Urban Tales of Demons and Spirits
Vol 2 Book of Xun – Chapter 20 The Bamboo Forest
First Published on Chaleuria.
Chapter 20 The Bamboo Forest
Shi Yitong was right, his grandpa did nothing wrong. However, for the cat demon, that must have been devastating.
“Perhaps…the Jinhua cat lost hope for humans because of what your grandpa did to her. Also, that explains why she hurt the old couple’s son.”
“Mm, it’s possible,” Shi Yitong sighed. “I told you we should go to the bamboo forest and find the cat demon as soon as possible. We need to find out the truth.”
I nodded and left with Shi Yitong, heading to the bamboo forest where the wild sugar cane grew.
We spent twenty yuan on the fare and took a taxi to the bamboo forest. However, the bamboo forest was entirely different from what we imagined.
As recorded in the journal of Shi Yitong’s grandpa, this place was depicted as a peaceful and quiet wonderland. However, when we got off the taxi, what we saw was a muddy and messy place full of scattered fallen bamboo. There was no trace of wild sugar cane other than small pieces of sugar cane rind, which appeared to be discarded by someone after peeling off with a knife.
“How…how come?” Shi Yitong and I were both dumbfounded.
The taxi driver stuck his head out of the car window while chewing gum and said to us, “Guys, you are too late. Others have already reaped the bamboo shoots and sugar cane. This grove is small, and all the good stuff was dug out last week. I know a place where wild bamboo shoots grow. So what do you think, do you want me to drive you there?”
My heart chilled when I saw this place. I forced a smile at the driver. “Thanks, but no thanks.”
The driver shrugged, he spat the gum on the ground and drove away. Shi Yitong and I were left looking at this messy remains of a bamboo grove, stunned.
“Even if this is the place the Jinhua cat used to like visiting,” I said helplessly, “Do you think it will still come?”
Shi Yitong stayed positive even though he looked frustrated, “May…Maybe it will come? We are already here now, if we don’t give a try, how will we know?”
As a result, we entered the bamboo forest, moving on carefully and unsteadily. The grove looked messier inside. The muddy ground was uneven; all the bamboo were withered with yellowed leaves. We detoured around the fallen bamboos. A stream was supposed to be in front of us but now it was blocked by the mud and had dried up.
The deeper we entered, the more we despaired. It seemed that the Jinhua cat would not come to this place that had already been destroyed by humans. Our only lead was lost again.
“Well, we should leave.” Shi Yitong scratched his head helplessly, “There is nothing we can do.”
I nodded. Although I felt sad, there was no point in staying here anymore.
All of a sudden, we heard a voice behind us, shouting.
“Oi, you two! Stop!”
Shi Yitong and I were startled by the shout. We turned around and found a girl standing a few meters behind us. She stared at us angrily with her hands on her hips. She acted as if we owed her money.
“There are no bamboo shoots and sugar cane in this bamboo forest anymore!” The girl said furiously, “Hurry up and leave! Leave!”
“Why would we leave?” Shi Yitong retorted immediately, “What we do here is none of your business. Do you own this forest?”
“What? I don’t care. You must stop destroying this bamboo forest!” The girl stared at us with her eyes wide. She rushed over and stood in front of us. She then shouted, pointing a finger at us, “Leave now! Otherwise, don’t blame me for being rude! Do you hear me?”
I looked at the girl and found something cinched at her waist. I smiled when I saw clearly what this thing was. It was a hoe, wasn’t it?
“You came here to dig for bamboo shoots, didn’t you?” I pointed to the hoe cinched at her waist and said, “You want us to leave so that you won’t have to share the bamboo shoots with us!”
Perhaps because I pointed out her secret, the girl became speechless, and her face turned pale then red.
“That’s right,” Shi Yitong chimed in with me. “Besides, we are not here for the bamboo shoots and sugar cane, you are the rude one for trying to drive us away!”
“Wha…what? You didn’t come for the bamboo shoots?” The girl seemed to be a little embarrassed.
“Of course, we didn’t,” I said helplessly, unfolding my hands to show her. “We didn’t bring any hoes or knives, how can we dig for bamboo shoots or chop down sugar canes with our bare hands?”
The girl seemed to realize she had misunderstood us, but she did not want to admit her mistake. She said while keeping her chin up, “Then, why…why are you here? You sneak around and don’t look like good people!”
Shi Yitong and I looked at each other with dismay. Why was this girl behaving like this?
“Are you stupid? We came here to search for the Jinhua cat!” Shi Yitong had a quick tongue blurted out what he thought so quickly that I was not able to stop him.
“Jinhua cat?” I saw the twinkle in her eyes. She became interested in what we had said, and asked, “What’s a Jinhua cat?”
“A cat demon! You won’t understand anyway even if I explain to you,” Shi Yitong snorted with the intention of angering the girl.
What he said gave me a headache and I started rubbing my forehead slowly. My intuition told me that this time Shi Yitong had caused us a huge amount of trouble.
As I expected, the girl showed great interest in the cat demon. She followed us, asking endless questions.
“A cat demon? What is that? A demon? Are there really demons that exist in this world? Ah, stop running away! Talk to me!”
Shi Yitong realized that he had accidentally revealed too much. He felt so embarrassed now, but he could not get rid of the girl.
The girl caught up with us again after we made a turn.
“What does the demon look like? Have you seen it before?” The girl followed us closely, walking circles around us and asking persistently, “Why does the cat demon live here? Why do you want to find it? Hey, talk to me, I’m really curious!”
Shi Yitong gave me a look asking for help, showing that he did not know what to do. I sighed and stopped. The girl behind me did not notice my sudden stop and crashed into my back. It seemed very painful because she kept rubbing her nose.
“Oi, what’s your name?” I asked.
“Uh? Are you asking me?” The girl pointed at her nose, confused. “Me? My name is Moxue.”