Urban Tales of Demons and Spirits
Vol 2 Book of Xun – Chapter 12 The novel
First Published on Chaleuria.
Chapter 12 The novel
Once upon a time, there was a poor student. In order to take the exam in the capital city, his family had to squeeze every penny they had to pay for his traveling expenses.
But even so, when the student traveled halfway, he encountered a group of thieves who robbed him of all his money. In the end, the student was so tired and hungry that he passed out on a mountain road.
But to his surprise, when the student woke up, a flower-like beauty was kneeling beside him and feeding him water. This beauty not only saved his life but also said that she had fallen in love with him at first sight and wanted to offer herself in marriage to him.
The student was excited; he saw the gold and silver jewelry she wore and thought that she must be a daughter of a rich family, so he said yes without thinking it over.
However, when he eagerly followed the beauty to her home, he met a monk. That monk looked at the woman and then shouted, “You! Where you come from? Monster!”
The student was shocked. The monk then conjured up a charm and glued it to her face. The beauty screamed out in pain, then the student saw her face started to melt and a furred fox-like face was revealed.
The student shouted in terror and jumped away. The monk sneered, he pointed at the fox and said, “if you went with this monster, she would have taken you to her cave, peeled off your skin and eaten your flesh!”
I closed the book in Shi Yitong’s hand with a slam. Shi Yitong was startled and complained, “Gu Yu! What are you doing? You scared me!”
“I should be asking you that. What are you doing?”
Right now we were in the middle of our Generalist Marxism class. Shi Yitong sat behind me, he was reading this old and yellowing book, which made me very curious.
“Oh, you mean this?” Shi Yitong passed the book to me. I took it and on the cover of this yellowed and wrinkled book was written ’Folklore of monsters and apparitions.’
“Folklore of monsters and apparitions? Are you interested in these type of stories?” I was surprised.
“Ah, I used to have no interest in these things,” Shi Yitong shook his head. “But did not I encounter many strange things with you lately? Besides, this belonged to my dead grandfather, I found it by accident when I was clearing up my things, so I took it.”
“I see, so this belonged to your grandfather.” I suddenly had some respect for the book in my hand.
Shi Yitong’s grandfather used to be in the funeral business and he was quite experienced. This elder passed away at the beginning of the semester, but thanks to Shi Yitong’s grandfather, I met with Wen Jiubo and stepped into this bizarre world full of monsters.
“My grandfather had a lot of weird things,” Shi Yitong said as he scratched his head. “But I do not understand his metaphysics. Things like ancient coins, divination plates, the Eight Diagrams’ cards, charms and stuff like those. Maybe you won’t believe me, but there was a ritual sacrifice table in my grandfather’s room, and a whole pig head was placed on it.”
I laughed after hearing what he said. I picked up the book again and opened it. “This seems like an ordinary book.”
“Yes, it is.” Shi Yitong said, holding his chin with his hands. “There are lots of this type of books back in my grandfather’s time, they were similar to recent popular literature.”
I felt amused and asked, “Have you read it? What is it about?”
“Yes, I have. Most of the stories are about humans and monsters, like the Strange Tales of Liao Zhai, but they are so much worse than Liao Zhai,” Shi Yitong muttered. “Like the student that encountered the fox monster on the way to the capital, the evil monster who wanted to seduce the honest man… All monsters are depicted as evildoers in these stories.”
“Isn’t it normal?” I smiled, “They are monsters.”
“But, are all monsters supposed to be evil?” Shi Yitong seemed to be trapped in his thoughts. “Do monsters only want to get close to humans to harm them?”
“That’s not a certainty.” I touched my chin, thinking about some monsters Wen Jiubo and I met, especially that white ferret. Although it was a little naughty, it had a good heart. “Maybe monsters are like humans, some are good and some are bad?”
“But monsters are monsters.” Shi Yitong looked a little scared. “Have you forgot those giant monsters we saw during our school outing? Although we only saw a phantom, it is evident that there was indeed a dreadful monster lingering in Mt.Yanjin.”
I could not deny it so I nodded.
Since I returned from Mt. Yanjin, I consulted a number of folktale materials, trying to find out what this black fur green-eyed monster was. But since Wen Jiubo did not recognize this monster, it was no surprise that I found nothing.
What’s more, since I returned, Wen Jiubo started acted weirdly. No, he had already shown some signs before that, it was that I did not notice.
Although I knew he was an eccentric person, he did not appear uninterested in everything. But recently Wen Jiubo seemed to avoid me, either deliberately or inadvertently. Every time when I asked him about the black fur monster, he either answered obscurely or just ignored my question and asked me to go back earlier to my dorm.
Every time I thought about that, I became angry. Wen Jiubo, you bastard, who do you think you are? You really think I am your underling?
“What happened to us in Mt.Yanjing, I told Wen Jiubo,” I said in frustration. “But he did not recognize that monster, and he did not understand how the news report came about.”
Shi Yitong did not agree, “Isn’t that normal? He is not God. How can he know everything?”
It was a coincidence that Wen Jiubo said something very similar, but I disagreed.
“You do not know him. Although he is not God, he is a very powerful exorcist. He is not only powerful but also well-informed. To be honest, I can not imagine there is any monster he does not know about.”
After hearing what I said, Shi Yitong did not show any signs of agreement, but instead, he frowned. “Gu Yu, have you fallen in love with him?”
I forced a laugh. “What are you talking about?”
“Otherwise, why would you trust him so blindly?” Shi Yitong continued with a frown, “I have not even asked why you are together with him again.”
“It is… hard to explain.” It was indeed a long story. Somehow, what happened in my family had largely changed my attitude towards Wen Jiubo.