Urban Tales of Demons and Spirits
Vol 2 Book of Xun – Chapter 17 Grandpa’s Books
First Published on Chaleuria.
Chapter 17 Grandpa’s Books
Shi Yitong led me to a room on the north side of the house. Just like Shi Yitong’s grandmother described, this room was full of bizarre stuff. I looked around, surprised, as everything I saw was unfamiliar to me. There were things such as copper bells, charms, compasses and boxes of varying sizes. Everything looked old. I wondered what the boxes contained.
Shi Yitong carefully walked through the piles of stuff, muttering, “Jinhua cat, Jinhua cat…”
However, it was not an easy thing to find materials on the Jinhua cat from all the piles of stuff. The old books and papers I saw were piled up like a small hill.
I shook my head, crouching down to help Shi Yitong. However, I was interested in all the items that belonged to Shi Yitong’s grandfather. As a result, instead of looking for materials about the Jinhua cat, I couldn’t help but browse through unrelated books as well.
Shi Yitong’s grandfather was indeed a mysterious man. Besides the traditional funeral culture, his books recorded almost everything ranging from methods of exorcism to private prescriptions.
I picked up a book with a demon drawn on the cover and began to skim through. On the cover of the book was written ‘Painting of a hundred demons’, most pages inside the book were drawn with different kinds of demons, and only a few words were written. I hoped I could find information about the black-furred monster we encountered on Mt. Yanjin while browsing the book.
“My grandpa was a soldier when he was young,” Shi Ying started to talk after he found that I seemed to be interested in the book. “He killed many Japanese when he was in the army of the Chinese Nationalist Party during WWII. It was said that all the soldiers who fought with him either died or were wounded, but my grandpa left the army and went home safely. I heard he got many charms and books about demons from the Japanese, but whenever grandma and I asked him about it, grandpa shut his mouth and said he couldn’t reveal the secrets of heaven. However, in my opinion, maybe these strange charms which he obtained from the Japanese kept him alive.”
“Is that so?” I replied to Shi Yitong without paying attention. Suddenly, a piece of paper slipped out from the book in my hand.
I bent down to pick it up. When I unfolded it, I saw a picture of a demon.
The picture was drawn by a brush with a single pigment of black. However, the demon was very lifelike. The demon was a giant fox, the painting took almost the whole page. The fox had a grim facial expression and bared teeth; its huge eyes conveyed an air of hatred. It looked extremely fierce. Besides that, the vicious-looking fox had nine tails behind it, which were so threatening and significant that it covered a large part of the page. Beside the drawing, it was written ‘nine-tailed fox’.
Nine-tailed fox…Is this a nine-tailed fox? I looked at the picture carefully, I did not know why but I was deeply attracted to it.
I was sure I had never seen it before, but it looked familiar to me for some unknown reason.
“Gu Yu! I found it! I found it!”
At this moment, Shi Yitong suddenly shouted with excitement. His sudden shout scared me a little, and subconsciously I folded the picture and put it in my pocket.
“Found… Found what?” I tried to stay calm.
“Of course it’s the Jinhua cat you’re searching for.” Shi Yitong waved a thick book in his hand. His movement made all the dust in the room rise into the air.
“Khak! Khak!…..I get it! Calm down!”
Shi Yitong hopped on one leg and squeezed over. I closed the big box that he opened.
“I knew grandpa must have some records of the Jinhua cat. He liked to collect bizarre books and records.” Shi Yitong put down the book in front of me with a slam, the smell of dust hit my nose.
“Here and here. It’s about the Jinhua cat.” Shi Yitong flipped the pages of the thick book and turned to a particular page.
I did not know how old the book was, it was an original thread-bound edition and was written with traditional Chinese characters; the book was read from right to left. I leaned closer, trying to identify the words on it.
“Look, this introduces the habits of Jinhua cat.” Shi Yitong read, “The Jinhua cat can absorb the spirit of the sun and moon and transform into a human to seduce…”
“This doesn’t need explaining, I’ve already know this.” I prompted, “Read the following!”
“Oh…” Shi Yitong nodded, flipping the page. “The Jinhua cat is fond of clear dew and moonlight. If you search in areas with these things, you will find the Jinhua cat.”
“Clear dew and moonlight?” I was confused. “Moonlight is easy to find, but what is clear dew?”
“Clear dew is simply dew,” Shi Yitong said immediately.
“If it is simply dew, it’s everywhere,” I said, depressed. “How will we find it?”
“Wait, it’s not right.” With a twinkle in his eyes, Shi Yitong seemed to remember something and said, “Well, if dew means ordinary dew, does clear dew actually mean sweet dew?”
I asked in amusement, “How can that be? Is there something like sweet dew in this world?”
“No, no, Gu Yu, I suddenly thought of a place,” Shi Yitong interrupted me, trying to remember. “I heard the story from the elders in my village. They said there was a grove near Yan city where many wild sugar cane grew. No one knew why, but possibly some peasants might have once grown sugar cane there. The trees and branches in the grove were scant so moonlight cant be seen from the grove. What do you think?”
I was skeptical of he said and asked, “Does dew condensed upon sugar cane become sweet?”
Shi Yitong looked at me, caught between a cry and a laugh, “Are you an idiot? If there is sugar cane, who would want to drink dew?”
I slapped myself on the head. That’s right, why am I so stupid?
“Where is the sugar cane field you mentioned?” I asked.
“It’s not far from here, about a twenty-minute drive,” Shi Yitong said. He was smug because he finally solved a problem on his own. “Well, am I smart?”
“Yes, yes,” I said in resignation.
“What are we waiting? Let’s go.” Shi Yitong seemed to be more excited than me.
“Go where? Have you forgotten I have class this afternoon?” I interrupted him with a laugh.
“Ah? You have class?” Shi Yitong scratched his head. “What a pity. But it doesn’t matter, we can still go tomorrow morning!”