Author: 梦溪石 / Meng Xi Shi
Translator: Kinky || https://kinkytranslations.com/
Xu Wan also saw the woman’s strange walking posture, but to her, the less involved, the better. She pressed on Tongtong’s head to prevent her from looking back and whispered to Dong Zi, “Make sure your door is locked before going to bed.”
Dong Zhi nodded. “Xu Jie, you do the same. It’s not easy to go out with Tongtong. If you have anything urgent, just knock on my door.”
Xu Wan smiled warmly. “Thank you.”
Back in his room, Dong Zhi didn’t bother to pay too much attention to what he had just witnessed. He had encountered enough strange events along the way that the additional thing wasn’t too concerning any longer. He took out the yellow paper and cinnabar, mixed the cinnabar with mineral water, and began practicing drawing sunlight talismans.
According to He Yu, when blending cinnabar, mineral water was better than tap water because it contained more minerals and was closer to nature. Painting talismans was a method of communicating with heaven and earth as the talisman became the medium. Paper represented wood, which itself was also made of wood. The color yellow represented earth, which was located in the middle of the five elements* allowing it to draw in qi from the world. Cinnabar represented fire, and the water-adjusted cinnabar contained the attributes of water. Combined, it was almost a complete collection of the attributes of the five elements.
*The five elements are: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. See Kinky Thoughts for more details.
He Yu had told him that some would deliberately add gold powder to the cinnabar to make the five elements perfect, forming a complete cycle that intertwined and flowed endlessly, achieving the effect of subduing demons and spirits. However, he said this with such a goofy smile that Dong Zhi thought he was just pulling his leg.
Even now, Dong Zhi didn’t have much expectation for the effectiveness of talismans. He was more interested in drawing them. Due to his career and hobby, he purely equated drawing talismans to “completing a painting”. He thought there must be a unique charm to these things, considering the ancient Chinese talisman culture was able to spread and gain popularity even in today’s modern times.
The ancient ancestors had linked paintings with subduing demons and had put them into practice, and He Yu was the one who opened the door to this mysterious world for him.
He couldn’t control the excitement he felt. He drew hundreds of them with a single breath and then picked out the two most satisfactory, folded them into triangles according to the method he learned from He Yu, and put them in his pocket.
He looked at the time and saw that two hours had passed. Profusely sweating and gripped with hunger, it was as if he had just run a marathon. He thought to himself how lucky he was that he had bought some food back from the market. He cleaned up his tablet and then ate his salt and pepper duck tongue while playing on his phone.
He was about to take a shower when he heard a knock on the door. Through the peephole, he saw that it was Xu Wan. She was holding Tongtong with an embarrassed face.
“Xiao Dong, you haven’t slept yet, right? I want to go downstairs to buy something to eat. Do you mind watching Tongtong? I’ll be back in a few minutes, but I’m too afraid to leave her by herself.” Her tone was soft, as if hinting that it was fine for him to refuse.
However, this was such a low-effort task that Dong Zhi readily agreed. “Okay. Just let Tongtong stay with me for a bit!”
The two exchanged a brief greeting, and as Xu Wan was about to head out, a sudden noise of breaking glass was heard. Shortly after, there was a muffled sound, as if something heavy had fallen to the ground.
It was already past 10 PM, nearing 11, and the hotel was located in the center of the city, behind a commercial street. The hustle and bustle from the street could faintly be heard, but it wasn’t particularly loud, especially for those who were staying on the higher floors and had their windows closed.
Dong Zhi didn’t have his windows closed after he heard the muffled sounds, which were accompanied by screaming. The shrill screams penetrated the night and spread into the room, causing Dong Zhi to shudder.
He and Xu Wan glanced at each other before the two walked to the window and peeped down. They saw a person lying on the ground with a dark liquid slowly snaking out from under her head. Many onlookers had gathered around, but none dared approach. The sounds of sirens brought them back from their stupor.
Xu Wan covered her mouth in panic and stammered. “That person… She seemed to have jumped from the next room…”
Hearing her words and looking more closely at the body, Dong Zhi discovered that the person did look familiar. To validate his suspicion, he sent Xu Wan and Tongtong back to their room and went down to the hotel lobby to investigate.
News of someone jumping from the hotel quickly spread, and many people gathered around the entrance of the hotel. Most were guests, along with the hotel’s security guards and lobby managers. Everyone looked disturbed as chatter filled the area. The scene became chaotic as many guests went to the front desk asking to be checked out; the sudden influx of people overwhelmed the two front desk clerks.
Dong Zhi stood behind the crowd and looked towards the scene. Seeing that the clothes looked familiar, he instantly recognized that they belonged to the woman that he had passed by in the hallway earlier!
She had jumped from the 9th floor; one conspicuous red high heel was still on her foot while the other was scattered not far away. The blood had not yet dried as it faded slowly under the body of the deceased. Dong Zhi hurriedly stepped back and looked away from the uncomfortable scene. Involuntarily, his hand touched the sunlight talisman in his pocket. He wasn’t sure if it was due to his previous experience, but he felt that his emotions were relatively calm and he wasn’t scared.
The police quickly arrived on the scene and began setting up a cordon. They asked the hotel staff and guests to leave the premises and ushered everyone back to their rooms.
It would be too troublesome to change hotels as he plans to leave early tomorrow morning. As soon as he lay down, he heard a knock on the door. It was the police.
They had learned that the deceased was staying in the room next to his and wanted to inquire about the situation. Dong Zhi truthfully answered their questions and told them everything he knew, even the fact that they had run into each other in the corridor, and he found that the other party was behaving strangely. The police had told him he was not a suspect, as they thought the incident was related to a suicide, but they had to question him per routine procedure. They took down his phone and ID number and sealed off the victim’s room for investigation.
Not long after they left, Dong Zhi faintly heard the door of the next room being knocked on and guessed that they went to question Xu Wan.
He tossed and turned in bed for some time before falling asleep. He deliberately left the light on in the bathroom to give him a sense of reassurance. In the middle of the night, he slept in a daze, as he kept hearing the sound of water flowing from the bathroom, as if the faucet was turned on. He felt someone was standing by his bed, wanting to touch him but unable to, due to an invisible barrier. In the end, the figure stood there menacingly, glaring at him with eyes that were becoming more and more resentful.
Dong Zhi felt something in his heart, but his body was on the brink of exhaustion, so he couldn’t even open his eyes. Eventually, he lost consciousness and completely fell asleep.
When he woke up the next day, the first thing he did was reach for the talisman in his pocket, only to find that it had been utterly scorched. This frightened him as the only plausible explanation was that something wanted to get close to him last night but was repelled by the talisman, resulting in its “sacrifice”.
Fortunately, he still had one left and quickly went to pull it out of his backpack. He wasn’t in the mood to laze around, so he packed up his luggage and went to check out. When he exited his room, he deliberately glanced back to the victim’s room, seeing that the door was closed and the area was tightly sealed off.
He wanted to check on Xu Wan and ask if they had encountered anything strange last night, but after thinking about it, he felt it would only trouble the other party. If Xu Wan had felt something was amiss, she would naturally have checked out and changed hotels.
The hotel was more experienced today due to last night’s incident. They quickly handled all the checkouts without any pushback. The number of security guards in the hotel lobby also increased from two to four, and they were guarding the entrance as they stared down reporters who wanted to interview guests and take photos.
When he left the hotel, he went straight to the train station. He was somewhat reluctant to take the train due to his previous experience, but the journey went smoothly without incident. In the evening, he arrived at Baihe station, which was commonly known as Erdaobaihe. He found a hotel nearby and rested for the night. Since leaving the previous hotel, all the strange events had seemed to disappear, giving him some semblance of relief.
Early the next morning, Dong Zhi found a group that was heading to Changbai Mountain and gave them some fare so he could carpool with them.
He sat down on a vacant seat near the back. The girl next to him took the initiative to greet him, and they exchanged a few words. Dong Zhi learned that her name was Zhang Xing and she had recently graduated from college. She had originally planned this trip with a friend, but that friend bailed at the last minute. Since the trip was already paid for, she decided to go on it alone. Fortunately, she met this group of young people and joined them, and the team leader also took good care of them.
Hearing her explanation, Dong Zhi realized that, besides him, everyone else in the car were members of a tour group that was preparing to go on an outdoor trip to Changbai Mountain.
The 5 Elements are part of the yin and yang philosophy and are interconnected. It’s usually used in divination for naming a person, in Chinese medicine, and in acupuncture. Each element has its own interaction with each other.
Wood promotes fire, fire promotes earth, earth promotes metal, metal promotes water, and water promotes wood.
Wood controls earth but is suppressed by metal, fire controls metal but is suppressed by water, earth controls water but is suppressed by wood, metal controls wood but is suppressed by fire, and water controls fire but is suppressed by earth.
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