Urban Tales of Demons and Spirits
Vol 2 Book of Xun – Chapter 13 A Bad Definition
First Published on Chaleuria.
Chapter 13 A Bad Definition
“Didn’t you agree with my point of view back then? That the exorcist called Wen Jiubo was a very dangerous person?” Shi Yitong wasn’t trying to be reproachful or complain. Quite the opposite, I could tell from his eyes that he cared. “In my opinion, the reason you would get involved with so many dangerous things is completely because of your involvement with that man. Even though my family is in the burial business, I still never met a black furred man-eating monster from birth until now.”
“Stop making things up, your logic doesn’t make any sense.” I rolled my eyes.
“Shi Yitong! Gu Yu!” At some point, without us noticing, the teacher had stepped onto the lectern and was hitting the lectern with a rapping sound. “Class has already begun!”
At this, both of us shut our mouths and stopped talking, turning around hurriedly.
At night, I once again went to the old residence behind the school. Bai was here this time as well, which was rather rare to see. It was usually hard to catch him; if he wasn’t sneaking off to drink alcohol, he was off to find food.
Wen Jiubo was sitting straight behind his table, writing something using a brush on rice paper.
“You seem to be coming here quite frequently recently.” Wen Jiubo’s brush stilled when he saw me approaching, narrowing his eyes at me.
“Got no choice, I still mysteriously owe someone ten thousand dollars. Therefore I have to work hard while studying to pay it back, don’t I?” I responded bluntly.
“Why haven’t I seen you take such initiative before?” Wen Jiubo asked helplessly.
I didn’t know if it was just my imagination or not, but Wen Jiubo’s mood today seemed to be pretty good. I crept over to see the words that Wen Jiubo was writing and could faintly make out that it was a page from《Preface of the Orchid Pavilion》. Even though I didn’t really understand calligraphy, I could still tell that Wen Jiubo’s brush strokes were very beautiful.
“You’re clearly too high class a character,” I said, a little speechless.
“Hm?” Wen Jiubo said, not paying much attention. “I’m only just passing some time.”
“You’re not playing your game anymore?” I asked, curiously.
It would have been okay if I hadn’t mentioned it, but now that I did, Wen Jiubo’s forehead creased in a frown. “Don’t even mention it. What I came across today was too enraging.”
“Huh?” I laughed. “Is it more enraging than your maxed out Seimei wrecking my entire team?”
Wen Jiubo said to me fairly resentfully, “I went to the arena today and met someone with five Shuten-Doujis on their team.”
Wen Jiubo put up five fingers in my direction. “Five Shutens! I can’t even summon one!”
Hearing this, I couldn’t help but start to laugh. Bai, standing to one side, butted in, “Don’t you already have a team of SSRs? Why are you still complaining?”
“That’s not the same thing. The meaning of Shuten-Douji is different!”
The two started arguing like little kids.
It was a bit weird thinking about it, playing mobile games and writing calligraphy were two completely different things, so different that it was basically impossible to imagine one person doing both of these. But Wen Jiubo was different, no matter if it was silently writing calligraphy or loudly playing a mobile game, it didn’t seem wrong at all.
No matter how many times, it still made me feel like sighing, Wen Jiubo was really an amazing person.
“Alright, you weasel,” Wen Jiubo looked down at Bai from up on high. “As a servant, how dare you question your master? I don’t even want to write anymore.”
“What? Careful or I’ll bite!” Bai immediately hollered.
“Alright, you two.” I was both mad and amused, cutting between their argument. “Are you both ten?”
“That weasel is only ten,” Wen Jiubo said, putting down his pen.
I couldn’t help but remember what I discussed with Shi Yitong this morning and unconsciously asked out loud.
“Speaking of which, Wen Jiubo, I have a question I want to ask you.”
“Hm?” Wen Jiubo picked up his half written rice paper and held it in mid air, shaking it gently once, as if admiring his own work.
“In ancient texts, demons seem to all be evil existences,” I said thoughtfully. “Like the tales from Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio, those demons are either seducing people, or bringing misfortune upon them. Even if there’s an alright demon, they’re only barely not as bad. Does this mean that in reality, it’s true that all demons are evil?”
“Of course.” What surprised me was that Wen Jiubo didn’t seem to have to think about it at all before answering. This suddenly made me speechless.
“I-is that so?”
“However, before asking this question, I have to ask you something first.” Wen Jiubo looked at me slowly. “How do you define the term ‘evil’?”
“That…” I paused for a moment, but still did my best to think about it. “For example, robbing, killing or anything else that would infringe on the interest of others, I guess. People who do things like that should be considered evil by normal reasoning.”
Wen Jiubo nodded, agreeing with my view. “However, humans have always been using other living things for their own gain. For example, rounding up sheep and pigs, domesticating cats and dogs into pets. If we were to use this standard to look at it, then aren’t you humans as a whole also ‘evil’?”
I automatically rebutted, “But how is that the same? Pigs, cows, and the like are meant for…”
“There’s nothing that’s created to be another living creature’s pet or food, Gu Yu.” Wen Jiubo interrupted me calmly. “This so-called good and evil is just a meaning built on nothing more than the foundations of selfishness. It’s not useful in judging any living thing apart from humans, am I right?”
…Put this way, it wasn’t as if it wasn’t logical. I nodded my head, confused.
“Therefore, in my opinion, that particular sentence ‘all demons are evil’ isn’t wrong. That’s because from a human’s point of view, that statement is definitely correct.” Wen Jiubo smiled. “The human understanding of good and evil is based off their own self interest as well as the ‘rules’ set by humans. Family rules, school rules, society rules. It is indeed those rules that helped achieve accomplishment and maturity. It also helped humanity to achieve unparalleled virtue and upbringing. But don’t forget this point, demons do not have these so-called human ‘rules’.”
“Rules?” I repeated.
“That’s right. Demons don’t have any rules.” Wen Jiubo crossed his arms, saying, “To raise a simple example. You, growing up in a human society, your parents will tell you that stealing is wrong. Therefore, once you grow up, your mind will know that stealing is something that you shouldn’t do. Even if one day you really do start to steal, then because of the ‘rules’ of human society, your mind will still know and understand that what you’re doing is wrong, right?”
“But then, if you look at Bai over there,” Wen Jiubo lifted his chin in Bai’s direction. “He was born in the natural world, absorbing the spirit of the sun and moon, eventually becoming a demon. Even though he has the same kind of intelligence as a human, but in his mind, he doesn’t have the notion of ‘family’ or ‘society’ and also doesn’t have the notion that ‘stealing is a bad thing’. Therefore, he’ll often go to different houses to steal alcohol to drink. Don’t you think that those houses where he’s stolen alcohol from would think that this weasel is a bad demon?”
“I see, so that’s how it is.” Realisation suddenly dawned on me.
“Oi! I’m still here you know!” Bai huffed unhappily. “Don’t use me as your counterargument!”