Chapter 71 Because We Were Family 8
Witch Yan added more rice to the screen little by little. She did not stop until the color of the rice she added to the screen remained white.
"Sister, what's wrong?" I asked.
Witch Yan shook her head and looked at me. "It’s more serious than I thought. You need to go back to that place as quickly as possible in order to solve the problem.”
When my mom heard that, she exclaimed, "Impossible! Whatever this thing is will follow you home."
Witch Yan turned to me and said, "It will never stop bothering you if you don't go. You won't be lucky forever."
My mom stayed silent, but her expression remained troubled. I understood what I had to do. I had to go back to the room that had been set on fire. Like Witch Yan said, I would not be lucky forever, so I had to try to deal with this problem before my luck ran out.
“Mom, she’s right. I have to go,” I said, as my mom wiped her tears angrily. I wasn’t sure if she was mad at me for agreeing to leave or at Witch Yan for suggesting it.
Witch Yan stood at the altar for a long time, then she turned and began to fill my sack with more of the ash-stained rice. My mom also helped her, glancing between me and the sack repeatedly. It seemed as though she wanted to pick up both me and the sack and run far away.
We ate dinner together, and I felt as though I was having my final meal. Nobody spoke, and my mom continued to silently cry. After we finished, while my mom removed my plates from the table, I discussed my plan with Witch Yan. Before going to the burned-down house, I would go to the Ghost House to see if I could find Lulu and Xiao Lingdang. I was especially concerned about Xiao Lingdang. Where had she gone last night after she misled the police?
My mom begged Witch Yan to go with me, but Witch Yan and I both refused her request. It was more important to keep Mom and Xue’er safe, so I wanted Witch Yan to stay here with them. After all, they did not have much else to protect them. Mom promised that she would pick up Xue’er from boarding school so that they could stay together while I was gone.
Soon it was time to leave. My mom held my hand tightly and expressed her concerns, but she eventually let me go. She and Witch Yan waved from the doorway as I got into the taxi to head to the Ghost House.
The Ghost House was open. I checked the time; it was open earlier than usual. I ran into Sister Hua, who asked me to go to the office after I was done with my personal matters. Judging by her reaction, I thought that she must know something about why I was here, but before I had a chance to ask, she had walked away.
Lulu stood in front of the counter as usual, but Xiao Lingdang was nowhere to be seen. As I approached the counter, I smiled at Lulu, but she glanced down at my bracelet and then frowned.
Is the bracelet so important to her that she sees it before she sees me? I thought. Well, I still need it for now. It had saved me today, and I would need all the help I could get.
"Lulu, why did you disappear last night?" I asked in an attempt to shift her gaze from my wrist.
Lulu instantly blushed, and then she suddenly seemed angry. "Did you misunderstand? Fine, here it is. I left early because I didn’t want to spend the night with you.”
Lulu’s words shocked me. Did she mean to imply what it sounded like she was implying? I’d never touched her or even tried to. Besides, even if I had wanted to, she was obviously very powerful, and here at the Ghost House, there was always this giant counter between us.
Lulu seemed to realize that she’d gone too far. She turned around and pretended to be busy with something.
Although I was curious about where Lulu had really gone last night instead of leaving with us, I didn't ask. It was hard enough to have a civil conversation with Lulu, let alone when she was in whatever mood she was in now.
Suddenly, Xiao Lingdang appeared and I rushed to her side.
As I approached, Xiao Lingdang looked happy to see me, but then suddenly she looked as distressed as I felt and said, "Brother, where did you go last night? I looked for you for a long time, but I couldn’t find you anywhere."
I was stunned. I had stayed in that room last night, hadn’t I? It shouldn’t have been hard for her to find me. Suddenly the phrase "parallel universe" flickered into my mind. I shook my head. Things felt supernatural lately, but we weren’t living in a science fiction novel.
Xiao Lingdang started describing her experience last night after we parted ways. After drawing the police away, she had come into the room, but I wasn’t there. She had been afraid to leave in case I came back, so she stayed until it was daytime.
From Xiao Lingdang’s description, I knew we had been in the same room. Everything she described matched what I had seen the night before. However, Xiao Lingdang hadn’t seen the book, and she hadn’t looked under the desk so we were unable to confirm whether or not the mirror had been in the room with her.
I quickly told Xiao Lingdang about my experience, and about the fake Xiao Lingdang. She listened intently, occasionally gasping out in surprise.
When I was finished, both of us went silent. Something strange had happened last night. It would have been perplexing enough if we were both human, but Xiao Lingdang was a ghost. What kind of situation can stump a ghost?
Parallel universe? Religious rights? The gods? Is this all because of other ghosts…?
As we sat deep in thought, a sound clanged behind us and Lulu shouted, “Come on! It’s late. How can I serve these dishes if you’re in my way?”
Xiao Lingdang and I turned around at the same time to find Lulu holding a tray and wearing an angry expression. Typical Lulu. Xiao Lingdang and I both stood up, and it seemed that we had decided without speaking to go together tonight. We grasped hands for moral support and set out. Neither of us believed that the house could be that supernatural, but neither of us were very excited to go back either.
I said goodbye to Sister Hua on our way out, then Xiao Lingdang paused to look back. I asked her curiously, "What's wrong?"
Xiao Lingdang shook her head with a smile but didn't answer. Instead, she pulled on my hand and began running forward in the direction of the burned-down house.
In the dark, the caved-in house looked like a huge, gaping mouth. This time, Xiao Lingdang did not need to mislead the police. She created an illusion to prevent anyone from disturbing us, and then she pulled me inside.
I wish I could tell myself that last night had been an illusion, I thought.
The air outside was hot, but the muggy air inside the house was so much worse. The smell was terrible as well; the stench of the ash and rotting house combined with the dampness from standing water was almost intolerable. I covered my mouth and nose with my sleeve and slowly walked hand-in-hand with Xiao Lingdang.
The headlamp I wore was bright, bouncing light off of various surfaces in the room. I could almost distinguish the silhouettes of the ruined furniture. However, the light from my lamp only extended so far. In the back of the room, everything remained dark.
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