Urban Tales of Demons and Spirits
Vol 3 Book of Exchange – Chapter 41 His story (1)
First Published on Chaleuria.
Chapter 41 His story (1)
“Why? Why would you say such a thing?!” Zhu Xuan became emotional.
“Because Shi Yitong is only 19 years old!” I said aloud. “Look at him, do you believe he’s a 30-year-old man?”
Zhu Xuan was speechless. “But…”
“Human lifespan is a lot shorter than you think,” I said calmly. “We can’t look exactly the same after 30 years.”
“No, this is impossible. That jade bracelet… that jade bracelet is his!” Zhu Xuan said emotionally. “I cannot be mistaken!”
“If you are talking about this bracelet,” Shi Yitong took off the bracelet and apologized, “This once belonged to my grandpa. During his life, my grandpa liked to collect weird stuff. Though I don’t know where the bracelet came from, to be frank, no matter who the previous owner was, he must have passed away.”
Shi Yitong put the bracelet in Zhu Xuan’s palm. He held it and looked up at Shi Yitong, confused. “So… you’re not him?”
“I don’t know the person you’re talking about,” Shi Yitong replied dryly.
“So, you’re saying I was wrong from the beginning?” Zhu Xuan looked at us, suspicious.
We nodded at him simultaneously.
“Oh, well…” Zhu Xuan’s face immediately blushed. He looked down and was too embarrassed to look at us. “Sorry, I, I didn’t know…”
“It doesn’t matter, it’s not your fault.” Shi Yitong patted Zhu Xuan on the shoulder and didn’t care about it at all. “It’s good that you are not in love with me. I’m so relieved now.”
After hearing his words, we all laughed quietly.
“So, what on earth is going on here?” I asked, looking at Zhu Xuan. “Would you like to explain it to us?”
Zhu Xuan looked at me, and then at Shi Yitong and Su Xiaoyun, before nodding slightly. “This is a long story. I’m not sure if I can make it clear.”
“Then make it short.” Su Xiaoyun smiled.
“Okay.” Zhu Xuan sat up and began to tell us his story.
“It started 30 years ago when the beast Chen began to harass Mt.Diecui,” Zhu Xuan enunciated. “There are various legends about me in this city. Some say that I was here to save people from the flood, while others say that I was here to protect the general’s soul. However, in fact, it’s quite embarrassing. I came here just to relax and have fun. This place was beautiful with green mountains and running water, and as a result, I lived in the mountains for quite a long time, enjoying the natural scenery and chatting with small animals. It was at that time that Ye came into my life.”
“Was he the person you mistakenly recognized as me?” Shi Yitong interjected.
Zhu Xuan nodded and continued, “Ye was a human, the son of a hunter. I saw him hunt on the mountain quite often. But he didn’t get much every time, only some small animals like pheasants or rabbits, sometimes some fish. You know, few people, even amongst hunters, went up the mountain every day, so I got familiar with him as time went by. I taught him how to hunt, and gradually, he was able to hunt some bigger animals, like deer or goats.”
“How did you do that?!” Ye shouted excitedly. “You don’t even have a gun! And you just killed a sika deer with your bare hands!”
“I didn’t kill it.” Zhu Xuan laughed. He walked away from the deer that was lying on the ground. “It just fainted. This is not difficult, as long as you are familiar with the physical structure of these animals, it’s quite easy to knock them out.”
“Wow… You’re awesome!” Ye didn’t agree with the humble words Zhu Xuan said at all. He circled the sika deer on the ground and said with amazement, “It’s incredible! You’re the most awesome hunter I have ever known!”
Zhu Xuan smiled. He knelt down to look at the deer and asked, “So… are you going to kill it and bring it back with you?”
“Why not?!” Ye said excitedly. “This may be the biggest prey I’ve had all week!”
“However, it’s a female deer,” Zhu Xuan said.
“So what?” Ye asked, feeling a little strange.
“Look, it’s still producing milk.” Zhu Xuan pointed at the lower abdomen of the sika deer and said, “That means it’s a mother. This kind of deer usually gives birth to three to five lambs at once. If you kill it, it means that somewhere in the mountains, three to five baby deers will be starved to death.”
“Is that so?” Ye stood up and scratched his head. “If that is the case, then we should let it go.”
Zhu Xuan laughed, “Let it go? Are you going to give up the biggest prey you’ve had all week?”
“I have no choice, I can’t bring myself to kill a mother deer,” he said seriously.
Not long after, the sika deer slowly woke up as Zhu Xuan said. It then shook its head, stood up and ran away.
“Ye, you will never be able to be a good hunter if you have such a good and kind heart,” Zhu Xuan teased with a smile.
“It doesn’t matter.” Ye waved his hand, showing that he didn’t care about it. “I just want to meet Zhu Xuan every day as I do now.”
Zhu Xuan instantly felt his face getting a little hot.
“Afterwards, the days went by peacefully. Ye went up the mountain and chatted with me from time to time. The more time we spent together, the more he doubted my identity. However, even though he was a straightforward person, he never asked for my identity. Over time, after a year or two, we slowly grew closer and closer, becoming more than just friends. We not only met in the mountains, but we also went to the market to buy groceries together, and I once went to his house to meet his father.”
Zhu Xuan sighed. “I used to believe that our life would go on like this and would never change. I liked him, and I knew he liked me as well, until one day… he suddenly came to tell me that his father had arranged a blind date for him. If everything went as planned, he would get married in the second half of the year.”
“How come…” Su Xiaoyun muttered.
“I’m not a human, I’m used to living a fixed life. I thought everything around me would never change and I never believed our gender would be a problem. That’s why I forget that he was a human, and all humans need to have offspring.” Having said that, Zhu Xuan dropped his eyes. “He was 23 years old. His father found him a girl that could match his family. I heard that the girl had never seen him before and was also forced to marry him by her family. I tried to persuade Ye’s father, but his father was so furious that he kicked me out of the door. I tried various methods, but they all failed.”
“Then, I began to realize that we could never be together. There were too many barriers between us, and even if I overcame all of them, I would live for much longer than him. So I watched him marry another girl, become a husband, and then have a child. I started to think that days like this weren’t that bad for him since he actually lived a pretty good life. His wife was very virtuous and took care of his family very well. He found a job and rarely hunted in the mountains. However, once or twice a month, he would go up Mt.Diecui. He pretended to hunt in the mountains, but I knew he came to see me.”
“In the water! In the water! Hurry up, don’t let it get away!”
“Where is it?” Ye shouted. “How come I can’t see it?”
“On your right, right next to your arm!” Zhu Xuan jumped up and down on the shore, pointing at a spot on his right. “It’s right there!”
“Wait, I see it!” Ye stared somewhere at the water surface, and then suddenly, he put his hands into the water, tightly grasped a fish with both hands, and threw it onto the shore. “Gotcha!”
“Awesome!” Zhu Xuan clapped his hands. He picked up the big fish and threw it into the bamboo basket. “It was really hard to catch it. It almost got away.”
“I’m a little rusty.” Ye smiled and walked out of the water. He looked at Zhu Xuan and hesitated for a moment before slowly opening his mouth.
“En?” Zhu Xuan, sitting on a stone, looked up and smiled. “What?”
“How come you don’t grow older?” Ye stared at Zhu Xuan and asked.
The smile on Zhu Xuan’s faded, and his expression became complicated to read. He didn’t answer.
That day, the 30-year-old Ye sat side by side with him, but Zhu Xuan still looked like a teenage boy.
“Zhu, you’re…not human, right?”
Ye’s tone made Zhu Xuan feel strange. He frowned, not sure what Ye meant.
“Do you know…” Ye rubbed his hands and said hesitantly, “There are some strange things happening recently. Do you remember the story I told you a long time ago, the story about how a villager died after he went up the mountain? It happened again.”
Zhu Xuan didn’t talk, he just quietly looked at Ye.
“This time is much more terrible than last time. It concerns not only the people who went up the mountain but also the people who stayed in the village. They were dragged away by something and by the time we found them, only bones remained. The monks in Longning Temple said that this was not a wild animal, it’s a big beast that was previously sealed here. It escaped and began to hurt people…”
“Do you think that I’m the beast that hurt people?” Zhu Xuan lowered his head and whispered.
“What? of course not!” Ye was surprised. “How can you think about me like this?”
“Am I wrong?!” Zhu Xuan suddenly looked up with his eyes full of anger. “You rarely come here now; you just hide in your own small hut, living your own life. Now you come to me and tell me this? Who sent you? Was it your wife or the village chief? Did they send you here to ask me if I’m the dangerous man-eating beast?”