Ch55 - Exchanging Lives
(One Dead, One Alive)
Shen Dongqing placed the notebook on his lap and used his ice cream card to retrieve one raspberry-flavoured ice cream.
As he lapped at his sweet treat, he lowered his head to read the thick notebook.
【 Mommy went crazy, Mommy keeps saying older sister is looking for Mommy 】
【 But Daddy says I don’t have an older sister 】
【 …… 】
【 Dong—— Mommy is gone 】
The person writing in the notebook was quite young, and the diary were mere babbles of disconnected phrases which made it quite messy.
Shen Dongqing was looking through the rows of sentences when he suddenly felt one of his shoulders sink, and a light and refreshing water vapour assaulted his senses.
Zhou Wenyan ran his fingers through the damp hair on his forehead as he asked: “What are you looking at”
Shen Dongqing handed him the notebook.
Bending his legs, Zhou Wenyan sat by his side and skimmed through the contents recorded in the notebook.
Then, he flipped to the first page again.
A name was written behind the front cover of the notebook.
Shen Dongqing leaned over: “I wrote it”
Zhou Wenyan traced the three crooked characters that spelled out “Shen Dongqing” and said: “It’s a roleplaying mode.”
In this mode, a player’s identity was integrated and became a part of the copy.
It was also why a “Shen Dongqing” memorial tablet and notebook had appeared.
With his identity, he was supposed to be in the same camp as the NPCs to begin with.
Zhou Wenyan shook the notebook and a picture fell from it.
The photograph was in black and white with yellow tinging the edges, and a family of four could be seen.
The woman’s facial features were blurred and she was holding onto an older boy’s hand with one hand while she carried a younger boy in the other.
Beside her stood a strict-looking man.
The words “Daddy, Mommy, Older Brother, and Me” were written in the same childish handwriting at the back.
Shen Dongqing pointed at the older boy and said: “Is that you”
Zhou Wenyan hummed, “Yes.”
It seemed like the SB game was quite conscious about the details, since it had even modelled how he looked like when he was young.
Shen Dongqing stared at it for a while before he stated, “Doesn’t look like it.”
To that, Zhou Wenyan casually asked: “Have you ever seen me as a child”
Shen Dongqing did not speak.
He certainly did, but that occurred in the dream with the yin marriage.
If he were to say it out loud, he could no longer conceal the matter of the yin marriage.
Furthermore, he did not know how to lie, and his attempt to suppress himself caused his cheeks to flush slightly.
Underneath the candlelight, Zhou Wenyan felt that those cheeks, which resembled sweet and succulent peaches, were extremely alluring and it made him want to taste it.
Since the thought occurred to him, he acted accordingly. Bending down, he nibbled his cheek lightly.
Shen Dongqing: “Ngh!”
Zhou Wenyan let him go and chuckled, “How sweet.”
It was sweeter than ice cream and candy combined.
Shen Dongqing rubbed the faint bite mark on his cheek and his eyes shifted before he directly threw himself into his arms.
“I want a bite too.”
In a moment, the two of them rolled together.
Zhou Wenyan pressed down Shen Dongqing’s hand and said hoarsely, “Babe, don’t touch.”
Shen Dongqing ceased his movements.
He was currently straddling Zhou Wenyan’s waist and he lowered his head to look at his partner in a slow-witted manner.
After exhaling a deep breath, Zhou Wenyan smiled bitterly, “Don’t think of me as too much of a gentleman.”
Following Zhou Wenyan’s gaze, Shen Dongqing looked down and saw a response that was not quite suitable for children.
As thought he had been scalded by the realisation, he swiftly scrambled to a corner.
As he hugged the blanket, a blush rose up his white jade dumpling-like earlobes and his distinctive pupils became watery as he sneaked glances in Zhou Wenyan’s direction.
Zhou Wenyan was not a gentleman but he was not a beast that was controlled by the lower half of his body.
And with their present circumstances, he could not possibly…
Zhou Wenyan let out a soft huff before he sat up and coughed twice.
He said: “Let’s sleep first.”
This sentence posed some problems.
Shen Dongqing blinked at him owlishly.
Zhou Wenyan raised his hand.
“Purely sleeping, I won’t do anything else.”
It was only then that Shen Dongqing slowly moved over and extended his hand to give him half the blankets.
We’re sorry for MTLers or people who like using reading mode, but our translations keep getting stolen by aggregators so we’re going to bring back the copy protection.
If you need to MTL please retype the gibberish parts.
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“Older brother, come here ah.”
“Me and mommy are waiting for you.”
Shen Dongqing flipped his body over and swatted outwards as he muttered: “So freaking noisy…”
If they disturbed his sleep again, he was going to directly swallow all those little ghosts.
The figures hiding in the dark felt the breath of danger and shrank back, no longer daring to disturb his sleep.
They slinked away silently and went to find another target.
Their slumber lasted until late noon.
Before Shen Dongqing woke up by himself, he heard someone knocking on the door multiple times.
Annoyed, he opened his eyes and happened to see the Besuited Uncle burst through the door.
When the Besuited Uncle saw the scene on the bed, he subconsciously said: “Sorry, I went to the wrong door.”
Shen Dongqing lowered his head.
Zhou Wenyan was sleeping by his side and his shirt buttons were undone, revealing a large portion of his chest.
To say that it was a cause for misunderstanding was not exactly wrong.
Zhou Wenyan rasped out from his throat: “What’s the matter”
The Besuited Uncle did not dare to turn around and he talked with his back facing the pair.
“There’s two people who went mad, and they’re insistent about going out…”
Zhou Wenyan flipped his body off the bed and started buttoning his shirt as he was walking.
“Let’s have a look.”
The other players stayed next door.
Probably because they were afraid, JK Belle disregarded the differences between men and women and chose to sleep together with the rest in the same room.
When they stepped in, JK Belle and Hipster’s eyes were staring straight ahead and they had the appearance of people who had lost their capacity for clear thinking as they persisted in leaving.
Thankfully, Leathered Man had a flexible mind and he used the blankets to tie the two together.
Leathered Man said: “I realised that they were being off-kilter even before we went to sleep.”
Meanwhile, Hipster and JK Belle were muttering under their breaths: “I want to go out, go out…”
The Besuited Uncle said: “Go where”
Zhou Wenyan said: “The pond.”
Leathered Man mulled over what he said for a moment.
“This little girl didn’t go into the water, but both of us were fine even though we went into the water.
Why are they the ones afflicted with something”
Besuited Uncle gave a pause before he said: “Could it be attributed to the fact that they’re both female”
Zhou Wenyan: “Female” He looked at Hipster.
Besuited Uncle blushed: “When I was stopping her just now, I accidentally touched her, Hipster is female.”
The bones buried in the pond belonged to the female gender.
And the entranced players were both female.
Zhou Wenyan turned his body.
“We’re going to the ancestral hall.”
Plan in mind, Zhou Wenyan brought the slightly drowsy Shen Dongqing to the ancestral hall once more.
Having done it once, the pair flipped over the enclosure wall with ease.
And because the lock on the doors had been pried open last night, the two huge and hinged doors were swaying and creaking with the wind.
The ancestral hall in daytime was less ghastly than how it was last night.
Shen Dongqing pushed open the door and walked in.
Owing to the fixation Hipster had with regards to the memorial tablets, their attention had been focused on the memorial tablets last night.
However, now that they were back again, they noticed other details.
The ancestral hall’s floors were constructed out of slab stone tiles, and when they borrowed the light from the candles, they could see that there were some brown matter between the cracks.
Zhou Wenyan walked towards the deep darkness by going past the candle stands placed at each side.
Shen Dongqing looked left and right before he followed after him.
As he was walking, however, he accidentally bumped into something at the side, which caused the candle stands to fall like dominoes with audible thuds.
Instantaneously, the dark red candle wax scattered in all four directions on the slab stone floor and it lit up with tongues of flames.
In order to ensure that the ancestral hall did not burn down, Shen Dongqing quickly picked up the praying mat and pressed it on the fire to extinguish it.
The number of candle stands that had dropped were far too many and it took a long while before they stopped issuing clattering and rolling noises.
Seeing that the fire was not going to rise again, Shen Dongqing stood up and tossed away the praying mat.
With that one toss, he discovered a place that was not right.
The sound was not right.
It seemed like it was hollow below.
Shen Dongqing went over to step on it twice.
“It’s hollow underneath.”
Hearing what he said, Zhou Wenyan crouched down and felt around the ground before he found a groove.
Following, it only required some strength on his part to lift the slab stone tile up and reveal the deep and dead silent passageway beneath.
It seemed like it had not been opened for a long time and a disgusting smell floated out of it.
They waited for the smell to scatter slightly and allowed the fresh air to enter before they shuffled into the passageway with the remaining lit candle holders in hand.
The stairs led downwards continuously and it did not take long for them to reach the bottom.
Below was a basement that was not large in area.
Shen Dongqing raised his candle, using the faint light to examine the space, and he noticed that walls were nailed with chains upon chains of shackles.
Zhou Wenyan lit up the oil lamps present in the basement and their surroundings brightened in an instant.
Shen Dongqing moved closer and saw that the shackles were stained with blood, and there were some clothes in a disorderly mess on the ground which he ascertained were made for women and they ranged from old to new.
“What are these for” Shen Dongqing was confused, “Could this be the place where they carry out illegal punishments”
Meanwhile, Zhou Wenyan was searching the basement and he found a piece of white paper hidden in the wall.
There were small words written with charcoal on it.
【 They deceived me and brought me here, they’re all demons! 】
【 I’ve already been trapped here for three months, if you see this piece of paper, I hope you can find my family and ask them to come and save me, my family’s address is…… 】
【 I was… there was so many people…… I gave birth to a daughter, she’s very cute, it’s not her fault 】
【 For my child, I should live on 】
【 He took away my child 】
【 I gave birth to a son again, I don’t even know whose it is, they finally let me out, but where’s my daughter 】
【 My daughter is looking for me… I have to go and find my daughter…… 】
Zhou Wenyan kept the paper away: “Go up.”
Shen Dongqing: “What did you find”
Zhou Wenyan: “Some terrible things.”
This basement was used to trap the women that were kidnapped and sold to them.
They shut them in and then they raped them to give birth to their progeny.
As Zhou Wenyan climbed up the stairs, he said, “I think we have to question Uncle He again when we go back.”
Uncle He was getting on with his years and he did not take well to scares.
As he trembled and shook, he said: “I already said I don’t know, the custom of giving the ghost bride offerings has been passed down for a long time, I don’t know anything else apart from this.”
Zhou Wenyan pulled over two chairs and the pair sat down successively.
His legs overlapped and he said: “You don’t have to be so nervous, we just want to talk about some domestic trivialities.”
Feeling doubtful, Uncle He looked at both of them warily.
After all, judging from their posturing, they did not seem like they were here to discuss domestic trivialities.
Zhou Wenyan wore a kind smile.
“Of course, if you don’t know, I’ll send you to the ghost bride.”
The wrinkles on Uncle He’s visage quivered thrice in fear.
“You can ask, please ask.”
Zhou Wenyan said: “How did I come to Four Water Village”
In this copy, all the players had roles to play, and it became the game’s duty to give them complete identities which included details like where they came from, where they went, how many people were in their family, so on and so forth.
Uncle He looked like he was trying to recall it as his tone of voice became rather uncertain.
“Back then, we didn’t know that she was already pregnant, and we bought….
Brought her back.
Six months later, she gave birth to you.
You’re not a person from our village.”
For the same reasons, Zhou Wenyan could leave Four Water Village.
Zhou Wenyan said: “How much money did you spend to buy her back.”
Uncle He blurted out: “Four thousand, it was a large sum, normal women usually cost two thousand only.”
He only came back to himself when those words left his mouth and he continued awkwardly.
“It’s like this, we’ve always been like this in the past.
No one was willing to marry over so we could only rely on buying wives.
But wives aren’t easy to buy either, a family can’t buy them if they’re poor and they have to stay bachelors for life like me, which is why I treat the second young master like my own child.”
Uncle He gazed at Shen Dongqing.
Shen Dongqing looked away in disgust.
Zhou Wenyan: “Why did all the female children here die prematurely”
Uncle He rubbed his hands.
“Female children huh, who doesn’t like male children We were poor back then and we could not afford to raise so many children so we could only raise the male children or else incense fire will be broken.”
“Don’t you think that way too” Uncle He repeated the same thoughts, “Who doesn’t like male children I like them too ah, the incense fire cannot be broken.”
Shen Dongqing rolled his eyes, “Isn’t it the same when you die”
Why was he more feudalistic than a millennium old ferocious ghost like him
Uncle He seemed to be captivated as he stared at Shen Dongqing fixatedly.
He said: “Second young master, you are our Shen Family’s sole incense fire now, you’re not allowed to die.
The memorial tablet can no longer cover the ghost eyes, you have to make him your substitute, or else…… the women in the pond will come up and demand for your life……”
Shen Dongqing retrieved the memorial tablet he had hidden in his bosom: “This is actually fake”
It seemed like there was such a method.
If a person’s day of death was around the corner, they could carry a fake coffin to the burial place and accompany it with a cenotaph to deceive the eyes weakened by yin and make them believe the person had already died, thereby stealing back a life from subordinates of Yama, the King of Hell.
And this erected memorial tablet was to make the ghosts assume that this person was already a ghost.
Therefore, under the circumstances where he did not have the memorial tablet, Shen Dongqing could not leave the Shen Family compound, or else he would trigger the ending of total obliteration.
Once he saw that memorial tablet, Uncle He’s expression became increasingly deranged, “Yes, you can’t let them know, or else Shen Family’s sole bloodline will be broken…”
Shen Dongqing: “Why”
Zhou Wenyan made a conjecture: “Perhaps it’s related to the female children who died young.”
Uncle He mumbled: “Because you were exchanged for with their lives!”
By virtue of the fact that Four Water Village was located in a remote place, travelling was inconvenient and they never had the chance for development.
In addition to their higher valuation for males and attaching lesser importance to females, the village gradually only had bachelors left.
They abandoned female babies but they also wanted women to help them produce a male heir to continue the family line.
And that meant they only had one method, which was to go outside to buy women.
Some families took great pains to save up two to three thousand dollars and spent them all to buy a wife, and after buying a wife back, they trapped her in the basement for a period of time, knowing that she would become obedient once she was pregnant with a child.
As for the idlers who did not have money and only managed to accumulate a few hundred, they would ask their fellow villagers to rent them their wives and use the woman to produce a male heir to continue their family line.
How could a wife they spent money to buy back be considered as a human; they were commodities and they could be bought and sold.
Hence, no woman’s memorial tablet stood in the ancestral hall.
No one knew whose wife and whose mother these women were.
And much to their consternation, the wives that they bought back were nothing more than depreciating commodities, and there was even a household where the wife gave birth to four daughters consecutively but had no incense fire to speak of.
Among them, only the Shen Family bore a male child, and the people watching them became envious.
Following that, the people in the village went up to their door and asked what secret method they had used.
The Shen Family members did not hide the secret as they said with a smile: “Use the baby girl’s life to exchange it for a baby boy.”
Someone said: “What do we do if those baby girls want to report it to King Yama”
The Shen Family member replied: “As long as you stuff their mouths and cover their eyes, their mouths cannot speak and their eyes cannot see.”
The other people felt like what they said made a lot of sense so they went home to give it a try.
As expected, the male children in the village increased in numbers while the sludge in the pond became thicker and thicker.
The indigenous people in the village were afraid of the pond because the people buried in there were their older and younger sisters who had died prematurely.
A life exchanged for a life.
One dead, one alive.
The people in this village should not have existed at all.
Shen Dongqing still did not understand: “Then what’s going with the ghost bride”
“It’s not a yin marriage,” Zhou Wenyan explained.
“Because their lives have been exchanged, they need to retrieve that life back in order to reincarnate.”
There was no yin marriage from the start.
In the beginning, the indigenous people of Four Water Village had no choice; for the sake of survival, they could only use their own people as sacrificial offerings.
But later, outsiders arrived, and the indigenous people used the paper to cover the resentful ghost’s eyes, used the yin marriage as the lie and sent the outsiders up as offerings while ensuring that they would never guess the true story behind the disguise.
Shen Dongqing: “How did you know it wasn’t a yin marriage”
Zhou Wenyan touched on it lightly as he said: “Because I’ve been through one before.”
The procedures of yin marriage were not like this.
There was no possibility of someone dying in a union of yin.
Ferocious ghosts’ desire to possess was second to none; it would never hurt their own lovers and they would instead treat them like treasures and protect them carefully.
Shen Dongqing spat out unconsciously: “You knew about everything!”
He knew he was committing bigamy
No, no, this should be considered as having an extramarital affair
Shen Dongqing continued to apply all the knowledge he had learnt to the situation, and he was a little muddled as he thought: Am I really the third party here
Zhou Wenyan kneaded his palm as he tried to suppress his smile: “We’ll talk after we get out of here.”
Soon after, Shen Dongqing was pulled out of the Shen Family compound, and he could only make a conclusion at the end: “You scumbag!”