Urban Tales of Demons and Spirits
Vol 3 Book of Exchange – Chapter 13 Gudiao
First Published on Chaleuria.
Chapter 13 Gudiao
The old books were so heavy that I almost dropped them on the floor. “What are these books?”
“This is ‘The Classic of Mountains and Seas’, and this is the ‘Collected Stories of Xuanzhong’, and those right there are ‘In Search of the Supernatural’, ‘Book of Youming’, and ‘Biographies of Immortals’.” Bai didn’t give me time to ask more questions, he put a few more thick books on my knees. “Be careful, these books are worth their weight in gold.”
“Wait, what?” These books were too heavy to carry, so I put them all on the ground. “What’s going on here? Did Wen Jiubo finally run out of money and decided to sell some of his assets?”
“Don’t jinx me.”
After hearing that, Wen Jiubo softly hit my head with an old, thick book. The book looked very useful as a weapon.
“Since you’re here, help us do some research.” Wen Jiubo sat on the floor cross-legged. He opened the book in his hands and said, “This is a very laborious job.”
“What are you looking for?” I asked curiously.
It was rare to see Wen Jiubo doing such large-scale research, he usually knew everything there was to know about demons and spirits. I was curious to know which supernatural entity was unknown enough to force Wen Jiubo to go through all the books in the room.
“Gudiao,” Wen Jiubo seemingly read my mind and replied. “That’s the one we’re looking for.”
“Gu…what?” I was confused.
Wen Jiubo grinned and he looked up at me. “Actually I received a request. The clients are a bunch of muscular men. According to them, they hastily drove from the northernmost area of YanCheng City during the night to ask me to exorcize a man-eating monster that is lurking in their village.”
Wen Jiubo nodded, “Unfortunately, they didn’t have a picture or a sketch of it. The only lead they have is the testimony of one of them who caught a glimpse of the beast. But even though it was only a glimpse, the eyewitness was still terrified and shaking as we forced him to testify.”
I was fascinated by the story. I nodded, signaling him to continue the story.
“When I asked about their problem, the other men pushed the eyewitness to the front. That man kept shaking and his face was pale. He hesitated for a moment before telling me his story.” Wen Jiubo put down the book and began to tell me what happened.
“The eyewitness is just a farmer in their village, he had a wife and three children. Lately, the children in the village kept going missing for no reason. At first, they thought it might have been the wolves coming into the village to eat their children. Therefore, they put some pork at the entrance, hoping it would lure the wolves out. However, another child went missing on the next day, but the pork was left alone. Some strong and bulky men in the village then decided to hunt the wolves in the mountains, but unexpectedly, none of them returned. It was only then, that the villagers began to realize that it could be something more ominous than wolves.”
“After that, during a rainy evening, the farmer came home at the end of the day. As he got close to his house, he heard a woman’s scream coming from inside. He was familiar with this voice, it was his wife. But besides the screaming, there was another peculiar sound, it sounded like a crying baby.”
“A crying baby?” I paused. I felt like I had heard this story before but I couldn’t remember where I heard it.
“Yes, according to that farmer, this strange voice sounded at the same time like a crying baby and a groaning beast,” Wen Jiubo said. “He rushed into his house with an axe, but as he entered the house, he saw something he would never forget for the rest of his life. A giant monster was curled up in his house. There was blood all over the place. His three children and his wife were missing——he saw a female leg inside the monster’s mouth, and the embroidered shoe on the foot belonged to his wife.”
“So…his family was devoured by the monster?” I gasped.
Wen Jiubo nodded, “Yes, that’s right.”
“How did he survive against the monster?”
“Actually, he almost passed out when he saw that monster, but the monster was probably already full, it glanced at him before swatting him with his tail and rushing out of the house The farmer said that this monster looked like a big eagle but it had a leopard pattern on his fur and also had deer’s hooves and a horn. Its beak was full of teeth sharp enough to easily tear apart an adult man.”
It sounded pretty familiar. I thought I had seen this creature somewhere before… but where?
Before I could figure it out, Wen Jiubo added, “Even though I can’t jump to conclusions when I only have a farmer’s incoherent description, I’m about 80 to 90 percent sure of what this monster is. I once encountered it two hundred years ago.”
“You’ve seen it before?” I quickly pulled my wandering mind back to the conversation.
“Yes. If I’m right, I once sealed this monster.” Wen Jiubo picked up a book and passed it over. I took the book and recognized with difficulty that the words on the cover were ‘The Classic of Mountains and Seas’.
“Gudiao, humans initially recorded it in the chapter ‘The book of South Mountain’ in ‘The Classic of Mountains and Seas’. ”
Wen Jiubo opened the old book, pointed a paragraph and read it to me, “It’s recorded here that in a place called Mountain Luwu, a barren region but rich in jade, river Zegeng originates from there and flows to the south of the river Pang. A beast named Gudiao lived in the river Zegeng, it was in the shape of an eagle but had a horn on its head. It sounded like a crying baby and ate human flesh. Later on, ‘The purplish blue beads’ of the Ming dynasty has records of a Gudiao, a monster with leopard fur, a birds beak, and a horn, groaning like a baby.”
I nodded in slight confusion.
“As some folktales mentioned, Gudiao appears in the human world every nine years. After it’s done feasting on human flesh, it would return to its cave to sleep. But besides that, there is little information about how to destroy or seal it.” Wen Jiubo sighed slightly. “If the monster this farmer saw was truly a Gudiao, then it must have broken through my seal and escaped. But it isn’t that much of a surprise since Gudiao, unlike other demons and spirits, is a monster as old as Chinese history itself. It isn’t easy for weak humans to stop it.”