Innkeeper's Trouble

Vivi Dai October 21, 2021
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In a quiet street on the edge of the city sat a small inn with a huge fig tree in front of it.
The owner, Xin, had started his business from scratch so he couldn’t afford a better location. But he was a passionate and hardworking person, always keeping the rooms neat and clean, preparing delicious local food and giving guests a sense of feeling at home, so the business had always been stable.
However, recently people had stopped visiting, even long time customers had gone to other hotels. Xin became terribly worried. To find out what had gone wrong, he put on some ordinary clothes and went to a dim sum restaurant popular among visitors from out of town.
A short time later, a father and son sat down at the table next to Xin. They were farmers from a nearby village who had come to sell nuts in the city. After ordering two large bowls of beef noodles, they asked the waiter to recommend a place to stay for the next few days.
The waiter mentioned several hotels, but the father and son thought they were too expensive. Xin seized the opportunity to cut into the conversation, “I know a place on East Street, with a fig tree in front. The service and price there are both good…”
The waiter shook his head, “Don’t go to that place, no matter how cheap it is!”
Xin couldn’t believe his ears. His face turned red, but he tried hard to control his temper, “What makes you say that?”
The waiter lowered his voice and answered in a mysterious tone, “That inn is haunted.”
Hearing such a ridiculous rumor, Xin couldn’t stand it any more. He raised his voice sharply, “Nonsense! There is absolutely nothing wrong with my inn. How can you say such terrible things?”
The waiter was taken aback and quickly muttered, “I heard about it from others.”
“I don’t remember… At least a dozen people said the same thing, and most had stayed at your inn before.”
Xin was so upset that he stood up and started ranting, “I have always done my best to serve my guests and have never cut corners. Although my place is not as fancy as some luxury hotels, I have confidence that everyone will enjoy our delicious homemade food and have a sound sleep in our comfortable bed. I have spent all my savings building this inn and have been working so hard to earn a good reputation, yet you are trying to ruin everything by spreading such a ridiculous rumor. If this isn’t stopped, how will I be able to sustain my small business in the future?”
The owner of the restaurant heard the commotion and hurriedly came over to control the situation. She first reprimanded the waiter and then explained to Xin, “It is indeed not us who started the rumor. I’m sorry that the man upset you. Please accept my apology.”
The owner’s friendly attitude made Xin embarrassed. He finally calmed down and turned to the father and son, pleading, “Please don’t listen to the rumor. There is nothing wrong with my inn. Would you consider staying at my inn as my special guests and be witnesses to the good service and condition of it?”
The father and son had concerns, but it was hard to resist the temptation of a free stay. They whispered for a few seconds and nodded at Xin, “Okay, we would be happy to accept. Please show us the way to your inn.”
In an effort to restore the reputation of the inn, Xin did his best to accommodate the father and son. The two guests felt greatly satisfied with the fresh local food, home-brewed wine and the courteous service. After dinner, Xin led the guests to their room. The room was not large, but it was pleasantly decorated, and the bedding was soft and white. The father and son got into bed, stretching out their tired legs, and soon fell to dreaming.
However, not long after, the son was awakened by a terrible scream, only to see his father sweating, waving his arms wildly, and groaning. Horrified, the son shook his father, “Wake up! Wake up!”
The father woke up with a start. His body kept shivering out of fear, “I saw a lot of skeletons hanging from a tree, and they were laughing at me. It was so scary!”
The father and son quickly packed their bags and rushed downstairs. After listening to what they had experienced, Xin was displeased, but he couldn’t be rude to his customers, so he made a reluctant smile, “It was just a nightmare. It can happen everywhere. I have been staying in the lobby all night and haven’t seen anything unusual. Please go back to your room. The inn is absolutely safe.”
But the father and son were so frightened that they insisted on leaving. Xin had no choice but to say, “If you want, I could change you to a suite, and then I could stay in the living room to make sure everything is alright while you sleep.”
The father and son couldn’t refuse since Xin was almost begging, so the three of them went together to a suite on the second floor. The guests went to sleep with their clothes on, and Xin hid behind a panel screen in the living room. Although the father and son were afraid, they began snoring shortly after because they were so exhausted.
Outside the window, the spring moon was bright, casting a strange shadow of the fig tree on the floor through the paper window. In the silence, sleepiness slowly overcame Xin, his eyelids heavy, his head drooping. But whenever he was about to fall asleep, the sense of responsibility would jolt him awake.
Suddenly, a stray cat on the roof meowed fiercely. A few seconds later, a small round figure squeezed through the open window into the room and dashed into the bedroom like a fast-rolling ball.
Instantly awakened, Xin stood up in shock and followed the intruder into the bedroom without making any noise, just in time to see the dark figure jump onto the headboard. He saw it pull out a twig and start tapping on the son’s forehead while mumbling strangely.
As if a curse had been placed on the son, his eyeballs began moving quickly beneath his eyelids. His face became distorted with a frightened expression, his cheekbones protruding as he clenched his teeth. Obviously, he was having a nightmare.
Now Xin understood that the rumor was real. His inn was indeed haunted! He desperately tried to think of what to do and then came up with an idea. Grabbing a small blanket on the back of a chair, he lunged at the bed and covered the thing with the blanket, shouting, “Got you!”
The father and son, who had awakened during the noise, decided to pitch in and help Xin roll the blanket firmly into a ball.
Struggling in desperation, the wicked figure inside the blanket let out a fierce shriek, “Let go of me! I’m a Dream Beast! IF You dare to offend me, you will suffer every night until the day you die!”
The father and son were scared and let go of the blanket, but Xin, determined to protect his inn after spending his entire life getting to where he was, completely ignored the threat. Holding the blanket tightly with both hands, he dashed to the kitchen, threw the blanket into a huge glass jar, covered it with a lid, and grabbed an iron shovel hanging on the wall.
After struggling inside the blanket for a while, the Dream Beast was finally able to poke its head out. It was smaller than Xin’s hand, covered with fluffy yellow hair, two black round eyes rolling around, a small wrinkled nose sniffing slyly, two pink paws pressing together on its chest.
Xin, who had been under extreme tension, froze for a moment and then burst out laughing, “I thought it was some kind of demon… but a hamster? Really?”
The little hamster’s face turned red with indignation. It waved its paws while screaming, “What are you laughing at? How dare you look down on me! I’ll soon become a great demon, and then I’ll teach you a lesson!”
Xin stopped laughing, crouched down, and asked seriously, “Why do you haunt my guests?”
The hamster snorted sharply and raised its small furry chin without saying a word.
“You broke into my inn, hurt my business, and almost forced me to close down. So, don’t expect me to forgive you easily,” Xin raised the shovel in his hand.
“It was you who had intruded onto my land!” the little hamster glared at him and squeaked. “When I made my home under the fig tree, you hadn’t even been born yet. At that time, my life had been so happy. But since you started your business, people have come and gone every day. I have no choice but to live like a grey mouse, never daring to walk in the sunshine!”
“Sounds terrible. I had no idea…” Xin responded in surprise. “No wonder you want me to go bankrupt.”
“I’m not that petty,” the little hamster rolled its eyes. “My dream is to become a Dream Beast, so I need to train hard.”
“Haunting people is your training?”
“Yes, I must successfully give 3,000 people nightmares!” the hamster clutched its head with its small paws, looking defeated. “Every night, I have had to risk my life… Do you know how easy it is to be trampled by human feet, eaten by cats, or caught by night falcons? Today was supposed to be the last day! I had been so excited that I let my guard down… Wah Wah Wah, how could I be so stupid!”
The little hamster couldn’t stand the frustration and humiliation any longer and began wailing.
Xin lowered the shovel and looked at his prisoner in sympathy.
“I didn’t know you had such a hard time,” Xin said. “Why do you want to become a Dream Beast?”
“That’s the only way that I will someday be able to fly!” the little hamster sniffled, wiping the tears rolling down its face. “Then I won’t need to hide underground anymore!”
“So that’s how it is,” Xin put down his shovel and rested his chin on his hand. “How many more people do you need to give nightmares to?”
“I just said it. Only one!”
“Well, I understand your feelings. Sometimes, I also want to fly like a bird in the sky,” Xin smiled gently. “But I can’t let you use my guests… Have you ever given me a nightmare?”
Confused, the little hamster stopped crying and stared at Xin, “You always sleep so lightly just in case your guests might need you during the night, so a little noise would wake you. I don’t dare to enter your room…”
“That’s the solution. Let me be the last person.”
The hamster was stunned, “Are you serious?”
“It’s not a big deal to have a nightmare.” Xin said with a big smile and then got serious. “But you must promise that you will never disturb my guests after becoming a Dream Beast.”
“I promise!” The tears started rolling down the little hamster’s face once again. He bowed deeply to Xin, “Thank you… And I am sorry.”
Later on, it was said that Xin’s inn became the most popular one in the city because people who stayed there always had sweet dreams. A few guests even claimed that they had seen a golden Dream Beast that looked like a little hamster with wings flying around in the small inn.

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