Urban Tales of Demons and Spirits
Vol 2 Book of Xun – Chapter 68 Xun
First Published on Chaleuria.
Chapter 68 Xun
I nodded. To be honest, as Wen Jiubo mentioned, I also had this same vague feeling. Although I couldn’t tell what it was, I could felt that something was slowly and subtly changing in Yan City.
“I noticed something, so I consulted an oracle yesterday.” Wen Jiubo sat on the bench in front of the house and slowly said, “Do you know ‘Xun’?”
I nodded hesitatingly. “It’s one of the eight trigrams…right?” But besides that, I knew nothing else about it.
“Xun represents wind, it can also mean to disperse. The book ‘Shiming’, written during the Han dynasty, said that: ‘Xun, means to disperse. Everything in the world is born to be dispersed in the end.’ This trigram indicates timely wind and rain, however…” Wen Jiubo looked at the horizon outside the window, hesitated. (TL note: ‘Shiming’ is a Chinese dictionary that employed phonological glosses, and is believed to date from 200 CE.)
As I heard this, I approached him, suddenly lifting my hand to pat his head.
Obviously, Wen Jiubo didn’t expect me to do that, he stared at me perplexedly.
“You always tend to overthink everything around you,” I said. “But most of it may not be as complicated as you think. Trigrams, fate or those big theories about the universe and its species, though I admit that most of the time your theories sound reasonable and are quite engaging, it just isn’t the right way to live our lives. For me, the most enjoyable part of life comes from the unknown. Because we don’t know what will happen in the future, we hold expectations and hope. Though bad luck happens from time to time, as the saying goes, ‘life is suffering, how could there be no hardship in this world?’ ”
I scratched my head, wondering if I sounded like an old man.
“Anyway, what I mean is that you don’t need to study those trigrams and oracles all the time. We’ll deal with the future, step by step. I’ll work hard in order to not be a burden you always have to protect.”
Wen Jiubo looked at me in surprise and smiled. “Gu Yu, you… always surprise me, which is valuable for an old man like me.”
An old man?
He was right. Wen Jiubo must have lived much longer than me, even this old house that he owns was once owned by Cao Xueqin.
Wait a minute, speaking about this, didn’t I forget something? Right, I remember now!
“Wen Jiubo!” I shouted at him, “Didn’t you promise me something before?!”
Wen Jiubo was confused. “What?”
“Your identity! You promised me that if we can survive without getting hurt this time, you would tell me your true identity!” I immediately replied. “That’s what you promised me, isn’t it?”
Wen Jiubo said with a twinkle in his eyes as he nodded, “Em, yes, I did promise you that.”
I smiled as if I had won. However, before I could talk, Wen Jiubo interjected,
“But… Gu Yu, do you know the meaning of ‘without getting hurt’?”
“Huh?” I was confused.
“Look at you, on your neck,” His tone suddenly became softer. He lifted one hand to touch my neck. I subconsciously leaned back and looked down to see it.
“There is a bruise here, you must have gotten hurt when fighting with the parasite spirit,” His voice showed a hint of worry. “I should give you some medicine for this.”
“Ah, it’s just a bruise, it doesn’t matter…” I replied subconsciously. But I suddenly paused and skeptically looked up at Wen Jiubo. “Hold on, what do you mean by that?”
“What? Nothing.” His lips were spread into the sly smile that I was so familiar with. He hid both of his hands inside his large sleeves. “In the end, we can’t say we survived without getting hurt.”
I instantly became furious. “What? You’re being absurd!”
“No, I’m not, I only reasonably stated the facts.” His smiling face made me want to punch him
“Facts my ass! Are you kidding me?”
“Well, you like to joke around with me too, right?”
“Alright, alright, let’s not argue. Come here, let me apply some ointment for your neck.” Wen Jiubo stood up and took out a tube of ointment from the drawer.
I gave in but didn’t move as he asked. Since I never managed to win during our quarrels, I couldn’t stop being angry.
Wen Jiubo squeezed some ointment on his finger and gently applied it on my bruised skin. The strength he used to do it meant that I had no way of struggling away.
“Childish.” Wen Jiubo grinned.
“You’re no different!” I angrily stared at him, thinking about whether or not I should bite him right now.
“About my identity, I’ll tell you one day,” Wen Jiubo said flatly to finalize this topic.
“If you don’t want to tell me, you can just say you don’t want to. Just don’t make weird excuses.” I rolled my eyes. “As if I care.”
Wen Jiubo didn’t respond, instead, he changed the topic.
“Em, I think I will be your lecturer for a little longer.”
“Huh?” It was so unexpected.
“Em, the issue was solved faster than I expected, but I promised to be your lecturer in ancient Chinese for a month.” Wen Jiubo smiled radiantly. “So I’ll see you tomorrow for the lecture.”
I suddenly had a bad feeling after seeing him smile. “You, what are you going to do?!”
“Uh, since this whole thing was over, I can make use of my position to bully you.” Wen Jiubo smiled slyly.
My life went back to normal. Because of the parasite spirit case, Shi Yitong, Su Xiaoyun and I became closer to each other. Except that…Wen Jiubo also fulfilled his promise. I had to focus all my attention on the ancient Chinese language lecture to make sure I wouldn’t get embarrassed by him.
He suddenly called my name when my eyelids were getting heavy. I forced myself to wake up.
“What did I say just now?” Wen Jiubo asked with a smile on his face.
I knew he would make fun of me. I stood up helplessly, scratched my head and started to read aloud,
Third watch rain,
Care not for separation sorrow’s utter bitterness.
Single leaf by leaf,
Single sound by sound,
On the empty steps dripping until dawn.”
(TL note: This poem is from the second section of the poem ‘The waterclock’, written by Wen Tingyun, who was an important Chinese lyricist of the late Tang dynasty. The poem describes an upset, lovesick woman after being separated from her lover.)