Urban Tales of Demons and Spirits
Vol 3 Book of Exchange – Chapter 56 The Altar
First Published on Chaleuria.
Chapter 56 The Altar
The little girl kept repeating those words, asking for help. “I’m scared… I’m begging you, can you please help me?”
“Alright, alright.” I cautiously approached her. “Can you tell me what happened?”
However, the little girl suddenly stopped talking. She turned around and began to run.
“Wait! What’s the matter with you?” I shouted and chased her.
She wasn’t very fast, and she kept looking back at me as if she was waiting for me to catch up.
I had no choice but follow her, and at the same time, I tried to communicate with her.
“Are you okay? What happened to you? Why did you ask me for help?”
But the little girl did not answer me. Instead, she began to run faster. There were eerie cackles echoing in the quiet corridor.
“Huh, huh, huh…”
That sound made my scalp prickle and I stopped running for a moment. However, I was so curious that I kept following her.
After all, she was the only living creature here, maybe she knew something about Wen Jiubo, or maybe she really needed help?
Thinking about that, I continued to chase her. “Hey! Where are you? Wait for me!”
However, just I was about to turn around a corner and had almost caught up with her, from the darkness a hand suddenly grabbed my wrist.
I was frightened and began to scream. However, before I could make a single sound, another hand covered my mouth. I began to struggle violently. Luckily, I elbowed the attacker’s stomach during the fight, he groaned and let go of me.
I instantly ran away. But after a few steps, I began to realize that something was strange.
Was it his stomach that I hit? But does that mean that the thing that attacked me was human?
I turned back and saw a teenager who was wearing a weird mask leaning against the wall. He was holding his stomach as if he was suffering quite a bit.
“Um, you…” I gathered up my courage and spoke to him.
“What’s wrong with you?” The boy answered impolitely. It looked like my elbow jab really hurt him.
The boy was as tall as me and his build was very similar to mine. He looked like a normal human being.
“This is the junction connecting the worlds of Yin and Yang. There are cracks leading to the void everywhere around here,” the teenager panted. “If you had followed her, she would have led you to one of the cracks. And once you fall into one of them, you disappear forever. And when I say ‘disappear’, I mean it’s a fate worse than death. Void cracks completely erase your existence, as if you had never existed.”
I stared at the teenager dumbfoundedly and I stammered, “But… why did she try to do this to me? Also, who are you? Why are you here?”
“Because she is the most dangerous thing here, she acquires power by luring souls into the cracks. And as for who I am, it’s not important.” The teenager stood up and fixed his mask. “The important thing is, who are you?”
“Who am I?” I murmured, thinking of my purpose here. “That’s not important either! Do you know a person named Wen Jiubo? Or…or his soul? Did you see him? I came to find him!”
“I don’t know!”
Somehow, the boy in front of me suddenly got emotional. He took a deep breath, apparently trying to calm himself down. “I’m sorry, I don’t know. I’m also here to look for an important person, I really can’t help you.”
“Um, okay.” I carefully observed this strange teenager, my guts were telling me that I probably should stay away from him. “Then I won’t bother you anymore, thank you for saving my life…”
Upon saying that, I cautiously moved back while closely watching his reaction. The teenager stood still. He looked at me and suddenly opened his mouth.
“You should be careful. This is not the world you are familiar with, anything can happen. Don’t get lost, or else you may never return,” the boy said. “And you should follow the fragrance.”
“Fragrance? What fragrance?” I looked back to ask him what he meant about that only to find out that the boy had already disappeared, leaving only the sound of splashing water echoing in the empty corridor.
What a strange person.
Just as I thought about it, all of a sudden, I smelled a familiar scent, a faint and weird fragrance.
Was it the fragrance he mentioned? I frowned, it was quite strange.
I knew this scent, I once smelled it in that horrible dream and also in the old residence. However, the scent disappeared so quickly that I wondered whether it was real or just an illusion. But this time, I took a deep breath and was quite sure that it really was this strange fragrance.
Why would different places give out the same smell? Though suspicious, I raised the torch and went to look for the origin of this smell.
Although all the corridors looked exactly the same, I steadfastly walked forward by following the scent. After a short while, a room appeared in front of me.
The room was dark and unnoticeable. It was no wonder I never saw it while searching the area. The fragrance here was stronger, maybe a bit too strong since I began to feel a little dizzy.
I pressed on despite the uncomfortable feeling, I groped the wall and found an extinguished torch. After I scratched the torch against the wall, the torch lit up and the room instantly became bright.
Although the blue flame looked extremely bizarre, it was much better than staying in the dark.
I put the torch on the wall, however, as soon as I turned around, what I saw almost scared me to death.
Under the flickering light, a behemoth creature stood at the other side, staring at me.
“Don’t, don’t come here! I have a weapon!” I wielded the torch in the air. After a short while, I noticed that the behemoth creature was immobile. It just stood there, cold and still.
I cautiously approached it. After the experiences of the little girl and the strange teenager, I didn’t dare let my guard down.
After I moved a few steps forward, I finally saw what it was.
The behemoth creature in the dark that almost scared me to death was actually a gigantic statue. It shone with the luster of rock under the torchlight. After making sure that it was safe, I took the torch and walked over.
In front of me was an old stone table. The table was large, at least two meters long, with an incense burner placed on it. The incense burner was empty with no incense or ashes inside. The behemoth statue stood behind the stone table —— it was a huge nine-tailed fox.
I took a few steps back to look up at it. The statue was huge, it looked very similar to the drawing I once saw. The statue elaborately brought the nine-tailed fox to life, with the fox’s facial expression and its bared teeth vividly carved. Its nine tails swung wildly behind as if it was demonstrating to everyone how dangerous it was.
It seemed that this was some kind of sacrificial altar. Was it used to appease the nine-tailed fox or perhaps to seek its protection?
But rather than wondering why there was an altar here, I was more surprised by the fierceness of this nine-tailed fox statue.
Since ancient times, no matter what kind of sacrifice it was, either praying for timely wind or adequate rain, people would depict their deities as kind and wise. After all, the statue was used to worship the deities and ask for blessings. People needed to beautifully carve their deities to leave a good impression.
However, this nine-tailed fox statue… looked neither amiable nor handsome. No matter who you were, the only feeling you had after seeing this statue was fear as if it was some evil spirit.
… Was it really possible for people to worship such a terrible creature?
I raised the torch higher and approached the statue, and then I discovered there were some words carved on the tabletop and at the bottom of the statue. The surface was uneven, and it seemed to have been through a lot.
The murals were carved on the wall in a very casual way. When looking at those murals from the right to left, you could see that they were related,
The first painting depicted a splendid palace where numerous people gathered around, kneeling in front of it and praying as if they worshiped the person inside the palace.
Moving to the left, the content of the second painting changed. The splendid palace had collapsed. A huge nine-tailed fox stood at the top of the palace. It placed one of its paws on the peak of the wreckage and howled as if it was proudly displaying its mighty power.
The third painting showed a slaughter. There were many people running in different directions while the nine-tailed fox chased behind them, murdering people with its teeth and claws. Some people hid in the corners and tried to fight back with primitive weapons like bows and arrows. However, those attacks couldn’t even make a scratch on such a powerful monster.
Then I stood in front of the last painting, which was very different from the previous ones. The aggressive atmosphere disappeared and was replaced with a peaceful one. In the center of the picture sat the nine-tailed fox, its nine big tails swinging wildly behind it. People kneeled around it and held various bowls and plates in their hands, offering sacrifices to the nine-tailed fox.
After I saw all those murals, I couldn’t help but get lost in my thoughts. These murals apparently showed the reason why people began to worship the nine-tailed fox. It was neither because of its ability to protect people, nor because it could offer a peaceful life, but it was because the nine-tailed fox attacked the human palace —— which was very likely to be a king’s palace in some dynasty. People had to worship it as their god in order to make sure it wouldn’t attack them again.
Hold on! I narrowed my eyes as I suddenly noticed something in the last painting——right there in the middle of it, there was something in the mouth of the nine-tailed fox. I brought the torch closer. After a closer look, I found it was not something, but a human.
In the mouth of the nine-tailed fox was a woman wearing a white dress. What did it mean?