Urban Tales of Demons and Spirits
Vol 2 Book of Xun – Chapter 36 Define Death
First Published on Chaleuria.
Chapter 36 Define Death
I appeared to be calm, but inside, I had already cursed him a thousand times.
What was he doing?!
“Er… Is that Wen Jiubo?” Shi Yitong stared at the Ferrari like a fool. “Why does he look so different? Isn’t he… usually dressed in a long robe like an ancient person? Why does he—”
I strode towards Wen Jiubo and pulled him to the roadside to avoid stares.
“Wen Jiubo! What’re you doing?!” I challenged.
“Em, long time no see. I missed you too,” replied Wen Jiubo casually.
I blushed and got even angrier. “What are you talking about? Stop being such a narcissist!”
“Well, whose face turned red?” Wen Jiubo joked, and to my surprise, he pinched my cheek.
I pushed his hand away, furious at his attitude. “Stop fooling around! Do you know what’s happened on campus? Why are you dressed like this and driving a Ferrari to campus! For anyone who doesn’t know you, they might think you’re a business rival of Liang Kaifeng’s father!”
“Alright, chill out.” Wen Jiubo kept smiling. “That Ferrari isn’t mine, it belongs to Liang Kaifeng’s father.”
“Liang Kaifeng’s father…” I hesitated. “Wait a minute. You mean, Liang Kaifeng’s father drove you here?”
Wen Jiubo nodded. “You’re correct.”
“Why? He’s my client.” Wen Jiubo smiled. “I didn’t expect you would behave like a peevish baby, you didn’t come to me when this terrible event occurred. You didn’t want my help, but someone did.”
“Who’s a peevish baby!” I retorted, but then I frowned. “You mean, Liang Kaifeng’s father asked you to investigate this event?”
Wen Jiubo nodded. “You’re right. It seems that his father spent a lot of money trying to save his son’s life. Besides the commission, he gave me this suit as a gift. He asked me to make sure his son lived no matter what.”
I looked at Wen Jiubo enviously, murmuring, “You’re lucky, I want that type of client.”
“Gu Yu, it’s not a good thing.”
When I looked up, I found Wen Jiubo staring at me calmly.
” ‘Save his son’s life no matter what,’ he gave me so many fancy things because he needs my help. But what will he do if I can’t fulfill his request?”
I was at a loss for words. He was right. Wen Jiubo must be the final hope for Liang Kaifeng; if Wen Jiubo failed, the consequences would be beyond my imagination.
However… Would Wen Jiubo fail? I found that I never thought about this possibility before. Wen Jiubo seemed to be invincible. I couldn’t recall any clients that he failed previously.
“I have failed many times,” Wen Jiubo said suddenly.
“What?” I pulled my wandering mind back to the present moment.
“I know how you think. Sometimes I fail.” Wen Jiubo looked at me; his eyes were as clear as water.
“Really?” Somehow I couldn’t picture it.
“Most of the time, you can’t change what is destined to happen. You can’t disobey Nature’s laws. Many requests from my clients are based on individual desire, more specifically, human selfishness. I’m not allowed to change the law of the universe for their greed.”
My heart sank as his words poured over me, “Is Liang Kaifeng’s death destined to happen? No, before you answer this question, I need to know: is he dead?”
“Gu Yu, I have a question for you, what’s the definition of death?” Wen Jiubo looked at me.
Oh no, not again… He always asked me some weird questions, and it made my scalp numb every time he did this.
“Er, death is death,” I did not know how to answer, “Everyone dies, so death is…what accompanies us from birth. It’s something you can’t avoid.”
“You’re right. Everyone is afraid of death, but everyone doesn’t know what death is.” Wen Jiubo smiled, “Let me put it this way, when you see someone, under what circumstances do you think this person is dead?”
I immediately thought about the scene of Liang Kaifeng hanging from the ceiling in the classroom today, “Em…They are dead when there is no breath, no heartbeat, no running blood in their veins and no functioning organs in their body.”
Wen Jiubo nodded, it seems he agreed. But then he asked again, “However, if he is a creature without breath, heartbeat, or organs? Have you ever thought about this scenario?”
“Uh?” I didn’t quite understand him. “Like paramecium, the unicellular ciliate?”
“Of course it’s dead when the cell dies,” I replied without hesitation.
“You are partly right.” Wen Jiubo put a finger to his chin, pondering, “However, the human body is made up of cells. When a man’s breathing and heartbeat stop, many cells inside the body are still alive and active. For instance, hair and nails will continue growing for a long time after people die. How will you explain this?”
“Wha—No, it’s not the same thing!” Wen Jiubo’s theory astonished me. I wanted to dispute but did not know how. Then he continued to speak over my stuttering.
“Did you ever hear about a unicellular ciliate called an amoeba?” asked Wen Jiubo. “An amoeba reproduces asexually by division. It can divide into two identical creatures; the new amoeba has an identical shape, structure, and DNA as the old one. In other words, even if the original cellular dies, it can still exist eternally as long as the duplicate is alive. So the question is, is this cell dead or not? Or, is it reborn after death?”
I disputed Wen Jiubo without hesitation, “Your theory is ridiculous, how could you compare humans with amoebas? That’s a single-celled species.”
“You’re right, it’s a single-celled species, but it possesses the power that each and every king in human history pursued their whole lives. It’s the power of immortality,” Wen Jiubo said slowly, “They can perfectly avoid death by duplicating themselves, can’t they?”
I opened my mouth but choked on my words. I didn’t know what to say.
“So, what did you ask me? Is Liang Kaifeng dead or not?” A wicked grin appeared on Wen Jiubo’s face. “Well, how can we define ‘death’? It’s a huge problem.”