Urban Tales of Demons and Spirits
Vol 2 Book of Xun – Chapter 41 The Old Residence and The Past
First Published on Chaleuria.
Chapter 41 The Old Residence and The Past
Wen Jiubo smiled, “No, at first, this old residence belonged to someone else. The story is quite interesting. The house was actually the fee a client paid a long time ago.”
“Yes, fee. You gain some, you lose some. Since I took their request, they had to pay the price for it,” said Wen Jiubo. “At that time, the client was broke. Therefore he had to give me this old building – which was all he had left. He once said when he got some money, he wanted to repurchase this house. He eventually died alone though, having never been able to borrow enough money to buy it back till the day he died.”
I was still curious after hearing his words, “He must have once been a wealthy man to afford this big house. Wait, what happened to him to force him to sacrifice so much?”
“He was a great man,” praised Wen Jiubo. “He knew he could never change the situation he faced, so he asked me to make sure his work would be read by people throughout the ages.” I had never heard him give a compliment to anyone before. He was usually such an arrogant person, so I was a little surprised.
“Have you fulfilled his wish?” I asked him, curiosity bleeding through my voice.
“Of course I have, that’s why I took over his home.” Wen Jiubo smiled and stood up. “It’s late, I’ll go to the study room to see if I can find any useful materials. If you’re bored, you can read the books here. The bathroom is to the left, and if you want to charge your phone, you can go to the living room.”
After he finished speaking, Wen Jiubo began to walk towards the door.
However, the conversation aroused my curiosity, and I stopped him before he left. “Ay, who’s the client you talked about?”
“Why do you care so much? He was a man who died long ago.”
I didn’t give up. “I’m just curious, what’s the matter? As you said, he was a man who died long ago.”
Wen Jiubo seemed to give in, he turned around and said, “He was a descendant of a fallen ministry councilor during the time of the Qianlong Emperor of the Qing dynasty. You must have heard his name before; his given name was Cao Zhan, his courtesy name was Mengruan, and he styled himself as Cao Xueqin. (TL note: he is best known as the author of Dream of the Red Chamber, one of the four great classical novels of Chinese literature. The other three novels are Water Margin, Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Journey to the West.)
Cao Zhan? My brain shorted out, and he styled himself as Can Xueqin? Wait a minute, he was Cao Xueqin, the one who wrote the novel Dream of the Red Chamber?!
Before I could voice my doubt, Wen Jiubo left the room with a big grin on his face.
“Ay! Bro, what’re you thinking about now?”
I was startled by Bai’s sudden, sharp voice. I turned around and saw that the little guy had shown up. He stood on his hind legs with two small paws held together at the front. Bai stared at me with his little eyes.
I drew a long breath of relief. “Bai, you scared me. Where were you?”
Bai was unhappy. “What do you mean where was I? I’ve been here the whole time, you’re the one who didn’t notice me. Anyways, what’s making you think so hard?”
“Bai, is it true that this house once belonged to Cai Xueqin?” I couldn’t help but ask.
“Em…probably. I think his surname was Cao or something. Who knows? I never remember human’s names.” Bai didn’t pay much attention to my question, he kept looking around. “Where is Wen Jiubo? Hasn’t he come back already?”
“Who knows? Maybe he’s in the study room.” When looking at Bai, I suddenly thought of a question, “Bai, have you known Wen Jiubo for a long time?”
“Yes, we’ve been friends for a long time.” Bai jumped onto the desk and started to root through my satchel. He found a bag of crackers. “Ay, Gu Yu. You hid some good stuff. You are so bad. But since I’ve found it, it’s mine.”
Bai proceeded to open the package and began to eat the crackers.
I felt a little speechless, but in the end, I chose not to mind it. I continued asking him, “Well, Wen Jiubo…What kind of person was he before?”
Bai continued chewing a cracker, but the look of his eyes became vigilant. “Why do you ask?”
“I’m curious, was he as arrogant and cold as he is now?”
“Well, it depends on the time,” said Bai, spraying crumbs with each word, “But I don’t think he changed much. After all, we demons don’t easily change our temperament. We’re not like you, you humans are so emotional.”
I caught the keyword, “So, you mean Wen Jiubo is a demon?”
Bai suddenly closed his mouth. His small eyes opened wide, suddenly realizing that he spilled the beans to me.
“Wha…What! I said nothing, you must have heard it wrong!”
“What kind of demon is he?” I followed up, “Cat? Dog? Or maybe a fox?”
“Uh, I don’t know!” Bai dropped the bag and jumped off the table. He tried to escape the room, but I made a quick grab for the back of his neck and lifted him up.
“Wen Jiubo is not here. It doesn’t matter if you tell me his secrets.”
“My lord, let me go, please,” Bai howled, flailing his feet in anger and frustration. “What have I done to deserve this? I treated Wen Jiubo’s wound earlier today, and now I’m questioned by you. Everything is against me today!”
“Hold on, treat his wound? What wound? When did Wen Jiubo get a wound?” I frowned.
Bai covered his mouth with his little paws. He struggled in my hand and managed to free himself.
“I said nothing, nothing!” Bai zoomed out of the room and disappeared.
“Oi, Bai!” I chased him, but he ran so fast he vanished from my sight. I shook my head. But before I returned, I suddenly had another thought. At this point, why not talk to Wen Jiubo directly?
Thinking about this, I decided to find his study room. The old residence was big, so it took some effort to find my way. But when I opened the door, I found that the lights were off and the room was empty.
Wen Jiubo! He said he needed to go through the materials, but he wasn’t in the study room, he was slacking off! I rolled my eyes and stepped out of the room. When I was wondering if I should return to my room now, I bumped into something warm.
“Hey, be careful, where are you going?” It was Wen Jiubo’s voice. I froze as I looked up.
Wen Jiubo…His dripping wet hair was loose on his shoulders. Besides a towel around his waist, he was naked. The warm thing I bumped into was his chest.