Lu Qingjiu’s entire body broke out in goosebumps. It took him almost all the self-control he had to force himself to calm down. He took a deep breath, then continued to dig. Very quickly he found three other tiny straw dolls under the straw man: Two pigs, and one fox. They were all the little ones who had gone missing from his home.
Seeing this, Lu Qingjiu instantly understood that there was a serious problem with the straw doll that Xiao Hua had brought back in the day. But it seemed like he’d realised this a little too late. Yin Xun had already turned into the absurd state he was in before him.
Lu Qingjiu wiped a hand over his face, then dug Yin Xun out of the snow and brought him into the house with the other three. Afraid that the fire would set Yin Xun ablaze, he even moved the charcoal basin a little further away from Yin Xun just for him.
Under the faint light, Lu Qingjiu locked eyes with those red bean eyes of Yin Xun’s. After a while, he let out a helpless sigh, dug out his phone from his pocket and dialled a certain number.
After the snow had blacked off the mountain, their phone signals had been a little unreliable, sometimes here, and sometimes absent. Lu Qingjiu didn’t know whether his call would get through.
Fortunately, his luck wasn’t bad. His call successfully got through, ringing ten or so times before it was picked up.
“Yuehu,” Lu Qingjiu called out his tenant’s name.
“Lu Qingjiu,” Bai Yuehu replied.
“That…” This was Lu Qingjiu’s first time calling Bai Yuehu. He’d never thought that it would be for this kind of reason. Bai Yuehu had only left for a day, but the brats in his home had already managed to play themselves. “Something happened at home.”
“What happened?” Bai Yuehu asked, “Are you alright?”
“I’m actually fine,” Lu Qingjiu said, “It’s Yin Xun… He, turned into a straw doll.”
Bai Yuehu, “…”
The two’s conversation fell silent for a full twenty or so minutes. Just as Lu Qingjiu thought that Bai Yuehu had hung up, he heard Bai Yuehu’s voice come from the other end, “What happened?”
Lu Qingjiu gave Bai Yuehu a quick brief on how Xiao Hei had found and brought back a straw doll and Yin Xun’s transformation.
After Bai Yuehu heard this, he thought for a moment. He seemed to understand what had happened, saying, “Don’t worry, it isn’t anything big.”
“It’s not a big deal?” Lu Qingjiu looked at the Yin Xun-shaped straw man, and still felt terrified and panicked. “Yin Xun will be okay, right?”
“He’ll be fine,” Bai Yuehu said, “He’s not in any danger. Wait for me to come back, I’ll slowly explain it to you then, I’ll be back tomorrow afternoon. In a bit, a guest might come by. It’ll be fine as long as you hide Yin Xun’s straw body away.”
“Oh.” Even though Lu Qingjiu didn’t understand anything he was saying, since Bai Yuehu said that Yin Xun wasn’t in any life-threatening danger, he was relieved. But what was this guest Bai Yuehu was talking about? Could it be they were the one who had turned Yin Xun and the other three into straw people?
“Then come back earlier if you can. “ Lu Qingjiu felt like the most reliable one in this home was still Bai Yuehu after all. He said, “Let’s have stewed mutton tomorrow.”
“Okay.” Bai Yuehu’s voice had also turned warmer.
After hanging up the call, Lu Qingjiu followed what Bai Yuehu had said and hid Yin Xun’s straw body away. There were many vacant rooms in the house, so he just randomly picked a room, and stuffed Yin Xun and the other three inside. Worried that they might get cold, Lu Qingjiu even tucked them in under a thick layer of bedding.
After he was done with that, Lu Qingjiu made a simple dinner, then went to the living room, found a book and began to read. It had to be said, without the chatterbox that was Yin Xun and the noisy Xiao Hei and Xiao Hua, this house was really rather lonely. Especially at night, when the temperature started to drop. Outside, the cold wind was howling, making the glass rattle, sounding a lot like ghosts wailing and wolves howling.
Lu Qingjiu made himself a cup of tea, holding it between his palms to warm up. He was reading 《Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio》. Ever since Bai Yuehu had started living in this house, Lu Qingjiu had begun to actively find out more about these kinds of ancient Chinese myths. In this boring winter, reading this was also a way to while the time away.
We’re sorry for MTLers or people who like using reading mode, but our translations keep getting stolen by aggregators so we’re going to bring back the copy protection. If you need to MTL please retype the gibberish parts.
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In the blustering snow, the knocks seemed especially soft. If not for the fact that Lu Qingjiu had been looking out for it, he definitely wouldn’t have heard it.
A lamp in his hands, Lu Qingjiu walked over to the door. He asked through the black iron door, “Who’s outside?”
“This humble monk was passing by, and was hoping to stay at this benefactor’s home for a night, would that be alright?” A young male voice sounded from outside.
Lu Qingjiu, “…” Why does this sound so fucking much like the beginning of a horror story.
If not for the fact that Bai Yuehu had told him that a guest would come ahead of time, Lu Qingjiu might have firmly refused him. It wasn’t because he found it troublesome, but was because right now, he had no way of telling if the person outside the door was a human or a ghost. What if he really did invite in some unclean thing, wasn’t that just asking to die? Besides, the path to Shuifu village had been blocked off by snow a long time ago, how could there be a monk passing by, what’s more in this kind of harsh snowstorm…
But since Bai Yuehu called him a guest, then he shouldn’t be a bad person.
Lu Qingjiu opened the door, and saw a monk dressed in grey monk’s robes and with a conical bamboo hat on his head. Because it was too dark, he couldn’t see the monk’s face clearly. He said, “Xiao shifu, please come in.”
The young monk bowed towards Lu Qingjiu, then carefully stepped over the threshold.
Lu Qingjiu, lamp in hand, walked in front to guide the way. He led the monk into the living room. Once they reached the warm living room, the monk took off the bamboo hat on his head, revealing an incredibly young face. His appearance couldn’t be considered too handsome, but had a strange charm to it. When people looked at his eyes, they would feel an inexplicable sense of calm.
“What brings xiao shifu here to Shuifu village?” Lu Qingjiu poured him a cup of hot tea. “This place has already been blocked off by snow. You walking around in a snowstorm like this is very dangerous.”
After accepting the tea, the young monk pressed his hands together and bowed once more to Lu Qingjiu, saying, “It was the Buddha who asked this humble monk to come here.”
Lu Qingjiu smiled and said, “Was it also the Buddha who asked you to knock on my door?”
“There is reason behind everything, even a sip and a peck,” the young monk replied.
Even though Lu Qingjiu wasn’t a Buddhist, this didn’t prevent his positive attitude towards monks. Even though the young monk’s arrival was sudden, his attitude was respectful and polite, which made him very likable. He said, “Is this xiao shifu fasting?”
The young monk shook his head. “This benefactor can call this humble monk Xuan Yu.”
Lu Qingjiu didn’t respond to that, simply smiling and saying, “Then I’ll make you something to eat. Xiao shifu can sit here and drink tea to warm up.”
Having said that, he then went to the kitchen and made a simple meal made from vegetables. In this cold weather, vegetables weren’t easy to preserve, but fortunately, there were still a lot of sweet potatoes and cabbage in his cellar. Lu Qingjiu made some sweet potato rice and fried sweet and sour cabbage for the young monk.
After he was done, he brought the food over to the young monk. “I’m really sorry, there’s only these vegetables left in the house.”
Xuan Yu smiled slightly, “It’s already more than enough, thank you, benefactor.”
Lu Qingjiu poured him another cup of tea.
As Xuan Yu ate, Lu Qingjiu watched the young monk in front of him. He had the vague feeling that the identity of the monk who had appeared before him wasn’t very ordinary. After all, how could an ordinary person appear in the midst of a snowstorm at night?
After he finished eating, Xuan Yu thanked Lu Qingjiu once more.
Lu Qingjiu said, “I’ve prepared a room for this xiao shifu, you can rest there tonight.”
Xuan Yu said, “Thank you, benefactor.”
Lu Qingjiu led him to the entrance to the room. Only after seeing him go in did he turn and go off to sleep. Thinking about Yin Xun, he still felt a little worried, so he found a time to drag Yin Xun over to his own room. Because straw was very flammable, Lu Qingjiu didn’t dare to light the Kang, afraid of his idiot son becoming fuel for the flames and burning to ash just like that…
That night, Lu Qingjiu actually slept pretty well. After he got up, he saw Xuan Yu standing in the courtyard, as if observing something.
“Xiao shifu,” Lu Qingjiu called out to him.
“Benefactor,” Xuan Yu greeted.
“How was your sleep last night? What would you like to have for breakfast?” Lu Qingjiu said, “How about I fry you a bing? It’s snowing heavily outside, you shouldn’t stand there.”
After a night, the snowstorm still hadn’t stopped, but that monk was just standing there in the snow. Even though his frame was thin, it gave one illusion of it being as hard as if it had been carved from stone. As if no matter how strong the wind, he wouldn’t be forced to move an inch.
Xuan Yu didn’t move. He said, “Benefactor, have you heard the story of the Buddha sacrificing his body to feed a tiger?”
Lu Qingjiu was stunned for a moment. He said, “I’ve… heard of it.”
This story was basically about the Buddha using his own body to feed a mother tiger, saving the mother tiger and her cubs. The meaning behind it was that the Buddha cared for all living beings, all living beings were equal.
“What do you think of it?” Xuan Yu asked.
Lu Qingji frowned. “I’m not a Buddhist.”
Xuan Yu smiled and said, “I know this benefactor isn’t a Buddhist, I just want to know if this benefactor would sacrifice his body to feed a tiger?”
Lu Qingjiu didn’t speak, but inwardly, he didn’t agree. But saying this out just like that would be a little impolite to Xuan Yu, so he changed the topic, “Xiao shifu should come in and have alms.”
This could be considered a kind of answer in itself. Xuan Yu understood what Lu Qingjiu meant. He sighed slightly, then said, “Did benefactor perhaps see a little straw man yesterday?”
The moment these words left his mouth, Lu Qingjiu instantly became nervous. He said, “That straw man was yours?! My pet accidentally brought it into the house, and after an afternoon, I found that my pet had turned into straw, just like it.” Poor Yin Xun didn’t know that his status had already dropped from son to pet…
“It belongs to this humble monk,” Xuan Yu said, “But my straw man, isn’t anything bad.”
Lu Qingjiu said, “It’s not anything bad?!”
Xuan Yu said, “Can this benefactor distinguish between humans and ghosts?”
Lu Qingjiu was stunned.
Xuan Yu said, “Some people can’t, so this humble monk gives them a helping hand.” As he looked at Lu Qingjiu, his pair of dark eyes were filled with a compassion for the world. “But since this benefactor was already well aware from the start, there isn’t much for this humble monk to say.”
Lu Qingjiu said, “You mean, that straw person is used to distinguish between humans and non-humans?”
Xuan Yu nodded.
“Alright,” Lu Qingjiu said, “I’ve known about what they were for a long time now… How can they turn back to normal?”
Xuan Yu said, “They’ll turn back after three days.”
But then Lu Qingjiu thought of something. His eyebrows furrowed. “What would happen if they were burnt while they were still made of straw?”
Xuan Yu smiled and said, “Benefactor cares so much about them, how could you dare to burn them up?”
Lu Qingjiu said, “There’s definitely been people who were willing, right?”
Xuan Yu said, “Then why doesn’t this benefactor ask those people why they were willing?”
Lu Qingjiu understood the meaning behind Xuan Yu’s straw man. He actually was giving humans a chance to choose. They could choose to continue, but could also choose to end this relationship. The non-humans who touched the straw man would turn into straw men as well. At this time, if the human decided to end it, they could directly burn the straw man to ash.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
Just that he didn’t know if those straw men that were burnt, were still conscious, if they knew about everything happening around them.
Of course, Lu Qingjiu also understood, not all non-humans were as friendly as those in his own home. Their relationship with humans could be of all kinds, some were friends, some were lovers, and there were also those who were threats, those who were parasites.
No wonder Bai Yuehu said that Xuan Yu was a guest, because Xuan Yu was putting the right to choose into Lu Qingjiu’s hands. He was a compassionate monk.
Lu Qingjiu began to laugh.
Xuan Yu asked, “Why does benefactor laugh?”
Lu Qingjiu said, “I don’t know if xiao shifu has ever heard of the name Fahai?”
Xuan Yu winked. “Does benefactor know how my shifu managed to live to a hundred years old?”
Lu Qingjiu asked, “Why?”
Xuan Yu said, “Because he minds his own business.”
Lu Qingjiu burst out into loud laughter.
This author has something to say:
Lu Qingjiu: If Xuan Yu is Fahai…
Bai Yuehu: What a coincidence, I’m also surnamed Bai.
Lu Qingjiu: ????
baum: Imagine being forced to watch on helplessly as you’re burnt to death by someone you viewed as a friend or even as a lover… *shudders* I understand why Xuan Yu places the power into humans’ hands, since they’re the ones who have less than the non-humans usually, but I can’t help but feel sorry for all those non-humans who would have had to suffer that fate