Fang Guo was broad-hearted, and despite the initial hair-raising scare, yet the night passed, and he was still uninjured. The next day he left the ancestral hall, and even after attending Wei Wei’s funeral he did not see the ghost from that night again.
He relaxed then, roughly guessing that the ghost… was only taking a free ride.
Fang Guo stayed for two days in the village, and only on the third day he attended Wei Wei’s funeral.
The village was very ordinary in the daytime, filled with a hubbub of voices, with the villagers simple and unsophisticated. Only at night did the village become deathly silent, as if no one lived there.
Fang Guo enquired with a few of the village elderly, and the elderly told him that when someone died in the village, they could not make a hubbub at night, so as not to let the departed souls feel reluctant to leave the bustling noise of the mortal world, and refuse to enter the cycle of reincarnation.
Although it sounded quite superstitious, yet remote mountain villages always had several strange customs, and their talk of ghosts and gods were especially weird.
After enquiring Fang Guo said nothing more, only staying for three nights in the ancestral hall on his lonesome. On the first night there was still the driver and the other trio, but the other two nights saw him alone.
On the second day, Fang Guo went to visit Wei Wei’s house to pay his respects and was informed to attend the funeral on the third day.
On his return, he gave the class monitor a call, but could not get through.
A suggestion came that the phone number was out of credit.
Fang Guo frowned, finding it strange. Two days ago he had just phoned, thus the phone number could not have been suspended due to owing credit. Could it be that the phone was accidentally misplaced so the number was suspended?
Shaking his head, he decided not to think about it anymore if he could not puzzle it out.
It was just staying one more day, after attending the funeral he would leave immediately.
On the third day, Fang Guo went to attend Wei Wei’s funeral.
There were very few people at the funeral, only a few scattered here and there. There were almost no young people, and Wei Wei’s parents were burning joss paper, and a few strong men stood by the side waiting to carry the coffin.
Fang Guo finished offering incense, and raised his head to see Wei Wei’s monochrome portrait.
The Wei Wei in the portrait was pretty and young, her face not losing out to the hot stars of the time. With an elegant brow, that carried a hint of sorrow, she looked like the lilac girl in the rainy alley1.
She seemed to be only twenty-five this year.
What a pity.
All beautiful things seemed to invite pity and regret once they disappear from the world. Fang Guo too felt that it was a pity, a regret.
He retreated to the side, yet in his heart he did not feel surprised by the quiet funeral.
Since the deceased was too young, and usually would not have a grand funeral.
When Fang Guo was ten he had lived in the country with his grandmother, so he knew several customs about the deceased.
For those who died young, they could not have a grand funeral. It was feared that it would affect their fortunes in the next life.
For funerals like Wei Wei’s today, it was already considered grand. Usually they had to be buried immediately, and then make a plaque. It was fine to just make sacrifices once a year, for Wei Wei’s parents to even set up a funeral hall, to provide to people who came to offer condolences, could be said to be done grandly.
From the side he could also see the love and reluctance to part from Wei Wei’s parents.
For the white-haired to send off the black-haired, was in the end a tragedy.
Fang Guo had spoken a few words to Wei Wei’s parents, persuading them to restrain their sorrows, and after speaking and nodding, was at a loss on how to proceed.
Personally, he was not familiar with Wei Wei at all. Towards her sudden death he would feel surprised, regretful, but sad perhaps not much, since she was a stranger.
Yet what he did not expect, was that Wei Wei’s parents were very warm-hearted towards him. Although their expressions concealed their sadness with difficulty, yet when facing him, they had thawed considerably. When studying him, there was even satisfaction in their eyes.
This made Fang Guo uncomfortable for no specific reason.
Fortunately the study from Wei Wei’s parents did not last long, and soon, the coffin would be lowered into the ground and buried. A few strong men came and carried the coffin towards the mountain outside the village, with a few of the village elderly and Wei Wei’s parents following behind.
Fang Guo hesitated a few times, and was called. He raised his head, seeing the strong pallbearers and a few of the elderly sending off Wei Wei turning back together, eyes fixed on him.
They had no expressions, like human puppets, uniformly eyeing him.
Fang Guo got a scare, not daring to move.
For a long time, Wei Wei’s parents said something to him, and then did those people turn back, and continue towards the mountain.
Fang Guo’s paralysed body softened, and beads of cold sweat began to percolate on his forehead.
For some reason, he felt truly disturbed.
He encouraged himself in his heart, today was the final day. After coming down the mountain he would leave immediately, and never come back again.
When it came time to lower the coffin, the sky suddenly turned dark, as black clouds gathered, and a large flock of birds abruptly gushed out of the trees. It was a grand spread of black, with the details not quite apparent.
Fang Guo glanced at the sky, and quietly took out his cellphone to peek. He saw that there was only one bar left to his battery, no signal, and the time was 14:14 hours.
Numbers which appeared by too much of a coincidence would invite restlessness, yet the sunlight was strongest at two in the afternoon. For a person who had died so young, their resentment was heavy. Thus it was not good to be buried grandly, and their grave, and burial time had to find a fengshui master to pick carefully, and even the birth-times and zodiac sign of the pallbearers had a set criteria.
It was best to bury at two in the afternoon, so that it would resolve the resentment of the deceased. That at least the corpse would not transform.
The fengshui master tagging along shouted, and then the strong men worked together to lower it suspended. Inserting it vertically.
Reportedly the grave that Wei Wei would be buried in was a land of good fengshui, and many such lands such as the Dragonfly Point or the Dragon’s Eyes Point required a vertical burial. Only like this would it grant prosperity to the descendants, throughout the ages, and give them meteoric success.
This type of burial, was called a Ritual Burial.
They lowered the coffin, and covered the earth. The fengshui master yet arranged a few more things at the spot, as if arranging an array, sprinkling dog’s blood, scattering lime, and after all this performing another ritual.
Only then did he leave.
Fang Guo did not understand what array did the master make, yet out of instinct did not feel comfortable. Although he did not understand matters of yin and yang, yet he vaguely understood that scattering dog’s blood and lime outside a grave was not a good thing.
It was probably… used to suppress evil spirits.
Fang Guo walked at the back, and saw a few white-haired heads walking at the front, speaking with the fengshui master. From time to time they looked in his direction—no, probably in the direction of the grave behind him.
He looked again towards Wei Wei’s parents, and saw that the two elders had tranquil expressions, without the least bit of sorrow.
Fang Guo was rather surprised, previously he had seen, that the two elders had sad expressions, that even he felt pitiful for them on first sight. How is it that they had just completed the burial, that the feeling of sorrow was gone?
It was too strange.
Fang Guo shook his head, not intending to pursue the matter.
He tactfully declined a warm invitation from Wei Wei’s parents, not staying in their house, but returned to the ancestral hall, to spend another night there, intending to leave immediately once the bus came the next day. And then he would ask the class monitor, how was it that he was the only one who attended Wei Wei’s funeral.
It was too much.
That night, Fang Guo fell into a deep sleep. Yet in his daze he heard a lively sound, approaching from afar.
Suona, with gongs and drums clashing with noise, played joyful music.
The type of music playing during traditional wedding ceremonies sounded, cheerful and lively.
That song played until the doorway and then stopped, and Fang Guo sensed his door being pushed open, and then his body was being lifted up without obeying him. Someone was smearing on his face, and even changed his clothes.
Fang Guo wanted to open his eyes, yet they seemed to have been glued shut, and he could not open them no matter how much strength he used. Right then he was helped into an enclosed small space, which was completely red, the colour of joy.
The bride has entered the sedan—
Raise the sedan—
Fang Guo felt himself sway for a time, along with that noisy and joyful suona , and percussion music that started once more. He still could not open his eyes, and his consciousness was dazed, as if he was a half-conscious onlooker, viewing a pantomime.
He simply could not tell if what he was seeing was true or false.
After a long while, the music stopped, and the swaying stopped too. Fang Guo was helped out for a few twists and turns, as if walking for a long way. Then he stopped, and with the support of someone, heard a chant—
“Bow to Heaven and Earth!”
“Send into the marriage chamber!”
Once he touched the bed, and his back finally had something to rest against, Fang Guo fell asleep with impatience. He had no idea that at this moment, he was a newlywed bride, and was about to consummate a marriage.
When the bridegroom returned, they would have to consummate the marriage.