Urban Tales of Demons and Spirits
Vol 4 Book of Kan – Chapter 2 A Real Dream
First Published on Chaleuria.
Chapter 2 A Real Dream
Wen Jiubo looked at me and sighed, “Because what you saw was only a dream.”
“What?” I instantly retorted. “No, it’s impossible. I know what I’ve been through. It can’t be a dream, it was too real to be a dream.”
“I said you were dreaming, but I didn’t say it was unreal,” Wen Jiubo suddenly replied.
I raised my head in surprise and cast a puzzled glance at him. Wen Jiubo stood up, let out a sigh, and paced back and forth in the room.
“Before the Spring and Autumn period and the Warring States period, people believed that dreams acted as a gateway to another world. People during the Shang Dynasty once made some special incense in order to see the future through their dreams. However, they made mistakes while using the Eight Trigrams, which led them to fail then. Later on, war broke out, and people gradually forgot this method. Therefore, dreams stayed merely dreams.”
I looked at him with knitted brows, but deep down in my heart, I doubted his words. My subconscious told me that Wen Jiubo might have something important to say, so I refrained from interrupting him.
“But the theory was right,” Wen Jiubo said calmly. “Dreamland is a completely independent spiritual world, which is separated from the material world. Have you ever had such experiences? When you were in sleep and had a very long dream, when you woke up, you found that you only slept for an hour?”
I nodded, half-understanding.
“Or when you had a dream, you remembered everything happened in your dream, but when you woke up, you could only remember a few fragments?” Wen Jiubo walked to the table, pulled three incense sticks out of the burner, his slender finger rubbing off the ashes. “Or sometimes, you can see the future through your dreams, but you can only see some trivial events that you haven’t experienced yet. But when they happen in real life, you suddenly realize that you had dreamed about those things the night before.”
“So?” I couldn’t help but interrupt him. “Everyone has that kind of experience. It’s not a big deal.”
Wen Jiubo revealed a helpless smile and sighed. “Every human has that kind of experience, but no one has asked why it happens.”
I can’t help but ask him again, “So?”
“Because dreams are not only activities during sleep, they are also a gap,” Wen Jiubai said earnestly.
“A gap? What kind of gap?”
“Reality and illusion, Yin and Yang, death and life, past and future, dreams can connect them all,” Wen Jiubo stared me in the eyes and said. “If dreams are used properly, they can serve as a bridge between two different worlds.”
I felt even more confused by his complicated words. I gestured for him to stop while trying very hard to understand what he really meant.
“So, are you saying I can use my dreams to travel to the past or the future?”
“Yeah, without the barrier created by time and space, you can actually do it,” Wen Jiubo said firmly. “Provided that you accurately use the correct method, otherwise you may be stuck in your dream and never wake up.”
Hold on…… What exactly did he mean?
I thought about what he just said before quickly arriving at a horrible conclusion.
“Are you saying…” I looked at him in horror and said cautiously, “What I saw in my dream will actually happen in the future? All those things are real?”
Wen Jiubo nodded, confirming my guess.
This was too much for me to handle at this moment. I took a few deep breaths and I stared at him with my eyes wide open.
“Okay, let’s talk about it one by one.” I asked, “When did it begin?”
“When you got off the bus,” Wen Jiubo replied calmly. “I lied to your friends, saying that you were ill and brought you back to the old residence.”
Wen Jiubo’s honesty slightly surprised me at first, but soon I became furious because he lied to me again.
“So I have been dreaming since then?” I asked.
Wen Jiubo nodded. “The blood rain and misty fog you saw in your dream were just your body’s natural reaction in order to wake you up, a dream within another dream so to say.”
So, Shi Yitong and Su Xiaoyun did not see the terrible scene, which made me feel relieved a little.
“Well, the second question, you must answer me honestly,” I stared at Wen Jiubo and said. “You took a lot of effort to bring me here and hypnotized me with some strange incense. What was it for? If you can’t give me a proper answer, I will definitely not spare you!”
“Gu Yu, I’m really sorry,” Wen Jiubo apologized. “If I had any other option, I would have never picked this one.”
“What the hell happened?”
“On the day after you went to Mt. Diecui, an old friend sent me a letter,” Wen Jiubo said and took out a yellow envelope.
Doubtfully, I took the envelope and studied it. It seemed quite old. Not only was the paper yellow, but it was also very fragile. I was afraid I would accidentally tear it.
“It’s okay, open it.” Wen Jiubo lifted his chin.
I carefully opened the envelope and pulled out a similarly yellowed piece of paper. After I unfolded it, I found that the letter was written in traditional Chinese.
——To Mr. Wen,
I had a nightmare lately. I sensed that you were in danger and couldn’t sleep all night. Hence, I’m writing this letter to warn you. The man who sealed your power is still alive, you must stay vigilant. In yesterday’s nightmare, the Taoist priest was riding Nian and was coming for you, and he was bathed in murderous intent. You were laying in a pool of blood, but I couldn’t do anything. The only thing I can do now is to write you this letter and mail it tomorrow to you. I hope you will take it as a warning and be more careful.
I wish you all the best.
There was no signature at the end of the letter, but judging from Wen Jiubo’s expression, he knew who sent it.
“I’ve read it.” I returned the letter to Wen Jiubo. “So… who wrote this letter? It looks very old.”
“I received this letter only a few days ago. However, it’s interesting that this old friend of mine died many years ago, that’s why the paper is yellow and old.” Wen Jiubo put the letter back into his pocket.
“How come?” I was a little surprised.
“This friend of mine was a fortune teller, proficient in the book of ‘Classic of Changes’ and the Eight Trigrams. He could sometimes foresee the future through dreams,” Wen Jiubai said. “Before his death, he predicted that the Taoist priest would attack me, so he wrote this letter to me to warn me of the dangerous situation.”
“I see,” I murmured, recalling the contents of the letter. “But…there is a sentence in the letter that I can’t understand.”
“He wrote ‘the Taoist priest was riding Nian and was coming for you.’ What does that mean? Is it a metaphor?” I asked.
“No, it’s not a metaphor. He’s saying this literally,” Wen Jiubo said calmly.
“Literally?” I was even more confused. “I don’t understand…”
“The Nian he mentioned, is a beast called Nian.” Wen Jiubo sighed. “I believe you heard about the story during your childhood, about why people celebrate the Chinese New Year.”
I nodded hesitantly. “Because…once there was a Beast called Nian (TL note: Nian in the Chinese Language means year). It was a man-eater. Later, the whole village discovered that the beast Nian was scared of the color red and the sound of firecrackers, so they used red lanterns and firecrackers to drive the beast Nian away. Hey, are you telling me that the beast Nian is actually real?!”
Wen Jiubo nodded. “Why not?”
“Because this is folklore used to coax children. It’s just a story,” I said, unable to believe.
Wen Jiubo mockingly looked at me. “You have experienced so many inscrutable events, and yet you’re questioning whether or not the beast Nian exists?”
“But this is different,” I insisted. “The existence of ghosts and monsters is backed up by evidence. Ghosts are spiritual existences that live even after the death of a person, while monsters are animals who acquired high intelligence and power after years of cultivation. But the story of the beast Nian is ridiculous because the first day of each year is simply based on the Chinese lunar calendar, which is based on the orbit of the moon. It has nothing to do with monsters.”
Wen Jiubo thought for a moment and replied, “Well, you’re not wrong. But in fact, the beast Nian is a monster that is much more troublesome than that in the legend. Actually, I’m not even sure whether it should be called a monster or not, maybe we should use a more appropriate word——a creature.”
This was the first time Wen Jiubo used such an ambiguous word to describe something. I became even more curious.
“You said that Chinese people celebrate the New Year according to the lunar calendar, you’re not wrong. But the existence of the beast Nian is not contradictory to the use of the lunar calendar, because it is a creature living in the timeline.” Wen Jiubo looked at me with a gleam in his eyes.
“Living… in the timeline?” I got more confused.
“Nian has no physical body, nor does it exist in the world where we live. If the world we live in is a three-dimensional space, then Nian is a creature living in the fourth dimension,” Wen Jiubai enunciated. “Thoughts are its body and time is its food. It can exist in the past and in the future at the same time, but it doesn’t belong to any space or time. Imagine how terrible it would be if such a creature attacked your village.”
I opened my mouth in surprise.
“The beast Nian indeed eats people, but not in the way you think,” Wen Jiubo continued. “The beast Nian feeds on time, or I should say, the time that it has in this world, its remaining lifespan and the time it has lived. Nian can control time, and those whose time is eaten by the beast will not simply die or disappear, they will completely be erased. And the people around them won’t even remember that this person was living among them.”