, was like black and white. But being able to see such a completely different side to this person, it was actually a fairly ‘pleasant surprise’.
Was it because… there was no one else around right now?
“Two lunch boxes please.”
“That’s 15 yuan a box.”
I handed one of the boxes to the listless looking Wen Jiubo. “Here, lunch.”
“Things on trains are quite expensive.” Wen Jiubo said, but also matter-of-factly accepted the box, breaking up his disposable chopsticks.
“And yet you still wanted me to buy it for you,” I mumbled.
“Alright, don’t be mad. Open up.” Wen Jiubo’s chopsticks came towards me, holding something.
I automatically opened my mouth and Wen Jiubo shoved whatever it was into my mouth. I chewed for a moment and my mouth started burning with the taste of chili.
“So spicy! You bastard, why did you feed me a chili?!”
“You didn’t look like you were all here, I’m just helping you clear your mind.”
“Clear your own face, you moron!”
As time went by, the boy grew up, becoming a young man. When he started school, he started coming into contact with more people and began to realize that he was different from the other boys. He never had a single friend. He was always alone and his classmates were always mocking him.
“Look, that girly boy is coming!”
“Even though he’s a boy, he’s got long hair and braids.”
“Did you know, my friend from class two said that he used to wear dresses to school.”
“Wow, so gross!”
“Stay away from him, otherwise you might catch his girly boy germs!”
Before the boy even walked over, the other children had already run away, laughing.
After school one time, the boy finally gathered up enough courage to ask his mother.
His mother was in the kitchen, only half paying attention. “What?”
“Why do I have to grow my hair long and wear this type of clothes?” The boy pulled on the edge of his shirt, speaking haltingly. “The other boys in my class aren’t like me… they laugh at me and also talk about me…”
His mother stopped her cooking motions and turned off the stovetop. She looked at the boy. “What did they say about you?”
“They said I was…” The boy’s voice became quieter and quieter. “That I was a girly boy.”
“So?” His mother looked at him coldly, as if she didn’t care one whit. “Let them say whatever, it’s not as if you’ll lose an arm.”
“B-but!” The boy couldn’t help but speak louder, trying to argue. “What they said was really mean…”
His mother’s expression started to change at that. She stared at her own son in the same way she would have stared at her enemy. “What do you mean by that? Are you not happy with my arrangements? Do you want to defy me?”
The boy heard this and was so scared that he shivered. “No, that’s not it…” he explained hurriedly.
“That is clearly your aim!” His mother raised her voice, throwing the spatula back into the wok. The loud noise scared the boy enough that his entire body shook.
“Come here! You ungrateful whelp! You’re cut from exactly the same cloth your father was!” His mother reached out and grabbed the boy’s ear. The boy didn’t dare to resist, letting her drag him to the bedroom by the ear.
“Look!” His mother forcibly dragged him, throwing him down in front of the mirror. She took in the defeated look of the boy. “You were born with such good skin and good features. If I had such a pretty face when I was young, I would be ridiculously happy! I suffered a lot of hardships when I was young, and I couldn’t afford any nice clothes or shoes and then I ended up married to your bastard of a father. You’re so pretty now, and you have nice clothes and even better cosmetics and you don’t even appreciate it. Don’t listen to those classmates of yours spouting nonsense, what do those immature children know? Your qualities are excellent and in the future, you’ll definitely have many good men fall in love with you. Listen to your mother, I only want the best for you, you know?”
The boy lowered his head, trying to bury his head somewhere his mother couldn’t see.
He didn’t know if his mother wanted the best for him or not. He only knew that his mother was always highly anxious, always complaining about her life wasn’t fair with anger and sadness. But that one time when he wore the long dress that his mother once wore, his mother had smiled.
It wasn’t a fake or perfunctory smile. It was a smile of happiness from the heart.
The boy was ignorant then, he only thought that even though he didn’t like his classmates calling him a girly boy, but if what he wore could make his upset mother happy then…
In the dark, I slowly opened my eyes, blinking with slight confusion. The train was still running smoothly but at some point, the sky outside had darkened to black.
It seemed that I had fallen asleep, leaning against Wen Jiubo’s shoulder. My eyes were a little wet. I raised my hand, wanting to roughly rub away the tears, but a handkerchief was passed to me instead.
“Here. What were you dreaming about? You were crying like a kitten.”
Startled, I raised my head. Wen Jiubo sat in the darkness looking at me. His grey eyes seemed overly gentle in the dim light.
I took the handkerchief, rubbing away the tears. “Nothing,” I mumbled.
Wen Jiubo only smiled, not asking any further. “Sleep for a bit longer, we’re still several hours away from our stop.”
“Ok,” I answered casually and then closed my eyes again. Half-asleep, I thought I heard Wen Jiubo’s sigh and his gentle strokes against my hair.
“You’re always like this. Always, every single time…”
After a silent night, the train arrived at Bei Ning at 5 am in the morning. I had spent the entire night curled into a hard seat and suffered some aches upon waking up. I couldn’t even stand as my legs had gone numb. Wen Jiubo seemed entirely unaffected though, still helping me carry my luggage. It made me wonder what his body was really made out of.