Finishing up The Breaking Soul of a Thousand Years by Seba ( 蝴蝶 Seba 的《千年微塵》), the story continues with Junxin and Yinman staying with Huying for a few months before Yinman decides it’s time to go home. But do they have a home? Huying gives Junxing the key to a place to live that was somehow connected to Yinman for hundreds of years.
The manager of the place is unusually old, and the elevator is slow. When they reach the 14th floor, Yinman is overcome with emotion at the sight of it. Once they are there, she remembers Junxin as a child, growing up healthy and strong day by day. She reflects on how quickly human children grow, how she has been able to raise a child from a different race and different nation, but she doesn’t remember beyond that one year. She goes into their new home and requests a desk and her computer.
In the next scene, Junxin spends some time every day of their long summer vacation at the coffee shop, which is called the Illusion Café, which is Huying’s place. Junxin is actually searching for Yulang to help him attain a cure, and Junxin may be the first human to become a disciple of a nine-tailed fox spirit! Junxin and Huying talk with Manager Jiuniang, and Huying convinces her to help teach Junxin fairy magic, too. They have their first lesson on the spot.
When he returns from his lesson, Yinman asks about it. Junxin thinks of Shuiyao, whose connection to them is unclear at this point in the story, and he tells Yinman that he didn’t expect the training to be so difficult. This magic includes boundary formation and has something to do with an aquarium. Manager Jiuniang taught him some hand techniques and special spoken methods. Yinman asks him to demonstrate some of them with a glass of water, but he’s skeptical since he didn’t master controlling the aquarium. Yinman’s dust is somehow in the water. They decide that Yinman should also study the techniques with him, and she asks that he show her everything.
The next day, Huying is astonished at the change in Junxin after his clumsy lesson the day before. He feels a little uneasy with the idea of a human learning fairy magic and Taoist internal alchemy. His brother Yulang, also a nine-tailed fox whom Junxin was seeking before, suddenly makes an appearance at the coffee shop. Junxin meets with Yulang and likes his research, while Yulang likes Junxin and considers that Junxin would be his equal as a disciple, though perhaps Yulang won’t admit that to himself.
They have a lesson with swords, which leaves Junxin feeling like he’s been pummeled all over. They also train with a spirit gun and discuss the difference between using something called heaven’s fire versus foxfire. Junxin asks if Yulang will give him some foxfire, and Yulang counters with a question: what will he use it for, and does he dare try using it at all? Junxin says he doesn’t see why he shouldn’t try it. Yulang uses his fingertips of both hands to give Junxin foxfire, though Junxin expected Yulang to kiss him to transmit it to him. Here is the folkloric background on foxfire:
In chapter 3, “The Master Carries on the Nine-tailed Fox Sorcery Through His First Human Disciple,” Huying questions his brother about the wisdom of teaching Junxin some of their tricks, whetherhe intends to help Junxin or kill him, if it’s all just quackery. Huying also knows Yinman is studying with Junxin and has great talent that she is unaware of. They both realize Yinman is probably picking up her studies faster than Junxin. Still, Huying is feeling uneasy. It turns out that Junxin has been investigating the “meteor shower transformation” from a few years earlier while studying with the manager and knows that it does have something to do with Yinman’s shattered soul.
Chapter 4, “A Bloody Crime, An Innocent Multitude,” takes a much more fantastic turn and is the most interesting segment of the novel. This time there are references to this story being set in Taiwan since it talks about summer there. Huying is in the Illusion Café having a discussion with his kitchen staff about the cold weather and the need to get more fresh cream. Huying sends Junxin out to get the cream, and Junxin runs into another female patron at the door named Linyin Zhu, a human woman who has recently married.
Some of the other fairies in the café observe her and tell Junxin they didn’t think she could possibly get married because they previously tried matchmaking for her. They run the Illusion Matchmaking Company, and their efforts were to no avail since she had some sort of physical defect and had general bad luck due to the circumstances of her birth. The rest of the segment gets into her history: her birth, her guardian, her school years, reasons why she hadn’t gotten married. After the matchmaking company couldn’t help her, she started coming to the café because they are now her friends. The matchmakers now marvel at the news she is married and think there’s something clearly abnormal about her.
Junxin leaves the café and walks home, taking in the city. He sees Linyin in a flower shop and observes that she is beautiful in an average, human way, not like Yinman’s fairy-like beauty. He sees nothing abnormal about her. He witnesses her buy a flower and meet a man waiting for her. They look like they are very much in love.
When he gets home, Yinman tells him someone came to the door and rang the bell, but she couldn’t see who it was. They then joke about what happens when humans swallow the dust from the broken souls destroyed by the meteor shower. Strangely, Linyin shows up at their place looking for a psychiatrist. When she sees Yinman, she recognizes her, so Yinman asks him to let her in and wonders why she’s looking for a psychiatrist. Linyin says she can’t sleep and has dreams of a meteor shower as well as other terrible nightmares of eating people. They ask who she dreamed she was eating, and she said it was her sister, but she emphasizes again that this was a nightmare, not reality.
Linyin is in some kind of trance or stupor while she’s talking with them. She keeps telling them not to look at her, unaware that she is growling like an animal. Huge, beast-like claws burst out of her hands. Junxin shatters them, leaving her hands bloody. Yinman quickly uses the fairy magic to form a barrier so Linyin’s attacks ricochet off of it, leaving the woman with a bleeding head injury. Junxin calls up the spirit gun as Linyin throws up some of the dust. She is terrified of the gun and jumps from their 14th floor balcony, but she transforms into a bat or something and escapes because of the dust!
Junxin is upset by this and decides to go see Huying, making Yinman first promise not to open the door again if anyone rings the bell. Huying is at the Illusion Café where they are deep in discussion about the matchmaking company. Junxin asks what Huying knows about Linying and the effect of Yinman’s dust on the human body, which causes a brief commentary on human genes and the Zhu family bloodline. Huying thinks Linyin’s grandfather intermarried with the fairies and explains how that would affect his family line. The head of the Zhu family retains some unusual abilities, something about a mandrill which is a sort of monkey, and it goes into the contrast between his two daughters, of which Linyin is the least favored. There is some mention of this mandrill actually being a famous monster moshenzi, which is a legendary creature from Taiwan’s mountain villages (Chinese only):
The group finally concludes that this problem with Linyin has to do with Yinman’s dust, not her family’s physical deformation through this monster after reasoning out which influence would have been more powerful on Linyin. The three fairies fall silent. It’s not a simple matter. Huying adds his opinion. Junxin leaves the café, knowing he will sooner or later study controlling monster transformations.
In the next scene, we see Linyin back at home. She wakes up but realizes she is still dreaming, can’t break free of the nightmare, and her hands are bloody. She only wanted to see a psychiatrist. Going into the bathroom to wash the blood off her hands and wash her face, she sees no wounds on her forehead or hands. She only feels unusually hungry and goes to the kitchen.
Her servant already went home, but she eats a chicken thigh and throws it up. One of her hands looks like a monkey paw with long claws. She wonders if she’s crazy since she can’t wake up. She eats a rose and is still hungry. Going over to the aquarium fish, screaming about not admiring “her,” she can’t restrain herself from grabbing the fish out of it. She is lying to herself, she realizes. She does very much admire her sister. So much. Reflecting on all of the things her sister had that she does not, her happy home, her beauty, her cleverness and so much more, Linyin doesn’t think it’s fair. She eats all the fish in the aquarium, begging for someone to save her.
Her husband appears and doesn’t recognize her at first because she looks like a monster. He feels very pained because he loves her. She imagines she hears her sister and says she ate her, asking again why she won’t wake up from this nightmare!
Junxin is wondering where Linyin went and hears a ghost screaming and banging on a window somewhere. I thought this part was really confusing since I can’t clearly figure out where he is when he sees her. Maybe he’s walking around and passed her building, which is described a little here. He sees this demonic woman crying tears of blood and kneeling beside the body of a young man. Junxin senses her plea for someone to save the man she loves. Junxin might not be perceiving all of this normally since it talks about him searching for her and the man. He finds her quickly, takes out his spirit gun and shoots flames into her. It doesn’t kill her, and she is still so hungry.
In the end, they decide Linyin’s problems are somehow connected to a mouse spirit. Huying tries to heal her, and ultimately Linyin spends a lot of time in a sanitorium recuperating.
Chapter 5, “You, My Most Beloved,” has Junxin return home to prepare Huying’s medicine for her, which is some concoction of the dust fragments that contain her lost years she can’t remember. Because of this medicine, Yinman is starting to remember more years of her life. She now can remember 4 years, though nothing significant. She remembers living at a Taoist temple for 12 years as a hermit in a book depository reading and interacting with the depository’s curator. Junxin asks if she wants to meet the curator again, but Yinman says her newly recovered memories aren’t of people.
A scene with the Illusion Café kitchen staff talking about their hair comes next, but after that Yinman is sitting on a plane with Junxin traveling to see the curator. The curator, a woman, is now aged and full of emotion at meeting them. Junxin is like her son, and he would come see her for summer vacation every year. She knows the situation, just not how serious it is. When they arrive, Yinman asks the curator if she recognizes her. She says she does.
They are at a library, and the curator is dressed in black, sitting in the library’s historical archive room. Yinman recognizes her from when she lived at the temple but can’t remember her name. Right now the curator goes by the name Yinchen, though she uses another name later in the chapter. Yinchen asks about how Yinman’s memory is coming along. Yinman remembers almost nothing else but has been waiting 50 years to see Yinchen again. Why? She tells Yinchen she loves her.
They later go out for a walk, and Yinchen talks with Junxin about Yinman’s situation regarding making her broken soul whole again. She feels sorry for him for not realizing Yinman will then go with her fairy monster clan instead of staying with him. After a few weeks, Junxin and Yinman return to the capital, though Yinchen promises to come visit them since they are like family. She notes that she is now old and won’t live much longer.
I am mostly going to skip the next chapter, “The Illusion Private Investigating Firm,” since it mainly focuses on Huying with his kitchen help and a number of companies under the “Illusion Conglomerate,” which includes a private investigation firm and the matchmaking company which is not doing well due to a number of modern marriage trends. Junxin signs a contract with this Illusion Business Group, so he and Yinman have now become employees of the Illusion Private Investigating Firm. Meanwhile, Huying talks to him about the time he fell in love with a human woman named Huo’er (“Fire”). I think he changed into an immortal through asceticism, and he had already been a fox spirit for awhile by the time he got involved with her.
The last chapter I’m going to cover in this series since I’m running out of time and this post is already very long will be chapter 7, “Day of Fury.” The first scene starts with a loud booming noise. Junixin blew a hole in the roof of his new house where he and Yinman now live in an abandoned mountain village. While Yinman is becoming more and more monster-like in her manner and is throwing up dust, Junxin is studying how to use a foxfire-forged flying sword, which is difficult to handle, which is how he has made the hole in the roof. Yinman thinks he needs to get someone to fix it, but Junxin says he will take care of it. The story then gets briefly into a village legend about a girl who fought in an angelic war, moves on to talk more about the private investigation firm, and then wraps up with Huying arriving to assess the hole. Still, Junxin is very impressed by how profound fairy magic and the Taoist arts are. He wonders if he should go deeper into the mountains to use the foxfire sword after the roof incident.
The remaining chapters are titled “A Heavenly Summons,” “The Heavenly Grandson Suddenly Appears,” “A Meandering Route Without End.” It seems from what I see of the chapter subheadings that some supernatural things start happening to Junxin throughout the rest of the novel. I’ll end it there so we can stay on schedule and finish out the year on time. I have lots of great stuff planned for 2018.
Part two of a two part series.
Next time: we close out 2017 with a bang looking at Ryukishi Zeronana’s noir horror mystery Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni: The Time Wasting Chapter!