It was time for the Lunar New Year’s Eve, and I ordered in advance a table of food, inviting Yin Xinyue, Li Mazi, Chu Chu, and Li Meng for the year-end, reunion dinner.
Li Mazi was a little touched. To him, this was the time he had looked forward to.
Since he was happy, he drank more. His eyes turned red.
Although Li Mazi was smiling, I knew he was hiding his grief.
When he went to the toilet, I discreetly followed him. I saw him squatting and crying there.
“Chu Chu’s body is getting worse. She often coughs blood at night. I’m afraid Chu Chu won’t be able to handle it…” Li Mazi told me.
I remained silent. Chu Chu’s situation became this serious?
I didn’t know how to comfort Li Mazi. We puffed a box of cigarettes before returning to the table to continue drinking.
When we were about to finish dinner, someone chanted, “Merciful Buddha!”
I was happy to see that Zen Master Baimei and Chuyi had come!
Zen Master Baimei smiled kindly, as usual. “I planned to spend the Lunar New Year all alone and couldn’t get over my loneliness. Now I see that all of you are celebrating here happily. Could I join as well?”
I was very excited and invited Zen Master Baimei and Chuyi to their seats. I wanted to open a new bottle to drink with them.
What a pity, though! Zen Master Baimei was a monk and Chuyi was a Daoist priest. They didn’t drink liquor.
They had two cups of jasmine tea and enjoyed their drinks.
Yin Xinyue and Chu Chu also had a cup of liquor. Their faces blushed, which made them look more charming than usual.
Since they were tipsy, I asked Li Meng to take them home first.
I knew Zen Master Baimei and Chuyi came to us for some business. Perhaps it was related to the Night Dragon Bait!
After the three left, I couldn’t help but ask Chuyi, “Do you know where the Night Dragon Bait is?”
He pondered for a while then said, “How long has it been since the event?”
While I was counting my fingers, Li Mazi blurted, “Five months and seventeen days.”
Li Mazi has been counting the days?
"I see." Chuyi just nodded.
Li Mazi was worried. “Why do you ask? Is it about the time Chu Chu has left?”
Chuyi hesitated for a while then glanced at Zen Master Baimei.
Zen Master Baimei smiled and lifted his cup of tea. He drank then poured himself more tea. “Benefactor, you don’t need to worry. We’re here to tell you an important clue regarding the Night Dragon Bait…”
I looked at Li Mazi with excitement. His hand trembled as he held his chopsticks.
I immediately asked Zen Master Baimei, “Zen Master, since we’ve got the clue, we should quickly depart! Chu Chu won’t be able to handle it for a long time!”
Zen Master Baimei sighed and said, “It’s a perilous place. Even if Chuyi and I go there, I’m not sure if we can return in one piece. If we bring you all together, I’m afraid there will be more bad luck than good luck.”
Li Mazi slammed his chopsticks on the table. “Zen Master, you don’t need to tell me that. Just tell me the destination. I’m going there alone.”
Zen Master Baimei asked, “Do you know the Ghost Market?”
I was bewildered. How could the Night Dragon Bait be related to the Ghost Market?
I knew the Ghost Market. When people mentioned the words, “Ghost Market,” it could be one of two meanings.
The first, it was some illegal street market. It was illegal because there were vendors of all kinds that sold antiques robbed from graves or treasures of unknown origin. To avoid the police, they decided to open their stalls late at night. That was why such markets were called, “Ghost Markets.”
The second meaning referred to something much scarier. It was a market for ghosts, run by humans. If you gave the ghosts some goods, the ghosts could bestow longevity or reveal some secret information.
The most famous markets of this kind were Fengdu’s Ghost City in Chongqing and the Old City God Temple in Shanghai.
I then said to Zen Master Baimei, “I know something about Ghost Market. Isn’t Fengdu’s Ghost City rather famous? Every year, when the ‘gates of hell’ open, many people go there to do secret transactions with ghosts.”
Zen Master Baimei shook his head. “The real Ghost Market doesn’t have a fixed location. It will randomly appear everywhere around the country. Every time it opens, it lasts for only one week. After one week, you will have to wait for the next year…”
"This time, we happen to know that the Ghost Market will appear in Wild Dog Mountain Ridge. The reason why the Ghost Market is appearing there this time is because some folks there had dug up a dragon horn with heavy negative energy. I suspect that the dragon horn is the Night Dragon Bait as only such an item has the ability to attract the Ghost Market.”
I looked pensive and nodded. “The Wild Dog Mountain Ridge? It’s around three hundred kilometers outside a small tourist area, right? I often drive on the freeway through there and see the sign board that says, Wild Dog Mountain Ridge.”
Zen Master Baimei nodded. “Right, that’s it.”
“Zen Master Baimei, do you have any plan?” I asked.
Zen Master Baimei sighed. “The place seems to have many beautiful sceneries, but it’s actually extremely perilous. We must explore it well! You two should accompany us. In case we encounter some danger, just help us from the sidelines. But if everything is fine, you could enter with us.”
I agreed with Zen Master Baimei. “Excellent. Zen Master Baimei, when will we go?”
After discussing, Li Mazi and I went home to notify Yin Xinyue and Chu Chu.
As soon as Yin Xinyue heard that I was going to the Ghost Market, she was excited. I guessed she couldn’t wait to go there and widen her horizons.
Chu Chu, however, was sad because she didn’t want Li Mazi to go.
After all, she was an expert. She knew how dangerous the Ghost Market was!
But Li Mazi had made up his mind. How could he stay home, after he had already decided to go?
Chu Chu couldn’t persuade him. Eventually, she agreed to let Li Mazi go. Yin Xinyue repeatedly asked me to take a lot of photos for her.
I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. Take a lot of photos… Does she think that I am going on a vacation?
After bidding them farewell, we got in the car.
We didn’t talk on the way there. After we got out of the freeway to Wild Dog Mountain Ridge, we saw a majestic mountain.
People called such a high mountain ‘ridge’. I wondered if there was any special reason behind it.
When we stopped by the foot of Wild Dog Mountain Ridge, we got a better view of the place. It was full of scrubs and thorns. This was very typical for a wild mountain. A layer of mist capped the mountain, which gave it a mysterious aura.
The temperature at the foothills was a little low. Chilling wind blew past us. I was a little regretful that I didn’t bring thick clothes with me.
“Where’s the Ghost Market?” asked Li Mazi.
Zen Master Baimei said, “When we go through Wild Dog Mountain Ridge, we’ll see a village surrounded by mountains. The terrain is quite similar to a small basin, and the village is situated right in the center of the basin. As such, all the negative energy surrounding it can follow the ridge and enter the village. That’s why we can feel this shocking negative energy, even at ten miles away! That is also the reason I suspected that the Ghost Market could open in the village.”
“Then we should go in.” Li Mazi couldn’t wait anymore. “I saw a road over there.”
Zen Master Baimei shook his head. “I think you two should wait outside. Chuyi and I will find the way. That small trail is the path the villagers follow to exit the ridge. We can’t go that way. Otherwise, we’ll be at risk of exposing ourselves.”
“You mean we have to get in there sneakily and not let the folks see us?” I asked.
Zen Master Baimei nodded. “Yes, it's a top secret mission. If I’m not wrong, an abnormal phenomenon has started to appear in the village. If they see strangers coming, they will be cautious.”
We had discussed things for a while but Li Mazi was resolute about going in. He didn’t want to stay and wait.
He was worried that Zen Master Baimei and Chuyi wouldn’t try hard enough to find the Night Dragon Bait.
Eventually, I suggested that we could pretend to be some travelers in order to explore the place. It would be good if we could back each other up.
After we sorted things out, we didn’t linger any longer. Chuyi took the lead and opened a path between the thorns and scrubs. With some difficulty, we climbed up the Wild Dog Mountain Ridge!Previous Chapter Next Chapter