Book 4 Chapter 19: Calligraphy painting

Around noon, the group of people started down the mountain. Apart from the three tourists, the others only remembered the male vixen attack last night, similar to what happened in town. They had no recollection of anything else.

After they found a place for Xiao Xia to settle down, Wan Li and Ruan Zhan immediately started investigating. They only returned at night and started putting together and analyzing the information. In the end, they realized that the households where the “male vixen” appeared all had ancestors who built houses in City A back then. Since that was something impressive for the impoverished little village at the time, it was still a point of pride. That’s why it was very easy to discover.

“Guess who the girl of the last household was.”

“The female staff from the mountain villa.” Ruan Zhan replied without having to think.

“Has anyone told you how annoying you are?” Wan Li looked at the sky outside the window which had become completely dark. “Can’t you pretend not to know? Let me feel the satisfaction of keeping you in suspense. Being acknowledged by others is a sort of psychological need, ok!?”

“The fact was very obvious. We arrived after the three Japanese people at the villa. They couldn’t have known in advance so they definitely weren’t there for us. They were there to fulfill the little ghost’s wish. If there wasn’t anyone special there, the little ghost just needed to hide by the mountain and terrorize the town. It wouldn’t have to take the risk after knowing we were there. Humans and ghosts alike all have obsessions that cause them to be reckless.”

“Oh right, now that you mention it.” Wan Li said. “Xiao Xia said yesterday the little ghost went to scare her, and some intestine-like twisted limb was hanging from the rafters. I’m wondering whether the Yuki-Onna had transformed into it to trick Xiao Xia. Otherwise, it doesn’t make sense how the little ghost could appear in front of her while molesting the other girl at the same time.”

“Looks like you aren’t an idiot after all.”

“Could an idiot get ahold of so much information?” Wan Li rubbed his chin. “My jaw is about to fall off from talking the entire afternoon.”

“It’s unfortunate those households aren’t able to tell us anything about their ancestors’ matters.” Ruan Zhan ignored Wan Li’s complaints and focused on the matter at hand. “It makes sense. If there really was some secret back then, those people would have taken it to their graves. How could they tell their descendants about it? It’s the logical thing to do. Looks like we oversimplified things.”

“That’s not necessarily the case.” Wan Li said. “At least we know the little ghost must be related to that house, and to the people of this town. We can come up with a way to prevent it from hurting people in retaliation again.”

“You don’t need to worry about that. The little ghost was wounded quite heavily yesterday. If the Yuki-Onna hadn’t suddenly attacked, it wouldn’t have been able to escape. I took a stroll around the town earlier. There wasn’t any ghost or fiend aura. Their target is the people here, as well as our group. They are just observing at the moment. With me here, they won’t be able to do as they please.”

“I’m scared. You have to protect me!” Wan Li said with a mischievous smile, then got back on topic. “But it’s also not a solution to remain on the defensive. Do you have a plan?”

Ruan Zhan didn’t speak but merely took out a crumpled piece of paper.

“What’s this?” Wan Li took the paper and then pinched his nose. “What’s that weird smell?” He unfolded the paper and saw it was a painting drawn with a brush.

“Although I’m no expert in calligraphy art, these brush strokes aren’t that impressive. It’s a craftsman piece, but not a famous one, right?” Wan Li gave his verdict. “Did you paint it? I don’t want to nag, but practice drawing talismans in your free time. Stick with your own expertise, why are you copying others in calligraphy painting!?”

“I didn’t draw this. Xiao Xia-”

“What? Xiao Xia drew it? Well, it’s really very impressive in that case. She currently has a high fever after all. Not drawing it upside down is already an accomplishment.”

“You really know how to go with the flow!” Ruan Zhan laughed lightly. “You’re able to have eight different explanations for the same thing. I’m really interested to hear you try and justify yourself after you hear the truth.”

“You just said Xiao Xia painted it. I was about to complain how you let her paint random paintings instead of resting properly!”

“Which ear of yours heard me say Xiao Xia ‘painted’? You didn’t let me finish speaking in your haste to kiss ass. She’s asleep at the moment and can’t hear your praises.” Ruan Zhan glanced at the door as he spoke.

This place belonged to Elder Yan’s family. It was a newly built two-story little house. It was stylish and spacious, and also had its own little furnace. They were staying in the guest room on the second floor. Because both Elder Yan and Xiao Xia were sick, the house was kept extremely warm. The two men in the second floor living room both had their sleeves rolled up.

“Is there some other talent around?” Wan Li looked at the paper in his hands again.

“Before we came down the mountain around noon, didn’t Xiao Xia disappear for a bit?”

“She did!” Wan Li sighed. “Really want to give her a spanking. So disobedient. Her illness wouldn’t have flared up again otherwise! She was thoroughly frozen on the mountain. Even though my medical skills are divine, she still needs a few days to recover.”

“Does her disappearance have something to do with this scrap of paper?”

“She says during her cases, she often finds evidence in obscure places, even in the trash. Therefore…”

“She went to dig through the trash?” Wan Li interrupted him once again. “Her position at the law firm is similar to that of a lowly intern. The major cases have nothing to do with her. She probably learned this from watching TV! You even believed this!?”

“It is quite a miracle they haven’t sold her off yet.” Ruan Zhan nodded in agreement.

“Put it this way. Her grades were top notch but her real-world experience is pitifully lacking. She’s an overly protected flower in a greenhouse. She appears astute but in reality….I don’t even know how to describe her. It’s strange how someone like her repeatedly gets involved in such supernatural cases.”

“However, she’s made a great contribution this time! As I said before, she’s innately lucky.” Ruan Zhan took the piece of paper and spread it out on the coffee table.

The ink on the paper was a little smudged, but it just looked like an ordinary calligraphy painting at first glance.

“This is no ordinary painting.” Ruan Zhan explained seeing Wan Li’s puzzled expression. “You know Japanese people have a habit of hiding things beneath complicated patterns. Kenji Ganmura’s painted box was one example. They feel it’s elegant, but it’s really just troublesome and unnecessary. It’s also narrow-minded.”

“Using beautiful things to conceal repulsive motives is perverse to begin with. It’s never satisfying to play the villain.” Wan Li finished Ruan Zhan’s thought. He watched as Ruan Zhan took out a red pen and traced over several parts. Gradually, a strangely shaped talisman marking appeared on the paper. It looked a little like a necklace, but also like a snake eating its tail.

“So it was a talisman. It’s very well hidden!”

“That’s right. Normally I wouldn’t have noticed it either. This talisman was concealed very thoroughly in this painting and it wasn’t easy to discover.” Ruan Zhan said. “But prior to leaving the villa, Xiao Xia went through the trash of that Japanese family and inadvertently found this. I thought it was just the Japanese doing some “classy” things, like painting or reciting poetry, prior to doing evil. But then I thought there may be more to it. Therefore, this is the outcome after investigating all afternoon.”

“Is that why you left visiting those households to me? Fine, I forgive you. However, those Japs are really meticulous. They practice drawing talismans in their free time. They are much more dedicated compared to you.”

Ruan Zhan thanked him insincerely, and pretended not to hear the barb at the end.

“Hold off on your thanks for now. What does this have to do with the little ghost?”

“I remember your thesis research was on human memories. You mentioned something about certain memories lingering in the subconscious. However, since it isn’t connected to concrete objects, it remains there as though inexistent. Normally you wouldn’t even notice it’s there. However, if the appropriate trigger occurs, it’ll immediately surface and form a conclusion. This is what’s often known as flash of enlightenment….”

“I’m listening, speak!” Wan Li urged Ruan Zhan, who had stopped.

“I had carefully investigated that house back in City A without discovering anything. However, I noticed something strange in the basement but didn’t think too much of it at the time. Seeing this painting today made me recall it. The basement in the love motel was both damp and dark, completely different from the rest of the clean and beautiful house. Especially the inner wall, which after years of disrepair and lack of sunlight became covered with mildew. Most importantly, the mildew patterns were very unique, as though they gradually became visible over time. Furthermore…it looked a lot like a talisman. But since it was dark, I couldn’t see it clearly. Back then I even marveled at how much like a talisman it was!”

“But you didn’t continue thinking along those lines, right?” Wan Li continued the topic. “People often overlook what they’re most familiar with. Sometimes, they even think they are being oversensitive. What use does this talisman have?”

“It suppresses spirits! It even suppresses all ghostly and yin aura!”

“Then what’s your verdict?”

“I don’t have one for now. However, this matter should be uncovered very soon.” Ruan Zhan looked out the window as he spoke.

Outside, the night sky was clear after the snow, chilly and bright.

He had already arranged simple formations around the town. If anything evil enters, it’ll trigger the talismans and alert them. He would also have the opportunity to go capture the ghost. However, he felt it was just a precaution. It wasn’t likely for the little ghost and the Japanese people to attack tonight.

First of all the ghost was still injured from being trapped by him in the pillow and it hadn’t completely merged with Kenji Ganmura yet. Then, it was struck by his brand. That wasn’t something it could recover from in a short time.

The question was: where had the three Japanese people run off to? If they knew invisibility spells, it would really be hard to find them. Also, how were they related to Yang Mu You?

Seemingly thinking along the same lines, Wan Li suddenly asked, “Are there female Japanese Yinyang Masters?”

“This is an ancient sect that’s been handed down through the ages. There shouldn’t be any. However, there are many secrets, so who knows!?”

“I do have to remind you that those Japanese people are posing as a family. There’s an old fogey and a young married couple. If women can’t be Yinyang masters, there might only be two of them. Or she’s another hidden piece.”

“I know, but….”

Before Ruan Zhan finished speaking, sounds of wild barking suddenly came from the town.

“I’ve heard….” Wan Li trusted Ruan Zhan’s formations so he wasn’t anxious. “When dogs bark quickly, they’re going to bite people. When they bark slowly, they’re going to bite gods. When they bark neither quickly nor slowly, they’re going to bite spirits. From this barking, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, sometimes neither quickly nor slowly, what is going to get bitten?”

“It might be a dead person!” Ruan Zhan said. “Let me go take a look. You guard Xiao Xia.”

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