The Tale Of The Ghost Eyes - lightnovelgate.com
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You Xiaoqing gave me a grand smile and squealed, "Thank you!" And then turned so fast that her school uniform skirt did a fancy spin as she marched off the playground. I stared after her, a bit dumbfounded, and then walked towards the gate where Zhao Jie would be waiting. I told him everything.
"Why do you think she wants to see the woods?" I asked him when he didn't respond.
He turned around and glanced around the playground, but she was long gone. He pinched his chin between thumb and index fingers and grinned at me. "Do you think she wants a date?" He wiggled his eyebrows. "My sister has stories about characters who go for romantic walks in the park!" His eyebrows danced around the word 'walks'.
"No…" I said doubtingly, not daring to hope. "She is gorgeous…" I thought to myself. "What kind of books is Zhao Yuan reading?" I asked him.
The stupid grin remained on his face.
"She's only in third grade!" I scolded him, "What else don't I know about our sister?"
"Never you mind, little brother." He grinned and waggled a hand at me as if brushing away dirt. "And don't you worry. I won't tell anyone about your secret date."
I punched him in the shoulder and we turned to walk home.
That Friday, You Xiaoqing pulled me aside on the playground again. "We'll meet here at eight o' clock, okay?" Promise you'll wait for me?" She pleaded in her darling voice.
"I promise." I told her. I couldn't help myself. For a moment I considered inviting Zhao Jie, but I thought about his sister's books. "I'll have to ask him." I thought to myself. And so I did. After You Xiaoqing was off the playground I hunted down my best friend and asked for help.
"Maybe you should come with us." I blurted. Okay, so I didn't ask for help, but tried…kind of.
"Na," He said, almost immediately. "Zhao Yuan says dates are only fun with two people. Three makes it weird."
"But it's not a date! We're not dating!"
He only grinned his stupid grin and waggled his eyebrows up and down. So the next morning after breakfast, I struck out alone. I walked slowly to the school playground and rounded the corner with a cluster of butterflies showing off their wings in my stomach. She was sitting atop the slide in a white dress that shone like a star.
"Shi Yong, you are very punctual." You Xiaoqing called to me.
I looked awestruck up at her and said, "You too."
She came gracefully down the slide and walked over to me until our toes were almost touching. "Ready?" She asked in a playful tone.
I felt my tongue hop up and down in my mouth, but I couldn't speak. "Mmhmm!" I mumbled and turned around, doing everything I could not to run away from her. The new winged members of my stomach were trying to lift me off the ground. We walked in almost complete silence from the schoolyard to the edge of the woods. My mind was clamoring to ask her why she wanted to see the woods.
It was a cold morning for the spring, and we were both shivering by the time we reached the trees. I almost didn't notice the cold in my nervousness, but I saw her shiver and wished I'd brought a jacket to offer her.
The butterflies in my stomach began to freeze into icy pangs of something that I took for nerves.
I stopped after the first tree and looked at her seriously, trying to ignore the panicky instinct that was rippling out from my stomach. "Why do you want to see the woods?" I asked, "For real?"
Even though I was looking right into her face, it took more than a moment to realize what was wrong. Her face was pale, but lovely. The walk and cold had brought red to her cheeks and her lips were bright crimson. It was her eyes though. There was something about her eyes. "You Xiaoqing…?" I asked again when she didn't reply.
Her usually lovely dark brown eyes were shimmering a bright yellow. I watched the pupils extend up and down. They narrowed in the center like a reptile's. She licked her lips and the tongue that moved over her mouth looked narrow and forked at the end.
"My mouth is so dry." She said in a thin voice. The red in her cheeks appeared to deepen. The thin tongue darted out again. Then she smiled. It was too wide for her face. It was an impossible smile full of teeth that no longer looked exactly human.
The yellowed eyes faded to their original brown, but the bright cheeks and wide smile stayed. I looked into her face. One that didn't seem to belong to You Xiaoqing any more, but I felt no fear.
Voice still thin, she said, "I'm only looking for a place that suits a girl like me. Why Shi Yong, don't you want to be my friend? Don't you want to help me?"
"Be your friend?" I asked in amazement. "You never play with boys…" I told her, as if making the rules. My voice sounded far away from me and I felt my cheeks grow hot with embarrassment. "Have I charmed her?" A voice in my head whispered. I felt my mouth curve into a smile.
"Well…" She said, "What are you waiting for?"
Another voice in my head rose out of the fog that had replaced any sense of reason. "Keep your head on!" I snapped to attention, shaking my head a little before meeting her eyes again.
"Okay," I told her. "I'll be your friend, but first you have to tell me what you're doing here. What you're really doing here!"
The thin forked tongue darted out again. "If you follow me into the woods, you'll find out. But wait out here and you'll never know." She said.
"What?" I asked, thinking how backwards everything had gotten.
She'd already started walking into the woods. I rushed after her and was surprised when I saw her pull aside a clump of branches and step readily onto the hidden path.
"Have you been here before?" I asked. She was heading the exact same way Zhao Jie and I had gone to find the yellow bird.
You Xiaoqing shook her head and said, "Not me."
I couldn't see her face from where I was walking. The voice that answered didn't sound like You Xiaoqing's.
We arrived at the foot of the tree where the yellow bird had been and You Xiaoqing stopped. She craned her neck to glare into the empty branches. The crumbled remains of the fallen nest lay at our feet.
The reasoning voice spoke in my head again, "Listen!"
"To what?" I thought back at it. No reply came. I shrugged my shoulders, considered whether or not I was crazy, and then tried to listen. There was nothing. I stood behind You Xiaoqing and heard nothing. There were no chirps, no tweets, and no flutter of wings. The woods were silent as a grave.
I looked towards You Xiaoqing and my hand instinctually rose to the jade pendant around my neck.
She turned to me abruptly, one of those turns so fast that her eyes were locked onto mine before her dress had stopped fluttering, and said, "Shi Yong, we're friends now. Promise me that you won't tell anyone about this, okay?" Her eyes flickered the yellowish color for a moment. "This is our secret, okay?"
"Secret..." I repeated, looking at You Xiaoqing.
Her eyes turned brown again and lifted in a smile, "Okay?" she asked again.
No voice rose from the fog of my mind. I nodded and said, "I promise. I won't tell."
She nodded her head and then turned with the same wicked speed. I watched her and felt the icy jabs return to my stomach. She crouched down in a thicket of grass nearby the rotting nest and began to flatten the plant life. She bent stalks of grass, cleared away pieces of bark, and moved in a circle with rapid jabs of her hands. In moments there was a clear patch of dirt that looked like a nest of its own.
The fog in my mind reeled as I watched her, I felt dizzy, and then sick to my stomach. She nestled into the dirt. Her white dress now covered in patches of muddy brown. She reached a semblance of sitting inside the nest and pulled out a tiny golden box. In the brief glance I got before she turned away from me, I saw a tiny snake patterned on the back of the box.
I peered at her from where I stood. The distance between us seemed to grow by leaps and bounds as my eyes searched for the golden box in her hand.
"Come." She said, and I obeyed. My feet moved on their own accord and soon I was standing next to her.
"What horrible thing could be in that box?" I thought, not daring to speak. I stepped to the edge of the nest she'd made in the grass and dirt. Between her hands, nestled in the dirt was the open golden box. I peered into it at the creature within.
Inside of the box was a tiny snake, roughly the size of my middle finger. It's green body writhed and wiggled around until two brilliantly yellow eyes found mine. The tiny snake lunged towards the edge of the box and hissed at me.
The voice in my head fought through the fog again and managed to speak not only to me, but also for me. "That's it? One little snake?" The tension I'd felt in my shoulders faded away and I felt a smile growing on my face. "It's kinda cute." I told You Xiaoqing. "Are you raising it?"
She nodded and said, "Yes, me and my parents."
"What does it eat?" I asked.
"Mice, birds, and things like that. It's gone through most of the small animals near my house." She grinned up at me.
"He's too small to catch a mouse! It'd eat him, wouldn't it?"
As if offended, the tiny snake hissed at me.
You Xiaoqing didn't answer, but stretched her hand out and beckoned the snake into her open palm. It coiled its tiny green tail around itself and looked very much like a pool of green liquid in her hand. "He's so cute!" I said again.
She put the little snake back into the nest. It stretched out and slithered back and forth, testing the air with its forked tongue.
"Are you letting it go?" I asked.
You Xiaoqing shook her head. "No, I have to finish the ritual."
"Ritual?" I looked at the snake curiously.
The tiny snake began to sparkle with a green light I'd seen before. The light burst from its skin and filled the dirt nest beneath You Xiaoqing's hands.I watched as its skin cracked and the light grew stronger
"Good boy." She whispered to the snake. "Take your time, nice and easy..."
I looked at her face and felt my throat snap shut.
"Why is it glowing?" I managed.
"What? Nothing's glowing." She shot back, not looking at me.
"The light!" Shouted the voice of reason in my head. "Use your eyes!" I clapped my hand to my mouth to keep from shouting in excitement. "My supernatural eyes!" I thought, "This is supernatural energy! She can't see it!"
The snake wriggled and began to shed its tiny skin. With each wriggle and tear of the outer skin the light became obscenely brighter.
The jade stone on my chest suddenly felt hot as coal. I grabbed it through my shirt and winced. Looking down my collar, I saw the stone glowing fiercely. It's own green light felt much more natural to me than that of the snake. "What is happening?" I thought.
"This is why we came here, isn't it?" I asked her. She didn't look up, and my eyes were once again glued to the changing snake. It shrugged out of its skin and continued to glow in the nest before us.
When it finally rid itself of the too small skin, the snake slithered frantically in the dirt. You Xiaoqing scooped it up gently and put it back in the box. She pointed at the milky snakeskin on the ground, saying, "That is for you."
" The snakeskin?" I asked, "Why? I don't want that."
You Xiaoqing touched the little snake inside the box, "He wants you to have it." She told me, "It'll help cure your disease."
"I don't have a disease…" I told her, my heart started galloping. "Does the snake know about my supernatural eyes?" I thought.
Master Liu and my mother considered my eyes diseased, but I didn't think it was a big deal. I'd be a bit weak every now and then, but I was training to strengthen my body. I wasn't serious.
She shrugged her shoulders casually and gestured again to the milky white snakeskin lying in the dirt.
I considered it for a moment and then stooped to pick up the discarded skin. Holding it in my hands, I found it was quite cool. The chill crept up my arm and a gentle euphoria followed it, sending goose bumps up and down my body.
I didn't know how precious the snakeskin was. I looked at it closely and whispered to it, "What are you?"