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  • Ken Zen

The Paper Wife's Gift: A Tale of Love, Fate, and Redemption

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

Serenity sails on calm waters, embracing tranquility
Photo from Pexels

In ancient times, nestled within Mossy Knoll Mountain, there lay a small village. Within this village resided a young man named Thomas, who lived a solitary life, orphaned and unmarried well into his twenties.

One day, after finishing his evening meal, Thomas ventured outside for a stroll. As he reached the outskirts of the village, he heard the distant jingle of a donkey's bell from the mountain path. Thomas lifted his gaze and beheld a hazy silhouette emerging from the darkness. A donkey charged him, carrying a young woman upon its back. She appeared to smile at him, her eyes brimming with allure. Though the night obscured their surroundings, Thomas could discern every detail of the woman as she brushed past him.

Thomas stood there, momentarily transfixed, his mind racing. He pondered who this daring woman could be in the darkness, venturing alone on such a late-night journey. Driven by curiosity, he followed the donkey's tinkling bell, pursuing its fading sound. After a short while, the donkey vanished into thin air before the temple of the God of Wealth, and Thomas found himself compelled to enter.

The temple had fallen into disrepair, its once bustling atmosphere replaced by neglect. Only a few mud statues remained, leaving the space empty and lonely. Thomas extended his hand, finding a half-used candle on the altar, which he ignited. He scanned the temple but found no one in sight. It was then that the candlelight illuminated a jade statue of a woman beside the God of Wealth. Thomas scrutinized the statue and felt a sense of familiarity. It bore a striking resemblance to the woman he had encountered on the road earlier. His heart stirred, half in jest, he said, "My bride, after searching high and low, I've finally found you here. Come home with me at once." With those words, Thomas lifted the jade statue, carrying it back to his home. He placed it gently on the bed in the bedroom and then lit a lamp in the living room, lost in his thoughts.

Now, Thomas had calmed down, contemplating his recent actions. He found his behaviour both amusing and embarrassing. He chuckled, "Thomas, my dear Thomas, while others bring home living wives to wash, cook, and bear children, you have brought home a mud statue as your bride. If anyone were to witness this, they would surely mock you for having gone mad with longing for a wife!"

While Thomas was contemplating how to return the mud statue to the temple after everyone in the village had fallen asleep, a silvery voice resonated from the inner room as if it were a bell: "After going through all the trouble of bringing me home as your bride, why do you now want to cast me aside before we're even married?"

Upon hearing these words, a chill ran down Thomas's spine, and a shiver coursed through his body. He stood there, unsure of what to do. Then, the voice in the inner room, now sounding coquettish, urged him sweetly, "The night is late, my love. Why don't you join me in bed and rest?"

Thomas steeled himself, realizing that whether it was a deity or a ghost, he might as well enter the room to understand the situation. Gathering his courage, he walked into the bedroom, holding the lamp in trembling hands. In the glow of the light, he saw a beauty sitting at the edge of the bed, her face resembling a blossoming peach, her eyes conveying affection. Her cherry lips parted slightly as she said, "Our wedding night awaits, and this moment is worth a thousand treasures. Why do you hesitate?"

Upon beholding this otherworldly beauty in the light, Thomas cast aside any thoughts of gods or ghosts. That night, he united in marriage with the jade statue he had brought back on his back, forming a bond as husband and wife.

Since getting a wife, Thomas found himself in a state of bliss. Every day after toiling in the fields, he returned home to delicious hot meals and a clean, tidy house. He even had someone to talk to in the mornings and evenings. Thomas felt invigorated, wearing a perpetual smile on his face.

After a month of such joyful days, Thomas was preparing to go to work one morning when his wife stopped him. She reminded him that they had been married for a month and she needed to visit her parents' home that day. Thomas was puzzled. His wife, made of clay, had a family? Perplexed but hesitant to ask further, he borrowed a donkey from a neighbour and waited outside with it, facing southwest, as instructed by his wife.

They crossed several mountains and passed through several villages. Around noon, they arrived at a large town. There, a house with a tiled roof stood adorned with vibrant red doors. It was bustling with activity, for there was a celebration taking place.

His wife informed Thomas that they had arrived at her parents' home. She asked him to tie the donkey to an old willow tree near the entrance and then led Thomas inside. As they entered, they heard someone exclaim, "The Young Lady has returned!" Thomas and his wife were warmly welcomed by her family.

In her wife's family home, Thomas felt uneasy. People whispered and pointed at him behind his back, but they scattered as soon as he approached. Being unfamiliar with anyone and unable to find someone to talk to, Thomas couldn't enjoy the festive atmosphere. Despite the delicious wedding feast, he couldn't taste its flavours. His wife was engrossed in conversations with her family. As the sun began to set, there seemed no intention of dispersing.

Feeling restless, Thomas wanted to ask his wife whether they should stay or go home since it was getting late. As he approached the table, an intoxicated old woman said, " Young Lady, didn't you die a month ago? Why have you returned today?"

Upon hearing this, his wife cried and collapsed onto the table, instantly transforming into mud. The food they had just eaten spilled all over the floor. The sudden transformation dumbfounded everyone. Thomas realized what had happened and blamed the old woman for being meddlesome. But now that the situation had unfolded, he had no choice but to accept his misfortune. He sadly led the donkey and started walking back alone.

It wasn't long before darkness fell. Suddenly, Thomas heard his wife's voice calling him from the roadside. However, he couldn't see her, only hear her voice. His wife explained, "I was originally the town's Young Lady of the Vermillion family. I fell ill and died a month ago. But because we had an unresolved karmic bond from a previous life, my soul attached itself to the statue of the Jade Goddess in the Temple of Wealth, and we became husband and wife. Today, my family was celebrating, and I had a few too many drinks. My aunt couldn't keep her mouth shut and revealed the truth, breaking my spell and destroying my substitute body. My soul is now without a place to go, signalling the end of our fate. Don't be sad. I can't leave your major life matter unattended. Hurry to the paper shop ahead and make a substitute body for me. I can be resurrected with a place for my soul, but we can no longer be husband and wife." She then provided detailed instructions, assuring him their marriage would not be in vain if he followed them.

Thomas initially hesitated to comply, but unable to resist his wife's pleas, he reached the nearby village's entrance and saw a shop brightly lit with paper lanterns, as she had described. He asked the paper craftsman to make a paper substitute body for his wife. Once he obtained it, he stood by the roadside and shouted, "The Young Lady has arrived!"

Strangely enough, the paper figure came to life before the words left his mouth. The paper wife led the way ahead, and Thomas followed, leading the donkey toward the village. They stopped before a house, and his wife signalled for Thomas to knock on the door. A middle-aged woman answered, and Thomas explained that he and his wife were returning to her parent's home, but it had gotten late. He humbly requested if they could stay for the night. The woman glanced at the enchanting paper wife behind Thomas and immediately felt compassion. She readily agreed to their request.

In the house lived only the woman and her daughter, Jadelle, a graceful and beautiful young lady. The woman arranged for the paper wife to share a room with Jadelle while Thomas made do with a makeshift bed in another room.

Under the lamplight, Jadelle was busy with her needlework while engaging in friendly conversation with the paper wife. The paper wife took the opportunity to tell Jadelle about Thomas's many virtues. However, as Jadelle used the flame from the lamp to seal the thread, she accidentally flicked an unburned piece onto the paper wife's head. The paper wife, made of paper, couldn't withstand the fire and was immediately caught ablaze. When Jadelle realized what had happened and screamed for help, the paper wife had turned to ashes, disappearing without a trace.

Thomas understood the situation all too well. Following the paper wife's instructions earlier, he seized Jadelle and demanded her return. No matter how Jadelle tried to explain, Thomas insisted that a living person wouldn't let the flame burn out.

Sensing the situation turning against her, Jadelle's mother worried that if Thomas took the matter to the authorities in the morning, accusing them of kidnapping, it would be difficult to defend themselves. Looking closer at Thomas, who appeared pleasant and honest, and glancing at Jadelle, the perfect match for him, an idea formed in her mind.

Jadelle's mother pulled Thomas aside and asked if they could resolve the matter privately. Thomas inquired, "What do you mean by privately?" Jadelle's mother replied, "I will take the initiative to marry Jadelle to you!" Seeing that his goal had been achieved, Thomas went along with it. Jadelle, realizing she had caused the trouble herself and unable to come up with a better solution, reluctantly accepted her mother's decision. That night, Thomas and Jadelle became husband and wife.

Since marrying Jadelle, Thomas and Jadelle lived in harmony and deep love, inseparable and affectionate. Within a year, they welcomed a chubby little boy into their lives. In gratitude to the Young Lady for her immense kindness, Thomas had an image of her painted and placed it in their home as a deity. Each day, they would burn incense and pay their respects. The story of the Young Lady's role as a matchmaker and Thomas's clever acquisition of Jadelle spread throughout the region.

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