Chapter 1: Restless paranormal activities
“East-wind!” Granny Liu picked up a tile and discarded it after a glance.
“Pong, Bamboo sets!” Grandpa Zhang grinned joyfully as he took the East-wind tile and place it in front of him, then he discarded the unwanted piece.
“You’re not done there, I’m just getting started. Hu, I win!” Grandpa Zheng, a butcher who sold pork all of his life in the market was always a loud talker. He took the East-wind tile from Grandpa Zhang and revealed all of his tiles.
As for me, I’m just keeping them company and gleefully watching them play Mahjong.
“Pay your dues, pay your dues!” After we checked Grandpa Zheng’s tiles, he stretched out his hand and asked for the ‘prize money’!
Next, paper monies were placed in front of Grandpa Zheng, each money had the face value of 10 billion. He happily took all the money and put into his bag.
“It’s time for us to leave now! Xiaofan, thank you for keeping us company.” Grandpa Zheng took a look at the clock and nudged Granny Liu and Grandpa Zhang. The three of them stood up and smiled at me with gratitude.
“It’s my pleasure to accompany my old neighbors.” Today is the last day of the Hungry Ghost Festival. The three of them had sneaked out from the opening gates of hell to the living world for leisure and for Mahjong while I hung out with them. Now, it’s their time to call off the game.
“Now, now!” The three of them took out the money they’ve won during the game and placed it in front of me. They nodded their head at me, indicating they were leaving.
“Xiaofan, build a family while you’re still young.” Granny Liu had always been kind to me before she joined the afterlife; even now, she sent her regards to me before she left.
I replied Granny Liu with my waving hands so that she knew I got her message.
My name is Cheng Xiao-fan. I have a foster dad named Cheng Zhen-yi. He found me when I was an infant, abandoned and nearly died. It was he who pulled me out of the hell’s gate. He owned a store for religious goods in town. You ask me what a religious goods store is? It is a shop for the deceased, selling some rituals incenses, funeral wreaths, offering mourning service for funerals and sometimes writing some eulogies. Nevertheless, he managed to make ends meet while taking care of an unfortunate soul – me.
Even though there were numerous religious goods stores in town, the demands were great as many people died each day. Thus, whenever someone died, business would come knocking at his door, customers were usually generous, rarely any of them haggled over prices. Despite being an owner, my foster dad moonlight as a Taoist. People who knew about this would sometimes invite him over to carry out rituals for funerals. No one cared whether it actually worked, they’re just seeking for closure. As time went by, my dad and his shop earned quite a bit of fame in town.
My foster dad took care of me as if I was his own flesh and blood, he passed on every knowledge he had to me like I was his only disciple. Twenty plus years, he never had his own family. Because, like what he always said, people in our line of work has five disadvantages and three lacking aspects in life; he didn’t want to involve others in it.
He was an owner, a Taoist, as well as a medium. Sounds complicated? A medium – it means a person who mediates communication between the deceased and the living. However, this world is about balance, where there are advantages, there must be disadvantages; the livings walks their worldly path while the deceased stays in the afterlife. As a medium, the disadvantage is a short lifespan. Thus, my father kicked the bucket before he hit 50, leaving behind his store for me so that I could survive.
Refer to what I’ve mentioned earlier, about the five disadvantages (widower, solitary, forsaken, forlorn, and infirm) and three lacking aspects (wealth, fortune, and dominance) in a Taoist life, my father had two out of those disadvantages, which led him to live a lonely life. And what he lacked in life was fortune and power, that’s why he didn’t want to build a family. I am a foundling; as such, I am destined to live a lonely life. Also I don’t have to worry about causing harm to any of my relatives. So, who is a better candidate than me to inherit his legacy? I owe my life to him. Thus, I’m fine with my inheritance.
“Look, a dimwit is waving his hand alone in the street!” It’s almost midnight now, the time for people my age depraved themselves in neon glamor and cheap prettiness of this city. In their language, depraved meant ‘Happy.’
A drunk woman who wore a mini skirt and a bra was throwing her arms around her partners and pointed her finger at me excitedly like she had found a new land. I slowly put down my arms, turned and took a glance at them then headed back to my shop.
“Hey, wreath guy, you saw a ghost, right? Tell your big sister here, what does it look like?” The woman saw me ignore her, she might have misunderstood me as those tolerant guys because the whole gang followed behind me. Their intention was obvious; they wanted to pass time by bullying the innocent in this long sleepless night.
“What are you guys doing wandering around the street at midnight? Let me see your ID!” A familiar voice rang out from the entrance; I frowned when I heard the voice. The one who entered the shop was the captain of crime squad Liu Jianjun. He often came to my shop to find faults and to harass me; perhaps it’s due to both of us never getting along, or some other reasons. Nonetheless, his presence today happened to resolve one problem of mine.
“Captain Liu, carrying out routine check again tonight?” I grinned at the uninvited Liu Jianjun and threw him a question. The gang had fled immediately after Captain Liu appeared. I am sitting in my shop, burning paper monies in a fire pit for the elderly trio, so that they could use it in hell. This was also why they didn’t take those paper monies with them.
“Help me. When it’s done, I’ll offer you my peace by spreading a feast for you. Otherwise, I’ll come every day to check on you.” Liu Jianjun was an interesting guy; the way he seeks for help is somewhat creative.
“Tell me!” I can’t help but giggle. I point to a chair where he could sit and tell me the rest of the story.
“I can’t describe it properly come with me if you are free.” Liu Jianjun rubbed his pale face as he spoke.
“Very well then. Let’s go!” Since there’s nothing to do; I decided to tag along, for good faith. Also, so that he might bother me less in future.
We rode on Liu Jianjun’s police car and reached a small neighborhood in half an hour. I followed him to a building, to his flat and when we entered his room, I saw an old lady in a living room eating a big bowl of whole chicken. “Who is she?” I asked.
“She’s my mother!” Liu Jianjun closed the door behind him as he replied softly.
“So, this is why you were looking for me. How can you be sure that I will solve your problem?” I asked Liu Jianjun while i gently cracked my finger joints to loosen up.
A spirit is possessing the old lady, controlling her body to stuff those chicken meats in her mouth relentlessly. If it kept on going like this, the old lady would eventually die. I mean, how big can a stomach expand? The old lady looks 60 something, how many elders in their sixties can devour a whole chicken? Furthermore, I’m afraid that she has eaten a lot of things even before I arrived.