Urban Tales of Demons and Spirits
Vol 2 Book of Xun – Chapter 26 The End
First Published on Chaleuria.
Chapter 26 The End
Wen Jiubo lowered his bow, watching us in silence. I did not know what to do, I searched my pocket but could not find any tissues. The wound on my chest ached.
“Do you think… Do you all think we want to do this?!”
At this moment, the old man stood up, his legs trembling. His wrinkled face was wet with tears.
“We did once have a son, but he died five years ago! I still remember it was a rainy day, we had prepared a sumptuous dinner and were waiting for our son to come home. We waited and waited, but our son didn’t come back. Then, we suddenly received a call from a hospital, they said our son had a car accident and had died by the time he arrived at the hospital.”
I stood stunned for a moment, staring at the old man.
“You can never understand the pain of losing a child! However, this unfair heaven now wants to take the life of my wife after taking our son!” The old man became so emotional that his face turned red. He looked at the old lady. “My wife, Shuhua, was diagnosed with the final stage of breast cancer last month. She is going to leave me… my life will be meaningless if I lose her!”
“Stop it, old man!” The old lady did not want to hear any more. She grabbed the old man’s hand, but he ignored her and continued talking agitatedly.
“I will do anything, even sacrifice my own life, to save my wife! But she!” The old man shouted furiously, pointing at Moxue, “She is not even human, she is a demon! There is nothing wrong with killing her to save my wife!”
Looking at Moxue, she looked traumatized and seemed to have lost any thought of resistance. If she were to be attacked now, she probably would fall.
Wen Jiubo stood beside me and began to talk quietly, “So, what’s your choice?”
Humans or demons.
One side was my people; the other was a cat demon who had lived in solitude for hundreds of years.
At this moment, I began to feel a deep sense of powerlessness. Even humans could not understand each other, how could humans and demons reach a consensus?
Every night the crescent moon hangs in the sky, and every night I stand on the Chu tower, facing the direction of home. The moon shines upon every lonely traveler, who was lonesome and homesick on every lonely night.
I was not born when you were born; you were old when I was born. You anguish over my late birth; I anguish over your early birth.
Seeing me silent, Wen Jiubo began to draw the bow again. He looked at Moxue calmly, “Since you won’t speak, I will decide for you. Exorcists should be responsible for their client’s requests. It’s their duty to fulfill those requests.”
After saying that, Wen Jiubo’s face became serious. The nocked arrow was aimed at Moxue’s heart.
“Hold on!” I immediately called out to stop Wen Jiubo. He tilted his head and looked at me, smiling with his beautiful eyes.
“She is a demon,” he said in a low voice.
“It doesn’t matter if she is a demon or not. I have a question for you,” I said, stressing each word. “Is it true that the Jinhua cat’s fur can cure diseases and allow people to live forever?”
Wen Jiubo gave me his signature sly grin, indicating he was happy that I asked the right question. Then he lowered his bow and said, “No, it isn’t. The rumor about the Jinhua cat’s fur making people live forever is just one of the rumors related to immortal elixirs. Just as ancient emperors used quicksilver to make the elixir of eternal life, this rumor is merely another delusion of humankind.”
I was suddenly relieved. Then I turned around to see the old couple who were still confused, and I said calmly, “Do you hear what he said? The fact is, even if you kill Moxue, you won’t save your wife’s life.”
The old man was stunned for a few seconds. Then he trembled and stepped back, “What? No, no…I don’t believe you! It’s impossible!”
“If you don’t believe me, you can give a try.” Wen Jiubo approached the old man, an inviting gesture. But the old man took a few steps back before sitting on the ground helplessly.
“How can this be? But…”
“Human’s lives are precious because humans can give birth, get old, get sick and eventually die,” Wen Jiubo said slowly. “Eternal life is the real curse for humans.”
“How can you say that?!” The old man was furious, he tried to grab Wen Jiubo’s collar. However, Wen Jiubo calmly grabbed his wrist.
“Please think for a second, if your wife fully recovered and had eternal life, then what?”
“Then that would be the best thing to ever happen to me! We would all be delighted!”
“No, you’re wrong,” Wen Jiubo replied calmly. “For you, this may be a good thing. But for your wife, how would she spend the time after you die ten or twenty years later? How would she face the loneliness without you? Only living people endure the real pain. I believe you understand this more deeply than any of us.”
The old man paused after hearing what he said. He looked at Wen Jiubo and then looked at his wife. Finally, he seemed to understand what Wen Jiubo meant. He sighed and sat back down on the ground.
“Thank you,” I whispered to Wen Jiubo.
“For what? It’s your own choice, I did nothing,” Wen Jiubo casually replied to me.
In the evening, Shi Yitong and I followed Wen Jiubo to his old residence. It was the first time for Shi Yitong. He gaped in surprise when he saw the complex courtyard, the blooming flowers and the leaves of the locust tree dancing in the evening breeze.
Moxue stood under the locust tree, the edge of her skirt dancing with the wind. Inside the house, Wen Jiubo made some tea. The white mist drifted up from the teapot, but Moxue did not intend to go inside to have tea.
“You are… that man’s grandson?” Moxue looked up at Shi Yitong.
Shi Yitong nodded foolishly, he did not know what to say.
“Well… I see. So it turned out like this,” Moxue murmured. “How time flies. The lifespan of humans are as short as a flower. I didn’t notice it had been so long.”
I looked at Moxue, then took a deep breath and decided to tell her the truth. “That man, Shi Yitong’s grandpa…”
Moxue looked at me.
“That man, he really liked you,” I said firmly.
Muxue was stunned for a second and then she looked at me, surprised. She opened her mouth but could not say a word.
“I read his journal. He said you were the most beautiful girl he had ever seen in his life. He truly liked you. However, as an exorcist, he had to…”
“I know,” Moxue interrupted me. Her eyes became watery, but she smiled. “I know. It’s enough to know that he once liked me. I’m already very satisfied.”
After saying that, Moxue suddenly turned back into the energetic girl like when we first met. She pointed at Shi Yitong in an imperious manner.
Shi Yitong was startled, and pointed at himself. “Me?”
“Yes, you!” Moxue said with her hands on her hips. “You better live well and clear and pack up all the stupid items of your grandpa! If you dare die early, I will chase you to hell and beat you up! Do you hear me?”
Shi Yitong replied to her hastily, “Alright, alright! No problem!”
“And you!” Moxue pointed her finger at me and beckoned me closer with a quick crook of her finger. “Good man, come here!”
I was a little confused but did what she said and walked over to her.
“Close your eyes!”
I found it was funny when she acted like a bossy princess, but I closed my eyes as she asked.
“I’m going to do an extremely horrible thing to you!”
After saying that, I felt something soft touch my forehead. I opened my eyes and saw that she left a kiss on my forehead.
I could not help but smile at her, and she smiled back.
“Will we see each other again?” I whispered.
“You… are going to leave?”
“Sort of. But I have one last thing to do.” Moxue stood upright and walked towards the house. She stopped at the door.
“Oi, Wen Jiubo.”
Wen Jiubo stood with his back towards us. His movements indicated that he was sipping tea.
“They call you Wen Jiubo, is that your name?” Moxue continued talking, as she stepped into the room and stood behind Wen Jiubo.
However, Wen Jiubo still continued drinking tea and did not answer her.
“Jiubo, Jiubo,” Moxue repeated his name; she seemed to be merely repeating the name or thinking something over. Finally, she asked, “Oi, you… Are you him?”
This time Wen Jiubo paused for a second and then he replied to her in a quiet voice, “What if I am? What if I am not?”
Moxue smiled after hearing his answer, and she said with certainty, “It seems that you are him. Jiubo, Jiubo, you gave yourself a proper name!”
From my position, I could not see Wen Jiubo’s face and therefore I could not guess his thoughts.
“I didn’t expect to see you fall to such a state. An exorcist?” Moxue uttered with a giggle. “This is the funniest joke I’ve ever heard. You, an exorcist? Ha-ha-ha…”
I had a bad feeling about what they said. I walked over and wanted to ask, but right then, Wen Jiubo put down the teacup and stood up. He walked towards the door, passing by Moxue who was standing at the door. He whispered in my ear with his powerful and low-pitched voice.
“Your problem is solved. As for my problem, it’s none of your business.”
Moxue shrugged indifferently and stepped back a few steps. She leaped onto the branch of the locust tree like a cat. The branch shook and many snow-white locust flowers fell onto the ground.
“Well, I’ll be leaving now. Maybe someday we’ll meet again. But…”
Before she disappeared, I heard clearly the last sentence she said.
“I can’t believe that you joined in with the humans. This is far beyond my imagination. Hehe.”
From the author: This story originates from the Chinese folktale about the Jinhua cat. The following is an excerpt from the folktale: At age three, the Jinhua cat sits on the roof at midnight, absorbing the spirit of the moon with its mouth. After a long time, the Jinhua cat becomes a demon. The demon then hides in a remote forest or valley. It rests during the daytime and seduce humans after sunset. If there is a woman, it will transform into a handsome man; if there is a man, it will transform into a beauty. Each time it enters a human’s house, it urinates in the drinking water and humans cannot see it as a demon after drinking the water. The humans who encounter this demon are normal at first, they only become ill after a while. The family should cover the patient with green clothes and wait until dawn. If they see cat hairs on the patient, they must ask a hunter to bring several hounds with him and come to their house to catch the cat demon. After the cat demon is caught, the family must peel off the skin and cook the meat to feed the patient. If the patient is male and the family catches a male cat or the patient is female and the family catches a female cat, the patient will die. Governor Zhang Guangwen had a daughter, aged 18 and was very beautiful. She was seduced by the cat demon and lost her hair because of the cat demon’s curse. The family caught a male cat demon, and she recovered after eating it.
–Article 51 ‘The Cat Garden – Supernatural’ from ‘Collective Stories of Jianhu’.