Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
The procession soon entered the village, blowing the horns and banging the drums all the way forward, and at the front there were people scattering confetti. The confetti was fluttering, and a small piece was stuck to Shen Jize’s mouth. He couldn’t reach out to remove it, and couldn’t even move the corner of his mouth to help the confetti fall off by itself.
Along the way, all the houses were lit up, but no one came out, and no one looked out through the windows, so Shen Jize didn’t know if there was anyone in those houses.
The procession stopped in front of a brightly lit courtyard. The courtyard gate hung with red silk and red lanterns, showing what looked like a happy event. The drummer played a small section and then stopped and the surrounding area instantly restored its quiet.
But it was too quiet; in the entire village, there wasn’t even a barking dog, it was as quiet as a tomb.
“Drop the palanquin—” A hoarse, stereotypical voice sounded, and the black wooden palanquin was placed on the ground.
The door of the palanquin opened and a woman in a red dress with a red veil was helped out, stepping on the red carpet laid at the entrance of the courtyard and walking inside, followed by the groom’s official who kept a grin on his face from the beginning to the end.
“Hurry up and move, don’t stand still.” The middle-aged woman who had been following Shen Jize urged again.
Shen Jize carried the wooden box and entered the courtyard with the little girl. The moment he stepped into the courtyard, he was taken aback by the scene before him.
The courtyard had several square tables and each table had people sitting around them, densely filling the courtyard, and none of them made a single noise.
Shen Jize followed the slow pace, but couldn’t turn sideways to look at them. Only with the afterglow did he see them all sitting dully, the tables were set with wine and food, but no one said anything and no one moved their chopsticks.
Through the courtyard and into the house, there were two expressionless old men sitting in front of the hall, thin and withered like two old pieces of bark, without a trace of living energy, as motionless as clay statues.
The bride and the groom stood in the middle of the courtyard, and Shen Jize automatically walked to the left side, the girl beside him to the right and stood directly opposite him, while the others stood on both sides.
As if sensing his eyes, the girl slowly opened her blood-red mouth, and Shen Jize was so frightened that he averted his eyes in a panic before she could crack a smile.
“One bow to worship Heaven and Earth—” the shrill emcee shouted.
The bride and groom kneeled and bowed on the open ground.
“Second bow to worship the high hall—”
The two turned slowly again and knelt down to the two old men sitting in front of the hall.
Shen Jize saw that the bride’s movements between rising and kneeling weren’t very natural, as if her joints were rusted and had a stiff, stuck feeling. This time, after kneeling down and bending over, the groom stood up, she was still lying on the ground, the big red veil hanging on the ground.
The room was silent, the two old men and the groom maintained their original movements, only the middle-aged woman standing at Shen Jize’s side went up and held the bride’s arm to help her up.
Shen Jize heard a crunching sound, which came from the bride’s body.
Crack, crunch, creak.
Three crunching sounds connected.
Then he saw the bride’s head sagging, the red head fluttered to the ground, revealing her long hair and a broken neck.
Her head was hanging in front of her chest, with only a layer of flesh keeping it attached.
Shen Jize’s blood flowed backwards, and he wanted to scream and run, but his legs wouldn’t move, and he wanted to turn his neck, but his neck felt like it was welded to his shoulder, and he couldn’t turn even a bit.
Who will wake me up? Mom, Dad, Uncle, come wake me up! Let me get up and do my homework and go to the bathroom, do whatever I want.
Grandpa Cai, Lu Rong, wake me up, I’m in a nightmare…
The middle-aged woman holding the bride wasn’t surprised in the least, only holding her head in her hands. The emcee standing aside walked out, grabbed a handful of cooked rice from the rice bowl on the table, and walked back in.
The middle-aged woman pushed the bride’s head upward, her neck cracked, and the emcee applied the handful of rice to the broken bones and smoothed it out with his fingers.
Crack, clink, snap.
The bride turned her head and the fracture was no longer visible on her neck. The middle-aged woman picked up the red veil again and put it over her head.
Shen Jize watched the scene, although his heart was screaming and roaring, he couldn’t control his face to make any expression. He only looked a little pale, sweaty, and his teeth were chattering.
“The couple worship—” the master of ceremonies returned to his position to continue the unfinished program.
“The ceremony is complete—”
When the worship of heaven and earth was over and the bride and groom went into a side room, the middle-aged woman suddenly spoke, “Give the deed to the in-laws.”
Shen Jize didn’t understand what the deed was, but he understood the word in-laws. Before he could think about it, he saw the girl across the room walking toward the old woman sitting in front of the hall, and he himself walked uncontrollably toward the old man.
The old man’s two eyes were sunken into the dry flesh, illuminated by the overhead light, like two deep, dark holes. Shen Jize stopped in front of him, holding the wooden box in his hand and handed it up.
The old man hadn’t seen any movement since he entered the room, nor expression, and his chest was not rising and falling showing he was breathing. Just when Shen Jize suspected that this was actually just a sculpture, the old man suddenly reached out, his chicken claws like cold knuckles touching the back of his hand.
Shen Jize’s body sweat, trying to push the hand away. Luckily, the old man only rested on his for a moment before he took the wooden box and cradled it in his arms.
“In-laws, this gongzi is coming with us. From now on it will be the two of them accompanying you.” After handing over the wooden box in silence, the emcee, who had not said anything for a long time, spoke out again.
Shen Jize saw the old man open the wooden box, trembling to take out a yellow paper inside, but because the distance wasn’t very close, he couldn’t read the words on it.
The old man looked at the yellow paper for a moment and then looked at him again, and a dry, hoarse sound came out of his mouth, “Good.”
Shen Jize suddenly felt that something was wrong.
The old man’s look, and the emcee’s words that the two of them would accompany them from now on, made him feel that something was wrong, and a sense of foreboding rose in his heart. The old man took the yellow paper and faltered as he reached for the candle flame lit on the table, apparently wanting to burn it.
Shen Jize’s heart was beating fast, he subconsciously wanted to obstruct this action, but how could he when he couldn’t even raise his hand, and could only watch.
The yellow paper was getting closer to the candle flame, the old man grinned a toothless smile.
The emcee and the middle-aged woman also looked on, their faces still unimpressed, but their eyes shuddered with excitement.
The closed door of the courtyard was suddenly slammed open at this point with a loud bang. The door was smashed into pieces of wood and splattered in all directions, while a small white figure, already flying in.
Lu Rong had just entered the village when he found anomalies. If the village outside Uncle Bai’s breath was getting less and less, and the village had a bad odor; a faintly transparent fishy smell.
This was different from previous dreams, so he was on alert. He carefully searched the village to see if there were any light clusters, but was surprised to find that there were still people in the village, and they were all concentrated in one courtyard.
For the first time in all these years, he saw so many people in his dreams, except for Shen Jize last night. With his bag of clothes around his neck, he climbed under the fence of that house, wondering if he should find a place to become human first.
But he soon sensed that something was wrong, and when he looked in through a gap in the fence, the people sat in the moonlight as if they were stupid, motionless and silent with a meal in front of them.
Their faces were blue and black, and there were signs of decay; some places formed terrible holes, revealing white bones. They didn’t look like living people.
And those meals have long gone cold, and the soup bowls had a thick layer of white oil condensed on top.
Lu Rong dismissed the idea of turning into a human, as his front hooves were picking at the earthen wall, his round eyes staring through the gap, unblinkingly looking inside. The hair on his body blew up at the root, and a pair of nervous ears on his head twitched.
A mouse ran through the courtyard, it didn’t notice that these sitting were living creatures, following the aroma of the meal, climbing up the leg of a man’s pants, climbing to the chest and then pouncing on the table, eating up the food on those plates.
No one drove away the mouse and they continued to sit quietly with empty eyes. The observer, Lu Rong became more and more afraid, and wanted to leave quickly. At that moment, the sound of suona gongs suddenly came from the distance, and gradually approached, stopping at the entrance of the courtyard.
Lu Rong was about to leave when he saw a familiar face through the gap and stopped in his tracks in surprise. He didn’t understand why Shen Jize was among these people, and was wearing red clothes and a black robe, and his face was painted with two shades of red like the others.
Lu Rong found his appearance very funny, but the situation at hand made him laugh, Shen Jize was obviously also very scared, his eyes were terrified.
Lu Rong rolled his eyes and continued to stare at Shen Jize while he thought.
When both the men and Shen Jize entered the house, he was out of sight next to the fence, so he silently felt his way to the courtyard door, his buttocks puckered high, his front hooves down, and peered in through the doorway below.
The courtyard door was facing the house, where the door was wide open, allowing him to see everything inside clearly. When he saw that the bride’s head was going to fall off, Lu Rong’s two ears flattened back against the top of his head, and the little tail on his buttocks swished up toward the sky, stiff as a stick.
Grandfather! This is too scary.
He abruptly turned his head and walked out with his hooves up and down, wanting to get out of the village as quickly and as far away as possible. But after a dozen meters, remembering Shen Jize’s shaking like a pendulum, he hesitantly stopped his feet again.
There must be something wrong with the people there, all these demons that took Shen Jize.
This is your own dream, right? It should be a dream, right? Even if they were cooked and eaten in the dream, it wouldn’t matter, right? When I wake up from the dream, Shen Jize would still be lying in bed.
But what if it wasn’t a dream… What if he was eaten?
The strange smell in the air was getting stronger and stronger, too thick to be dispersed, with a pungent fishy and stinky smell.
——This must be the smell of demons.
The people inside were so scary, all demons, ah, they would also be caught and cooked together.
But that’s brother ah… Today he said he was his brother, and covered him.
Lu Rong was so torn up that he turned in circles in place, annoyed, trying to dig the dirt with his hooves. He had just lifted his foot, then remembered not to make a sound, and carefully put it down.
Lu Rong’s ears twitched, and as if enlightened, his entire deer body came to a halt.
Shen Jize said that he was a deer demon?
And, Sun Wukong would rush into the nest of demons to save his master and brother every time. Since he and Sun Wukong were in the same gang, he must also save his brother.
The title song of the Journey to the West echoed in his mind, and a feeling of pride surged up from his heart; Lu Rong’s whole body was instantly filled with power, and he felt that no more demons were in his eyes.
He jogged back to the courtyard door and stopped, took the bag off his neck and put it next to the door, stepped back, looked at the distance and continued to step back until he was a few meters away. Then he lowered his head, aimed his two small silver horns at the wooden door, bent his front hooves slightly and pushed off with his hind hooves, and charged straight out like a cannonball.
Under his strong impact, the wooden doors were fragile like paper mache, splitting into pieces and sending wood chips flying. He took advantage of this momentum to drum up, head down to follow a straight line forward.
Lu Rong’s four hooves cut streaks of shadow, Shen Jize only saw a white blur flash past, the old man across the table flew off the tai shi chair, hit the high corridor pillar, and then crashed to the ground.
One second the old man was holding a yellow paper to light it, the next second he hit the pillar and then landed on the ground, sending dust and ash flying up from off the ground, and then there was no sound.
The yellow paper he cupped in his hand fell from the air and into Shen Jize’s arms, disappearing instantly.
Shen Jize looked at the old man in disbelief, watching his entire body slowly shrink and dry out, his already thin body spreading into a human-shaped piece of paper, still covered with a loose black tunic.
Lu Rong hit the old man, a tail swing quickly turned around and crashed into the old woman next to him. He then tossed his head, his small silver horns facing up.
The old woman couldn’t dodge, watched herself being hit with great force, picked up and flew up in the air, not even a scream could be issued. She was still in the air, when her clothes fell one by one; the dark green satin shirt, hairpin, shoes… Followed by a human-shaped thin paper fluttering down.
Lu Rong froze, four hooves braked, thinking, ‘I am really Deer Wukong.’