Striving for ScienceChapters List
Chapter 10: Spicy Chicken
"I wandered in the realm of death for days, unable to enter the cycle of reincarnation. I couldn't see my wife and children again. Last night, I watched them suffer unjustly, yet I could do nothing." The man's voice trembled as he spoke, his eyes reddening, he couldn't cry any tears.
He looked up at Shen Changan and suddenly knelt down, seemingly about to perform the kowtow ritual of three kneelings and nine prostrations.
"Wait!" Shen Changan sidestepped, "Don't bring out such grand bows and rituals casually. I'm a good living person, can't afford this kind of salute."
"Sir, you're the one who helped me escape the realm of trapped souls. You're like my reborn parents. I should show my gratitude with this grand gesture."
"You sure have a way with words." Shen Changan chuckled and gestured towards the window saying, "You've thanked me already, so..." Can you let me continue to sleep?
"Don't everyone say that experts like you emphasize elegance?" The man looked a bit embarrassed and scratched his head, "Before coming here, I practiced reciting this speech for two hours."
Shen Changan thought, The ghost he dreamed of this time is quite sophisticated.
As he gazed at the man's sincere smile, a memory resurfaced: the previous night, when he escorted the mother and child home, he saw a posthumous photograph at their house. This man... bore an uncanny resemblance to the person in that picture.
Had his ideological awareness in the world reached such heights? Even dreaming is blended with reality, down-to-earth and unexaggerated?
Though... the presence of a ghost was already quite extravagant.
"Sir, you might not know, but ever since I died unexpectedly a month ago, I've been unable to leave the place of death. I've tried many methods, but whenever I got close to my home, my soul would uncontrollably drift back. It wasn't until last night that I followed you and, for the first time after death, entered my home."
Thinking about the desolate state of his home, the man bowed deeply to Shen Changan. "It's getting late, and I want to visit my wife by casting a dream for her, to tell her... to live a good life ahead. If she encounters a good man, she should remarry. If not, she shouldn't suffer. I've saved some money from working outside these years, enough for the mother and son to live comfortably for a few years."
Shen Changan looked at the intertwined emotions of reluctance and relief on the man's face. He looked down at his wristwatch and smiled, "Then you go quickly, it's almost dawn."
In tales of ghosts and spirits, when dawn arrives, their powers fade, and they can no longer influence humans.
He somewhat understood why he had dreamt of a deceased father visiting his wife and child: probably deep within him, he had also yearned for the existence of ghosts and deities, so that his parents could come back to see him.
But he had waited, from the age of seven to adulthood, and they had never returned, rarely even appearing in his dreams. Gradually, he realized there were no ghosts and spirits in the world, only the longing of living people for their departed loved ones.
"Goodbye, benefactor." The man insisted on performing the three kneelings and nine prostrations before Shen Changan, who evaded them. The man then bowed towards the inside of the window. Afterward, his figure dissipated into the darkness, leaving no trace.
The room became quiet. Just as Shen Changan lay back down, he heard a rapping noise on the window, prompting him to grab a pillow and throw it at the window, exclaiming, "Get lost, or I'll beat you to death."
The knocking stopped immediately, but it soon shifted to pounding the window, as if these ghosts were determined not to give up unless he opened the window.
"Damn." Shen Changan rolled over from the bed with a sullen face, and no matter what the hell was outside the window this time, he was determined to blow their heads off.
Peering out of the window, his brows furrowed.
Outside, a cluster of people with pale and slightly greenish complexions crowded around. Some were dressed in modern clothing, while some wore garments from the previous century. Noticing Shen Changan's gaze, they suddenly ceased pounding on the window and engaged in acrobatic performances.
An old man detached his own arm.
A woman twisted her head from the back to her chest.
A skinny figure, even more bizarre, twisted his head off, emitting a terrifying laugh.
Watching this spectacle with an indifferent expression, Shen Changan strode to the window, opened it, and grabbed the skinny figure that was laughing so horribly. In one swift motion, he hoisted him up and threw him to the ground, and the skinny ghost's head rolled off to the corner like a winter melon.
"I let you laugh weirdly… I'll let you pick your head off to play." Shen Changan held down the skinny ghost and began to beat him relentlessly. The head on the floor rolled around, gnashing its teeth and making strange noises. Its annoying sounds irked Shen Changan, so he bent down, picked up the head, and kicked it out the window. Then he turned and continued beating the skinny ghost.
After thoroughly thrashing the skinny ghost until his form nearly vanished, Shen Changan finally looked at the terrified ghosts outside the window and sneered, "Just weaklings like you! When I was six years old, I could handle five of you alone. It's not about any one of you specifically, but in my eyes, you're all just a bunch of spicy chickens."
The female ghost quietly twisted her head back.
The old man's ghost swiftly reattached his arm.
The others, who had been plucking out eyeballs and ears, reinserted their body parts. One long-tongued ghost's body trembled; unable to retract his extended tongue, he was forced to hold it with his hand and shove it back into his mouth, turning his face into a pumpkin.
"Spicy chicken!" Shen Changan snorted.
The assembled ghosts shivered in unison.
The atmosphere grew tense, then suddenly, a thick fog enveloped the scene outside. Shen Changan sensed something was off and instinctively tilted his head to the side, just as several long vines swooped in from outside, aiming straight for his throat.
Shen Changan's anger hadn't yet dissipated, and as the dream persisted, the last bit of his sanity also shattered. He reached out and grabbed the vines passing by in front of him, giving them a hard yank.
A bunch of green things were dragged in.
Green hair and green clothing—it turned out to be the little green-haired child he had seen in his dream last time.
Seeing his attack effortlessly dodged by Shen Changan, the child's eyes widened in terror. What sort of monster was this human? Not only did he exude an aura that attracted ghosts and monsters, but he also emitted a dazzling golden light of merits. If it weren't for his resentment that this human had taken away his little friend, he wouldn't have arranged for the ghosts and monsters in the neighborhood to frighten him.
What he never expected was that this human didn't even fear ghosts, treating them like ragdolls to be tossed around. In this situation, who between them was the ghost, and who was the human?
Raising his head to meet ShenChangan's eyes, the green-haired child trembled, "I-I'm just a kid, you can't hurt me."
"Heh." Shen Changan lifted him from the ground, put him on his knee, and smacked his ass with a resounding slap.
"Ow!" The child wailed, feeling as if it wasn't his bottom being hit, but his entire soul quivering. What was even scarier was that at the moment Shen Changan grabbed him, he felt as if his entire body had lost strength, leaving him utterly defenseless. Thus he could only let him do what he wanted.
"While I do tend to be lenient with kids, are you really a kid?" Another two slaps followed.
"Aaaww, ow, ow!" Tears streamed down the child ghost's face from the pain. "You told me last time that young children aren't held legally responsible, so why did the standard change when it came to me?"
"What are you thinking? Even if you're young, ghosts still talk about human rights, huh?" Shen Changan continued to deliver blows. In his over twenty years of life, this was the first time he'd heard a ghost talk about human rights in his dream.
"You, the villain! Miao Miao is leaving the city tomorrow, and all of this is your fault, yet you're still beating me!" Seeing that he couldn't break free no matter what, he simply gave up and vented his frustration, "Humans are much more detestable than ghosts."
"Why should I, alone, entertain the habits of you ghostly beings?" Seeing the green-haired child crying so pitifully, Shen Changan's anger diminished. He released his grip and put the child aside, saying, "We humans don't have a habit of running around in the middle of the night, knocking on other people's windows, or attacking them. Those who do such things end up getting caught by the police and thrown into jail."
Seeing that Shen Changan stopped beating him, the green-haired child ghost scrambled away and hid outside, and yelled at Shen Changan through the window: "Just wait, I will not let you go."
"Oh." Shen Changan rolled his eyes thinking how dare he be so arrogant in his dream?
"Do you know who's the big brother of our plant world?" The green-haired child stretched his neck and shouted, but upon catching Shen Changan's gaze, he quickly shrank back, "Our big brother is the Changan tree that's cultivated for five thousand years. Just one of his leaves could kill you."
Shen Changan clenched his fist. "Since you put it that way, I'd better kill you off first."
The green-haired child shrieked in fright. Suddenly, his green hair swelled dramatically, enveloping the trembling spirits in the corner, and disappeared out of the window in a puff of smoke.
Shen Changan peeked outside into the pitch-black darkness and closed the window with a loud bang.
The next morning, Shen Changan picked up his phone from the bedside table and found a message on WeChat.
Nian: Good morning.
He thought the other party might not respond, as a whole night had passed, but they actually replied to his message. He casually snapped a picture of the morning scenery outside the window and sent it over.
Changan: Good morning. The weather is lovely today.
Dao Nian stared at the photo on his phone screen for a while before speaking slowly, "Liu."
"Sir." Liu Mao swiftly came to Dao Nian's side, "What's wrong?"
Dao Nian glanced downward, and Liu Mao immediately understood. He glanced at the photo on the phone and furrowed his brows, "There are ghost handprints on the window?"
Dao Nian flipped the phone face-down, preventing Liu Mao from seeing further, "Check." He raised his eyelids, expressionlessly looked at him.
"It's this subordinates' incompetence, sir." Liu Mao's complexion turned pale instantly, and he could hardly stand still.
Tossing two pieces of "Millennium Ganoderma" that Grandpa Zhang had given him into the stainless steel thermos cup, Shen Changan came to the downstairs of the office at an unhurried pace. He noticed a group of people gathering around so he asked Ding Yang, who was standing by, watching the excitement: "Yang-Ge, what's going on this early in the morning?"
"When Director Du came to work this morning, he found that the tree in the courtyard had suddenly yellowed a lot of leaves so he asked the colleagues from the forestry bureau to come over and take a look." Ding Yang shook his head and sighed, "After all, it's nearly a century old, and it should be considered a protected plant."
Gazing at the old tree surrounded by forestry experts, Shen Changan felt something was off. Silently clutching his thermos cup, he dispelled his unexplainable sense of guilt. He turned to head upstairs.
"Mr. Shen." Sun Jia stood by the gate of the courtyard, holding a large suitcase, seemingly about to go on a long journey.
Seeing Sun Jia, Shen Changan recalled his dream from last night. "Mr. Sun, do you have a nickname 'Miao Miao'?"
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