Yu Fang Garden had a history of being haunted, and this was not its first eerie encounter.
In the early years, shortly after the passing of Mr. Ming San, Yu Fang Garden had experienced a haunting incident. Some believed it was because Mr. Ming San was concerned about the well-being of his wife and daughter, keeping a lingering presence here.
However, that was a decade ago.
In the eighth year of Yongjia (311AD), Mr. Ming San, along with diplomatic envoys, embarked on a mission to the Qihu tribe. Unpredictably, they found themselves embroiled in court turmoil, leaving no survivors.
Mrs. Ming San received a bloodstained letter from her husband but could not bring herself to join him. She couldn’t bear to leave her five-year-old daughter behind, so she endured the separation. Upon returning to their ancestral home, she devoted herself entirely to raising her daughter.
However, a few months later, Yu Fang Garden became haunted.
What transpired afterward remained shrouded in mystery.
The Ming family was known for their scholarly background and their status as disciples of saints. Little did they anticipate that Yu Fang garden would experience supernatural disturbances ten years later.
Initially, it began with the young maids witnessing fleeting shadows. Gradually, an elusive and unsettling odour permeated the garden. Finally, Miss Mingqi encountered a ghostly apparition.
Mrs. Ming San, still young and widowed, was fully dedicated to her daughter. When Miss Mingqi fell ill from the fright, her mother remained sleepless for days and nights. Only after her daughter showed signs of recovery did she regain some vitality.
Unbeknownst to her, her daughter’s condition had not improved.
Upon Ming Wei’s arrival, it became apparent that Miss Mingqi’s soul had become so terrified that it had left her body, leaving her lifeless.
Thinking of Miss Mingqi, Ming Wei sighed inwardly.
The world remained ignorant, assuming that Miss Mingqi was born intellectually impaired, but in truth, that was far from reality.
Miss Mingqi was born sixty years apart from Ming Wei, yet their astrological charts were identical. Such a chart denotes an individual born with the ability to bridge the realms of Yin and Yang, allowing them to perceive supernatural entities.
According to her mentor, individuals like her received more than the average but were destined to endure greater hardships. For instance, at birth, numerous restless spirits would seek to leech onto their life force, rendering them somewhat inherently deficient.
Ming Wei had her mentor’s guidance, but Miss Mingqi did not.
Upon her arrival, Ming Wei immediately discerned that only one soul and three spirits resided within Miss Mingqi’s body at this time. The remaining two spirits and four souls likely scattered during her birth, resulting in her intellectual impairment.
Having taken refuge in Miss Mingqi’s body for rebirth, Ming Wei felt obliged to repay this debt. Before departing from the Ming family, she needed to retrieve Miss Mingqi’s two missing spirits and four souls to facilitate her reincarnation. She also intended to care for Mrs. Ming San, sparing her the anguish of losing her daughter once more.
However, the most pressing matter at hand was uncovering the truth behind the haunting.
Yu Fang Garden was situated favourably, facing north and south, with a harmonious balance of Yin and Yang energy. From the perspective of Feng Shui, it was an ideal location. Hence, the presence of malevolent entities seemed implausible.
Hauntings typically fall into two categories. The first involved the darkness of the human heart accumulating Yin energy, rendering it impervious to the surrounding positive energy. In simpler terms, someone had committed a malevolent act here, and the tormented spirit of an unjustly deceased person refused to depart, becoming a vengeful spirit.
Alternatively, the second scenario involved someone introducing malevolent entities into the environment.
In either case, a sinister intent lay beneath the surface.
The meeting between Mrs. Ming San and Mrs. Liu concluded shortly thereafter.
Inside the pavilion, Ming Wei sat on a chair cushioned with thick velvet blankets. She observed Mother and Lady Liu emerging together. Mrs. Liu exchanged some words, prompting Aunt Tong to summon a group of servant girls.
The servants, armed with bamboo poles and brooms, dispersed throughout the garden. Meanwhile, Lady Liu wandered aimlessly, her focus unclear.
The warmth of the spring sun was inviting.
Ming Wei gazed up at the sunlight, extracting a red cord from Duofu’s sewing basket. She began to ineptly weave it into a bracelet.
Duofu, with a smile, offered, “Miss, are you crafting a bracelet? Wait a moment; I’ll make one for you.”
Ming Wei shook her head, determined to continue her endeavour with the red cord.
Duofu believed she was merely playing around and left her to it, concentrating on her own task.
When Mrs. Ming San approached, she touched Ming Wei’s head and settled beside her to review some accounts.
After tying an unsightly knot, a cry of surprise echoed from a distant corner of the garden.
A servant girl rushed over, breathless, and exclaimed, “Madam, we’ve found it! We’ve found a huge nest of dead rats!”
Aunt Tong scolded, “What’s with all the commotion? Speak clearly!”
The servant girl quickly composed herself and reported, “Yes. We discovered a rat’s nest in the ditch. There must have been a dozen rats, all dead!”
Mrs. Ming San’s complexion changed. She inquired, “Why wasn’t this noticed earlier?”
“The nest was deep and blocked by stones…”
Yu Fang Gardne, a lush garden with an abundance of flora and fauna, featured rockeries and gravel piled in every nook and cranny.
Mrs. Ming San set aside her account book, rising to her feet to investigate.
Ming Wei followed suit, and Duofu called out, “Miss!”
Ming Wei gestured for her to remain silent, grasping Duofu’s hand as they trailed behind Mrs. Ming San towards the reported location.
Seeing her resolute expression, Duofu temporarily held her tongue. She thought that if there were indeed something sinister, she would stand in the way.
The rat’s nest lay concealed beneath a stone in a remote corner of the ditch. Before they approached, a putrid stench wafted through the air.
Mrs. Ming San approached, and two robust servants rolled up their sleeves, using bamboo poles to clear away the grass and gravel.
With just one glance, Mrs. Ming San’s face contorted in disgust.
The rat’s nest had decayed to the point where bones were visible, and the rotting flesh had attracted various insects, which crawled about the remains.
Thankfully, it wasn’t summer, or the presence of flies would have intensified the foul odor.
Mrs. Ming San covered her mouth and nose with a veil, inquiring, “Is this everything?”
It was found as soon as they looked. Mrs. Liu seemed somewhat triumphant as she responded, “The foul smell you mentioned emanated from these remains. There should be more than just this spot. If we search further, we will surely find more.”
As expected, the servants soon reported back, revealing dead creatures hidden in various inconspicuous corners. Some
were deceased rodents, while others were lifeless birds, cunningly concealed either beneath the turf or wedged into crevices.
Mrs. Ming San’s complexion turned ashen.
Who would believe that this was a mere coincidence?
She returned to the pavilion without uttering a word and turned to Mrs. Liu, asking, “You claim that this is a trap set by someone else. But why bury these lifeless creatures?”
Mrs. Liu chuckled and replied, “Madam, you possess keen insight. In any such scheme, each step is meticulously planned. Your garden is radiant, and its Feng Shui is auspicious, incapable of harbouring negative entities. Even if items were brought in, they would remain concealed.” So what’s the next step?”
“What is the next step?” A curious maid at Mrs. Ming San’s side couldn’t help but inquire.
Mrs. Liu extended her finger and explained, “This is the first step: to nurture Yin energy.”
Mrs. Ming San understood, “So you mean that someone brought in lifeless creatures to generate Yin energy within the garden?”
Mrs. Liu gave her a thumbs-up, “Madam is incredibly astute, precisely so. Most of these lifeless creatures have likely been concealed within the garden for quite some time. With the recent warming weather, they have begun to decompose, resulting in the foul smell you noticed.”
Mrs. Ming San nodded in agreement.
With the weather recently becoming warmer, any items hidden in the garden for an extended period would be difficult to detect. In the winter months, when the garden received little attention, who could have imagined that such things lay concealed in every corner?
“Then what about the shadows the girls have been seeing?”