I was born in a small mountain village situated in an extremely remote area. The people of the village called this treacherously terrained mountain–The Dragon Eye Mountain.
The rolling green hills made our village almost isolated from the world and unknown to outsiders.
When I was a kid, all the children played in every corner of this village in groups.
Except for “That Place.”
“That Place” is an obscure name for the Maiden Ridge in our village. It’s a valley between two small hillsides, shaded by trees all year long with an eerie atmosphere.
According to the elderly, that is the land of the “Saffron Maiden.”
From a hundred-year-old man to a toddler, there isn’t a single soul who does not know about “The Saffron Maiden.”
The elderly say that our ancestors came to this extremely secluded place by chance, to escape the war during the late Ming Dynasty, and settled here.
More than forty years ago, when the Saffron Maiden was just thirteen years old, she, along with her family, came to this village coincidentally.
It is said that although she was just thirteen years old at that time, she already looked like a fairy coming straight from heaven, and she had the characteristic childishness and cuteness of a young girl.
Her family was also honest and unobtrusive, so the girl was very popular among the young men of the village.
But to people’s dismay, two months later, the village chief married her into his family.
The village chief, also nicknamed Hua Liu Biao and formerly known as Zhang Biao, was a middle-aged man in his forties. His wife had died two years ago due to an illness, leaving behind only a fifteen-year-old son.
The crowd of young men could only look at him with envious eyes. After all, Hua Liu Biao was the village’s chief, the most influential man in the village, and also a livestock slaughterer. He gave a cart full of grain, a pig, and two goats as a bride price; other people were not as rich and generous as him.
I don’t know if it was that identity of his or the pigs and goats that worked, but the Saffron Maiden’s parents agreed to this marriage.
It was said that when the Saffron Maiden was born, her mother got furious at the fact that she was a girl and wanted to throw her into the furnace to smother, but her father saw the beauty of this child and hence decided to raise her.
And now, for nothing in return, they were getting so much. That was enough for her mother to get a good daughter-in-law in the future. The deal was so good that her mother was unable to keep her mouth shut and hence agreed to the marriage.
So this story was destined to be tragic.
But as long as there are lustful rich men and greedy parents in this world, such tragedies are bound to take place.
On the wedding night, dozens of young people rushed to hear the noises from the room and crowded around Hua Liu’s courtyard.
Hua Liu Biao chased away the brides men early and was impatient all day long.
After impatiently blowing out the oil lamp, the anticipated voice of the young girl soon came out of the house.
The Saffron Maiden could not understand until now, what the bridal chamber was. Her cries were mixed with sobs, and her voice seemed painful. But the more pain she was in, the more excited Hua Liu Biao got and the more he moved.
You can all think, what can happen to a tender thirteen-year-old girl who falls into the hands of a strong man who has been hungry for several years already?
The young people were drooling while listening enviously to the sound, not willing to leave, and then in their own minds, imagining themselves in place of Hua Liu Biao.
There were a few others who wanted to go in and strangle Hua Liu Biao to death–
The next day, Hua Liu Biao woke up very late.
And his new wife stayed in bed all day long.
Everyone who met Biao’s son joked with him about his new little stepmother, who was two years younger than him.
The next night, more people had gathered outside the yard than the day before.
And Hua Liu Biao seemed to have found a long-lost feeling; he didn’t even feel like eating. Like ants in a hot pot, it was very difficult for him to wait until dark. He couldn’t wait to pin his thirteen-year-old bride on the bed.
Perhaps the girl hadn’t recovered from yesterday’s ravages and thus was crying a little louder than yesterday.
This made the gathered men feel like seven or eight kittens were scratching at the same time.
Erzhu spat viciously onto the ground, ” **** this old man, what a blessing!”
Although each of them drooled, after the house quieted down, they could only go home honestly, lie in their own bed, and then ruthlessly fantasize about replacing Liu Biao in their own scene–
And when they used to see Hua Liu Biao, almost everyone asked him, “How’s that little wife of yours?”
Hua Liu Biao had no shame. Not only did he not ignore it, but moreover, he used to brag about it to others in a showy tone, saying, “You don’t know how good it is! You all should also take in a little wife to have fun when you’re free!”
Others could only be envious and say “Hey, who has that fortune of yours—”
After ten days or so, the novelty slowly passed on. Others may envy and hate all they want, but after hearing the room, the only way to get by was to go home and live an honest life.
Just when the chatter was slowly diminishing, suddenly a big news surrounded the village walls, which was sensational to the core.
The reason for this was that one day, Hua Liu went out to work and did not return home until after noon. But after he arrived at home, two men passing by immediately heard him cursing his son, slapping, dropping things, and the sounds of crying.
Hua Liu Biao kept cursing but did not say what it was all about. His son didn’t say a word either. And the little girl was only crying. The two of them tried listening outside for a while, but they could not hear what the ruckus was all about.
However, once the two of them went back, the village immediately exploded with all sorts of gossip.
According to the analysis of a few wise men, it must be that when Hua Liu was not at home, his son couldn’t hold back any longer and so his stepmother–
The first day was just filled with speculations, but the next day, villagers started talking about it in a way as if it was already a nail in the coffin.
And since then, Hua Liu took his son along with him while working on the fields.
A few days later, Hua Liu took his son out to kill a pig for someone else, but he didn’t know why, his heart was pounding all afternoon and there seemed to be some ominous premonition.
Finally, after coming back home, he couldn’t wait to see his wife; however, she was not at home.
Hua Liu Biao immediately found dozens of villagers together to help find her. She was found in the middle of the night in Nyang’s Ridge.
However, it was not her…
Instead, it was her corpse.
She was hanging from a tree with both her eyes wide open, and there seemed to be tear marks on her cheeks. There was still some blood seeping out of the corner of her mouth, and her face was pale and her fingernails were red.
She was still wearing the red dress she wore on her wedding day.
Because it was the only good looking dress that she had ever owned since she was a child, which she had been wearing since her wedding day.
A little red flower was still there on her chest.
To add to the horror, she seemed to have a creepy smile on her face.
Although there were dozens of big old men, everyone was still scared to death. There were even two people who sat down paralyzed on the floor and couldn’t stand up due to fear.
No one dared to move her body.
It was not until noon the next day that Hua Liu brought a group of people to collect the body of the Saffron Maiden.
It felt like the maiden’s smile was more creepy than yesterday.
Dozens of young and old men brought by Hua Liu could not gather the courage to come up and help out.
In the end, it was just Hua Liu himself and his servant who carried the Saffron Maiden down and hastily made her burial.
In those days of war and chaos, not to mention this kind of suicide, even if there was an assassination, no one really cared about it. And in this village, Hua Liu Biao was the law and hence no one held him accountable for anything.
But out of guilt, Hua Liu Biao gave another large mule to the maiden’s parents to make up for their psychological trauma.
But Hua Liu didn’t know that, in fact, it was like a treat to the parents who felt their daughter was a burden and nothing else. For them, this mule was much more useful than their own girl.
The village was quiet for seven days, and those who originally mocked the Saffron Maiden had meekly shut up after seeing her corpse’s sight.
But this silence remained just for seven days, since after some time, Hua Liu’s son hung himself up in his own house.
Many people guessed that the young man must have died because of guilt, coupled with the fear of both his mother and stepmother’s deaths, which led to the inability to think–
Less than a month ago, Hua Liu Biao was on the seventh sky, immersed in great happiness, and now a mere month has passed, but he was already separated from his wife.
Hua Liu Biao seemed to be a whole different person; he did not eat for four days in a row.
And by the time people found him in Maiden’s Ridge, he no longer needed food because he was dead.
According to logic, he must have been bereaved of his wife, plus the pain of losing his son, and only when he was despondent would he seek his own death.
But no, this person who was supposed to commit suicide never died by doing so.
According to the recollections of the old people who saw it with their own eyes, he also died in Maiden’s Ridge, but with a horrible expression on his face, as if he had witnessed something terrifying to the extreme all of a sudden.
The specific cause of death, presumably, was being strangled alive. It is also possible that it was not by a human being.
Because he had a few very deep nail marks on his throat and a few scratches on his arms, it goes without saying that he must have been killed by the evil spirits.
It was then that people in the village began to call her by this name: Saffron Maiden.
The first person to see the Saffron Maiden in person was Chen Zhong Bao.
Almost two months after the death of the Saffron Maiden, one day at dusk, Chen Zhong Bao had just finished working, and while passing by the small stone bridge, he sat there to rest.
Suddenly, a red shadow appeared a dozen meters away at the edge of a small forest. He took a closer look, and the red shadow was vividly the Saffron Maiden.
She was right by the grove. Her face was pale, and her mouth was bleeding; her nails were long, and she was right there quietly watching him.
Chen Zhong Bao shouted–he did not even have time to take his hoe–and came rolling and crawling all the way back home.
It was very difficult for him to run to the village. He stumbled down, and his legs were too weak to stand up; he was trembling, and his teeth kept on chattering, unable to say a word.
A few boys carried him home, and when he calmed down a little, he told the frightening scene he happened to observe just now. Everyone was surprised.
Chen Zhong Bao suggested that the dozens of boys present should go up the mountain with a torch to take a look, but no one was willing.
Old people say that the female ghost who dies in red is the worst.
Chen Zhong Bao did not get out of bed for three days in a row and did not dare to go out to work by himself.
After six months or so, everyone slowly forgot about the Saffron Maiden. One day, Erzhu came back from chopping firewood in the mountains, and because the weather was too hot, he took a bath in the pond on the edge of the village.
The next morning, he was found dead in the pond.
The appearance of the corpse was extremely horrible, but also the same as Hua Liu Biao, as if they had suddenly experienced something horrible to the extreme with their eyes rounded and scratches on their neck.
But the strange thing was that the pond was only as high as an adult’s waist, yet Erzhu died in it.
There was a Monk in our village at that time who could see spirits. He said that it was definitely a water ghost, probably the Saffron Maiden, whose spirit had never returned to the underworld and lived in this pond.
The Monk performed a ceremony, chanted incantations all afternoon, killed a chicken, and burned some paper money for the maiden. But all in vain.
Because the same day the following year, when Chen Zhong Bao and Guo Xiao had finished their work together to return to the village, while passing through the pond, Guo Xiao suddenly had an urge to swim in the pond.
Although Erzhu had been dead for a year, Chen Zhong Bao was still very afraid to go into the water.
But Guo laughed at him for being timid and said that the Monk had already done the spell to quell the ghosts, so for sure it was safe.
No matter what he said, Chen Zhong Bao just insisted on not going into the water.
Likewise, no matter how Chen Zhong Bao persuaded, Guo acted like he was possessed by evil and had to go into the water no matter what. He didn’t even take off his clothes and jumped straight in, as if there was something in the water calling out to him.
Sure enough, after a while, he also died.
Chen Zhong Bao thought he was deliberately joking, so he shouted out in some fear, “Guo, please come up here, don’t scare me, don’t scare me–”
But after waiting for a while, Guo was still not up. Seeing this, Chen Zhong Bao went into the water to find him. After a few steps into the water, he remembered that he could not swim and was really afraid that Guo had been dragged down by the Saffron Maiden and drowned, so he hurriedly went back to the village to call people.
By the time the villagers arrived, Guo had already been drowned to death.
The village’s fastest swimmer, Guo, was actually drowned in a small pond only half a man’s height.
Combined with what Chen Zhong Bao had described as his previous strange manifestations, Chen Zhong Bao was very scared at that time; however, he vaguely remembered that he saw a red shadow, and everyone was sure that Guo must have been caught by the evil spirits.
The Monk’s face changed immediately after he arrived, and after he counted on his fingers, he murmured, “I- it’s really her–”
A young man asked, “Who is it?”
The Monk sighed, 『Saffron Maiden』!