Chapter 124: Extra—Iron Hook (Part Two)
Translated by K of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
Jin Ling: “The chair was placed right next to my bed. At first nobody was there, but a while later, a person in black suddenly appeared on it.”
Jin Ling wanted to see the face clearly, but the person sat with their head hanging low. Long, disheveled hair covered their face. Only a pair of snowy hands could be seen on the armrests. He adjusted the position of the mirror secretly. The moment his wrist moved, however, as though she suddenly noticed something, the woman slowly lifted her head. Her face was covered in dozens of bleeding cut marks.
Wei WuXian wasn’t surprised, while all of the juniors were shocked speechless.
“Wait a second?” Lan JingYi placed a bowl of congee in front of Jin Ling, “A female ghost? How could it be a female ghost? Were you scared so dumb you saw wrong…”
Jin Ling replied with a smack, “Anyone can call me dumb except for you. Even though there’s blood and hair everywhere so I couldn’t really see what she looked like, both her hair and clothing were in styles commonly worn by young women. It’s definitely right. We were just searching in the wrong direction.” He continued, “Although there was indeed resentful energy left on the iron hook, the one haunting the White Room is probably not the Hook Hand.”
Lan JingYi, “Did you not spend any more time to examine her face or something… Maybe we could use her facial features, like beauty marks or birthmarks, to find out her identity.”
Jin Ling snorted, “You think I didn’t want to? I wanted to, but the ghost noticed the moonlight reflected in the mirror and immediately looked this way. The mirror then reflected her eyes, and I accidentally had eye contact with her.”
If one were to be discovered while spying on a spirit, one shouldn’t keep looking any longer. He had to put down the mirror at once and close his eyes, pretending to be fast asleep. Otherwise, he might’ve stimulated the creature’s blood thirst, heightening its killing intent. Lan JingYi, “What a close call, what a close call…”
Comments flew back and forth across the table, “But the thief did not see a woman in his eyes.”
“Just because he did not see one does not mean there was not one. Maybe the thief saw in the wrong direction…”
“No, the female ghost—why would she be a female ghost? Who is she!?”
Lan SiZhui, “The woman’s face was marked with dozens of cuts, so it is likely that she was one of the Hook Hand’s many victims. What Jin Ling saw must have been a shadow of her resentful energy.”
The shadow of resentful energy referred to the endless playback of a situation in which a spirit gathered heavy resentful energy. It was usually the moment before it died or an incident it loathed.
Jin Ling, “Yeah. As shown in the mirror last night, the White Room had completely different furniture than what it has now. It seemed to be an inn. Before the Bai resident was established, there was probably an inn here. That inn was where the woman killed.”
Ln JingYi, “Oh, oh. Speaking of it, from the information we collected, someone did mention that the Hook Hand could easily break the locks of inns. He often snuck inside in the middle of the night, picking on women who were out alone!”
Lan SiZhui, “And the room in which this maiden, or madam, was killed, just so happened to be in the same location as the White Room of the Bai residence!”
No wonder the head of the Bai clan insisted that no unsolved cases or accidental deaths happened in the Bai residence. They didn’t equivocate on purpose, but instead, they were truly innocent—this really had nothing to do with them!
Jin Ling picked up the congee and took a sip, pretending to be calm, “I knew things wouldn’t be so simple. Oh, well. We’d have to deal with this, sooner or later.”
Wei WuXian, “Jin Ling, go take a nap later. We’re gonna have to do more work tonight.”
Lan JingYi glanced at his bowl, “You have unfinished food, Senior Wei. Wasting food is bad.”
Wei WuXian, “I’m finished. Have some more, JingYi. You’ll be on the front line tonight.”
Shocked, Lan JingYi almost dropped his bowl, “Huh? Me?? W-What front line?!”
Wei WuXian, “Jin Ling couldn’t finish his observations yesterday, right? Today we’ll finish observing it together to get to the bottom of things. You’ll lead.”
Lan JingYi turned pale, “Senior Wei, did you make a mistake? How could it be me?”
Wei WuXian, “Of course not. Gaining experience, right? Everyone has a turn, everyone has an opportunity, everyone has to go. Both SiZhui and Jin Ling have gone. I’ve decided that the next one will be you.”
“Why did you decide that the next one would be me…”
Of course, Wei WuXian wouldn’t directly say that out of the group, Lan JingYi’s name was the only one he could remember, apart from Lan SiZhui and Jin Ling. He only patted his shoulder, encouraging him, “It’s a good thing! Look at everyone else. They all want to go, don’t they?”
“Everyone else? They have long since run away from the conversation!”
No matter how much Lan JingYi protested, at midnight, he was still pushed to the front of the White Room.
A few long benches were spread across the front of the White Room, filled with rows of people. Each person poked a hole through the paper of the window. Instantly, the windows were packed with tiny holes, creating an appalling scene.
Making his own window hole, Lan SiZhui thought, I still feel that… this does not even count as ‘spying’ anymore. With so many holes, we might as well tear down the entire window…”
As expected, Lan JingYi was hauled to the foremost position by Wei WuXian. From here, he could see the most things, with the most clarity. If this were a show, he’d be sitting at the best seat that even wealth might not guarantee. However, Lan JingYi didn’t want this ‘best’ at all.
Squeezed between Jin Ling and Lan SiZhui, he shivered, “Can I sit somewhere else…”
Wei WuXian was pacing back and forth at the side, “No.”
Everyone who heard it felt that Wei WuXian’s curtness displayed quite a mastery over Lan WangJi’s ways. Some even sniggered a little. Wei WuXian, “What a nice, relaxed mentality. Well done, well done.”
Lan SiZhui, who just a second ago couldn’t hold himself back, immediately steadied himself. Wei WuXian turned to Lan JingYi again, “Look, I don’t even have a seat. Don’t be so ungrateful.”
Lan JingYi, “Senior, can I give my seat to you…”
Wei WuXian, “No.”
Lan JingYi, “Then what can I do?”
Wei WuXian, “You can ask questions.”
With no other choice, Lan JingYi could only turn to Lan SiZhui, “SiZhui, if I pass out later, y-you have to let me copy your notes.”
Lan SiZhui didn’t know whether or not to laugh, “All right.”
Lan JingYi let out a breath of relief, “Then I can stop worrying.”
Lan SiZhui cheered him on, “Do not worry, JingYi, you can definitely hold out.”
The moment Lan JingYi showed an expression of gratitude, Jin Ling patted his shoulder and spoke in a reliable manner, “Yeah, don’t worry. If you pass out, I’ll definitely wake you up at once.”
Lan JingYi, alarmed, slapped his hand away, “Shoo, shoo. Who knows what you would do to wake me up.”
Between the whispers, a soft, scarlet light bled from the paper window, as if someone lit a red lamp inside the dark room.
The crowd quieted at once, holding their breaths.
The light seeped from the small holes as well, making the pairs of spying eyes look bloodshot.
Lan JingYi held up a trembling hand, “Senior… Wh-Why does the room look so red? I-I have never seen red shadows like this before. Was there a red lamp inside the room when it happened?”
Lan SiZhui whispered, “It was not a red lamp. It was because the person…”
Jin Ling, “It was because the person had blood in her eyes.”
Amid the red light, something new suddenly appeared within the room.
A chair. And a ‘person’ sitting atop the chair.
Wei WuXian, “Jin Ling, this was what you saw yesterday?”
Jin Ling nodded, “But I didn’t see it clearly enough last night. She’s not sitting on the chair… She’s tied to the chair.”
Just like he said, the hands that the woman lay over the armrests were tightly tied up by ropes.
Just as the juniors prepared to examine further, a dark shadow flashed across the room. Another figure appeared.
Surprisingly, there was another ‘person’.
And this other person had both his eyelids and lips cut off. He could neither blink nor close his mouth, revealing his bloodshot eyeballs and bright red gums. He was a thousand times more frightening than as described in the legends!
Lan JingYi exclaimed, “The Hook Hand!”
“What happened? Was the hook not melted already? Why would the Hook Hand still be here?”
“So there are two spirits inside this room??”
At this point, Wei WuXian asked, “Two? In reality, is there one or two spirits inside this room? Can anyone explain?”
Lan SiZhui, “One.”
Jin Ling followed, “One. The Hook Hand inside the White Room isn’t the real spirit, but instead a shadow emulating the scene of her death that the woman used her resentful energy to bring back.”
Lan JingYi, “It is a shadow and all, but it is not at all less frightening!!”
As they spoke, the face slowly approached the wooden door. The face grew closer, clearer, and more gruesome as well. Even though everyone knew that it was only a shadow, that the iron hook in which the Hook Hand’s resentful energy was truly stored had already been melted, that the shadow would never actually pass through the door, there was only one hair-rising thought stuck in their minds:
He saw them!
If that unfortunate thief just so happened to see this scene when he was spying on the White Room at night, no wonder he was scared so badly that he got a heart attack.
The face approached until it was no less than a single feet away from the window, paused for a moment, then turned around and strode toward the chair.
In unison, the juniors finally began to breathe again.
Inside, the Hook Hand walked back and forth the room, the old wooden boards creaking under his feet. Outside, however, Jin Ling felt that something was off.
He spoke, “There’s something that’s been on my mind since a while ago.”
Lan SiZhui, “What is it?”
Jin Ling, “The shadow is the scene before the woman’s death for sure. But when most people are facing a serial killer, would they be so calm and make not a single sound? In other words—”
He continued, “The woman was clearly conscious. Why didn’t she scream for help?”
Lan JingYi, “Was she scared dumb?”
Jin Ling, “It wouldn’t have been to the point that she didn’t make a single noise, not even knowing how to cry. When most women are frightened to the extreme, wouldn’t they start crying?”
Lan SiZhui, “Is her tongue still there?”
Jin Ling, “There’s no blood at her mouth, so it should be. And even if she lost her tongue and couldn’t say anything, she should still be able to make sounds.”
Squashed between the two of them, Lan JingYi seemed as though he was about to die right there, “Can you two not use such calm tones to talk about such a scary thing, right beside my ears…”
One of the boys spoke up, “Could it have been because the inn was deserted or because no other people were present, she knew that it was no use screaming, so she decided not to do anything?”
Lan JingYi, who saw the scene clearest, finally had something to so, “I do not think so. Look at the shadow. No dust was on the furniture, which meant that they were definitely often used. It was impossible that nobody was present, or else she would not have chosen to rest here.”
Jin Ling, “Looks like you’re not a hopeless idiot yet. Besides, whether or not anyone is present is one matter, and whether or not you’d scream is another. For example, if someone’s chasing after you in the middle of nowhere, even though you know nobody can help you, you’d still be screaming for help, wouldn’t you?”
Wei WuXian clapped lightly, whispering, “Wow. You’d expect no less from Sect Leader Jin.”
Jin Ling blushed, hissing, “What are you doing? Don’t distract me, alright?!”
Wei WuXian, “If something like this distracts you, it means you still need to work on your concentration. Look, look—the Hook Hand is about to do it!”
At once, everyone turned around to look. The Hook Hand took out a rope and wrapped it around the woman’s neck, pulling it slowly.
The sound of a rope being tightened!
So this was the root of the strange noise that the head of the Bai clan said to come from the White Room every night.
Under pressure, the dozens of wounds on the woman’s face bled profusely, but she still didn’t make a single sound. The group felt their hearts gripped by the scene. Someone couldn’t help but urged, whispering, “Scream, scream for help!”
But opposite to their hopes, the victim didn’t move, while the assailant did. The rope instantly loosened. The Hook Hand pulled out an iron hook, bright from sharpening, from behind his back.
Outside, the boys were both scared and anxious, desperate to jump inside and scream for the woman so loud that the entire city was woken up. The back of the Hook Hand blocked their line of sight. A hand reached forward. From where they were, they could only see the back of a hand on the armrest. Suddenly, veins popped on the hand.
Even at this point, the woman still didn’t make a sound!
Jin Ling couldn’t help but began to doubt, “Is she mentally abnormal?”
“What do you mean by mentally abnormal?”
“As in… retarded.”
Even though calling someone retarded sounded quite ruthless, from such a situation, this was the most possible likelihood. Or else, if she was a normal person, how could she still give no response, even when things were like this?
Feeling his head hurt from watching, Lan JingYi turned his face to the side. Wei WuXian, however, whispered, “Watch carefully.”
Unwillingness was all over Lan JingYi’s face, “Senior, I… I really cannot watch anymore.”
Wei WuXian, “There are things hundreds and thousands of times worse than this. If you can’t even face them directly, you shouldn’t hope to do anything else.”
Hearing this, Lan JingYi steadied himself before he clenched his teeth and turned back around, continuing to watch the scene unfold with a miserable expression. Yet, just this moment, something happened—
Opening her mouth, the woman bit down on the iron hook!
It was such a surprising turn of events that the rows of boys all sprang up from the shock.
And inside the room, the Hook Hand also seemed to be astounded. He retracted his arm, but for some reason he couldn’t pull the hook from between the woman’s teeth. Instead, the woman—along with the chair—pounced on him. The iron hook that he wanted to take someone else’s tongue with had somehow sliced open his own stomach!
The boys shouted in chaos. They were almost all clinging to the door, as though they wanted to stuff their eyeballs into the White Room to see everything clearly. From the wound, the Hook Hand stopped in pain. As if he remembered something, he lunged for the woman’s chest with his right hand out, ready to dig her heart out. The woman rolled on the ground with the chair, dodging the attack. With a loud rip, however, the fabric at her chest was torn apart.
In this situation, the boys didn’t even have time to decide whether or not to look. What astonished them the most was that the ‘woman’s’ chest was as flat as a field. How was this a ‘woman’?? This was a man in a woman’s clothes!
The Hook Hand leaped forward, grasping his opponent’s neck with his bare hands, yet he’d forgotten that his hook was still in the other’s mouth. The person spun to the side, the iron hook cutting into the Hook Hand’s wrist. One going for suffocation and the other going for blood loss—as of the moment, the two were in a deadlock…
Only when the rooster crowed and the red light disappeared did the shadow finally melt away. And the boys around the White Room’s entrance were already shocked speechless.
Only when a long while had passed did Lan JingYi finally stammer, “Th-Th-Th-These two…”
Everyone had the same thought in their head: These two would most probably both end up dead, right… What a surprise. The spirit that had tormented the Bai residence for decades was not the Hook Hand, but rather the hero who killed him.
The discussion was aflame.
“Who could have known? So this was how the Hook Hand was brought down…”
“Thinking about it, this was the only way, was it not? After all, the Hook Hand was quite mysterious. Nobody knew where he was. If he did not pretend to be a woman and lure him out, he could never have caught him.”
“But it was so dangerous!”
“It was dangerous indeed. Look, the hero himself fell for his trap and got tied up, right? As a result, he was at a disadvantage to begin with. Or else, if the two dueled face-to-face, how could he have been at such a loss?!”
“Yeah, and he could not shout for help. The Hook Hand had killed so many people. Even if an ordinary person heard him, they would probably be killed…”
“Which was why he did not make a sound no matter what!”
“He chose to die along with him…”
“How could there not be this hero’s story in the legends!? How absurd.”
“It is the norm. Compared to knights and heroes, people much more prefer the legends of serial killers.”
Jin Ling analyzed, “When the dead refuse to move onto their next lives, it’s usually because they have unfinished matters or unfulfilled wishes; when those without complete bodies refuse to move on, it’s usually because they never found the parts of their bodies that they lost. The reason behind his hauntings lie here.”
Even if it were a hindrance, it’d be hard to part with something one had been carrying for decades, much less a piece of flesh within one’s mouth.
Listening to the story, Lan JingYi had long since developed respect, “Then let us hurry up and find his tongue as soon as possible, so that we can burn it for him and let him move onto his next life!”
Everyone itched to get to work, leaping up, “Yes, how can we let such a hero die without a complete corpse?!”
“We should get searching. From the graves west of the city, to the entire Bai residence, to the old house in which the Hook Hand lived—we will not miss a single place.”
Full of motivation, the boys gushed out the door. Before they went, Jin Ling turned around and looked at Wei WuXian.
Wei WuXian, “What is it?”
Back while the juniors were discussing, Wei WuXian didn’t make a single comment confirming or contradicting their guesses, somehow making Jin Ling feel anxious, suspicious that they might’ve gone wrong somewhere. But after some thought, he felt that they didn’t miss anything, and so he replied, “Nothing.”
Wei WuXian grinned, “Then get searching. Be patient.”
And thus, Jin Ling marched out the door.
Only a few days later did he realize what Wei WuXian meant when he told him to ‘be patient’.
Before this, they found the iron hook only with Wei WuXian leading Lan SiZhui, taking only an hour. Yet, this time, Wei WuXian didn’t help in looking for the tongue, letting them deal with it at their own pace. They searched for an entire five days.
When Lan SiZhui jumped up, holding something in the air, the rest of the group was about to die of fatigue.
However, even though they were a mess from hopping around the graves, clothes covered in both grime and stench, the group was almost ecstatic. It was because after Wei WuXian heard about it, he told them the truth with sincerity: with no outside help, it was already a feat that they found it in five days—for one, countless cultivators would give up after seeing no results in ten days or half a month.
The group was wild, bouncing around the severed tongue. It was said that those tainted with dark energy would turn dark in color. Let alone dark, the item was almost black, hard to the touch and effusing energy. It was almost impossible to tell that it used to be a piece of human flesh. If not because of this, it would’ve long since rotted away.
After some exorcism, they burned the tongue. It seemed as though the matter had finally come to an end.
With so much having happened, things should end no matter what. And thus, toward this night-hunt, Jin Ling was more-or-less satisfied. Yet before that satisfaction had the chance to last a couple of days, the head of the Bai clan went to Koi Tower once more.
This was what happened. After they burned the hero’s tongue, peace did ensue for a couple of days. However, it was a couple of days indeed. The third night, strange noise again erupted from within the White Room, even growing wilder day by day. When the fifth night came, it had made the entire Bai residence sleepless.
This time, it broke out with fury, scarier than ever before. The noise was neither the sound of rope being tightened nor that of flesh being cut—instead, it was the sound of a person! According to the description given by the head of the Bai clan, the voice was extremely hoarse, as if someone was using a stiff tongue that hadn’t been used for years. Nobody could tell what the words were, but it was undoubtedly a man who was screaming.
After he screamed, he also cried with utmost misery. At first he seemed feeble, yet gradually he grew louder and louder. In the end, he was almost wailing his throat out. It was absolutely piteous, while at the same time absolutely blood-chilling. Much less the Bai residence, people could hear it even three blocks away. Even passersby felt chills sent down their spines.
Jin Ling was also fretting. It was close to the end of the year, so he was buried in work and didn’t have time to deal with the matter himself. As a result, he sent a few disciples to go examine the situation. Upon returning, they reported that apart from the screaming being extremely terrifying indeed, there weren’t many other detriments.
Aside from disturbing the neighbors.
When they handed in the night-hunting notes, Lan SiZhui spoke about this to Lan WangJi and Wei WuXian. After Wei WuXian heard him, he took a pastry from Lan WangJi’s desk and ate it, “Oh. That’s nothing to worry about.”
Lan SiZhui, “It is nothing to worry about… even with so much screaming? In theory, after its wish was fulfilled, the soul should have passed on.”
Wei WuXian, “A soul can pass on after its wish is fulfilled, that’s true. But have you ever thought that perhaps the hero’s true wish wasn’t to find its tongue so that he could reincarnate?”
This time, Lan JingYi finally received a rating of Jia. Just the thought that he wouldn’t have to copy anything again made him so happy he could cry, over at the side. Right now, however, he couldn’t help but blurted, “Then what is it? That every night he can howl so much that nobody else is able to fall asleep?”
Surprisingly enough, Wei WuXian really nodded, “Exactly so.”
Lan SiZhui was astonished, “Senior Wei, why would this be?”
Wei WuXian, “Before, didn’t you infer that the hero didn’t want to hurt any innocent lives, which was why he held back with everything he could while he was being tortured by the Hook Hand and refused to make a single sound?”
Lan SiZhui sat upright, “Yes. Is something wrong?”
Wei WuXian, “It’s not that anything’s wrong. But let me ask you a question—if a serial killer is holding a knife and waving it in your face, letting out your blood, slicing apart your face, strangling your throat, pulling your tongue out, how scary would that be? Would you be scared? Would you want to cry?”
Lan JingYi thought about it for a moment before responding with a pale complexion, “Help!”
Lan SiZhui, however, held a serious expression, “It is stated in the sect rules that when one comes across danger…”
Wei WuXian, “Don’t avert the question, SiZhui. I asked if you’d be scared or not. Just say it, won’t you?”
Lan SiZhui blushed, his back even straighter, “I—”
Wei WuXian, “You?”
Lan SiZhui answered in all honesty, “I cannot say that I am not scared. Ahem.”
After he responded, he cast an anxious glance at Lan WangJi.
Wei WuXian rolled with laughter, “What are you so embarrassed for? When humans feel pain or fear, they’d be scared, they’d want someone to help them, they’d want to scream and shout and cry—isn’t that what makes us human? Tell me, yes or no. HanGuang-Jun, look at SiZhui—he’s scared you’ll punish him and he’s peeking at you. Say yes, quick. If you say ‘yes’, it means you also agree with my point of view, which then means you won’t punish him.”
With his elbow, he poked lightly at the stomach of Lan WangJi, who was currently marking the notes, his back straight. Without any change in expression, Lan WangJi replied, “Yes.”
After he spoke, he wrapped an arm around Wei WuXian’s waist, locking him in place so that he didn’t mess around, and continued to mark the notes that’d been handed in.
Lan SiZhui’s cheeks grew even redder.
Wei WuXian struggled a bit, but as he still couldn’t get out, he decided to maintain this position as he continued to lecture Lan SiZhui, “And so, holding his screams back did make him a hero, but in truth, it also went against human nature.”
Lan SiZhui tried hard to ignore his position. After some thought, he felt a little sympathetic toward the man.
Wei WuXian, “Is Jin Ling still distressed by this?”
Lan JingYi, “Yeah, Young Mis-… uh, Young Master Jin did not know which part went wrong either.”
Lan SiZhui, “Then, if this is the case, how should we deal with such a spirit?”
Wei WuXian, “Let him scream.”
Lan SiZhui, “Just, let him scream?”
Wei WuXian, “Yes. After he has had enough, he’ll go on his own.”
Immediately, half of Lan SiZhui’s sympathy was given to the people of the Bai residence.
Fortunately, even though the hero had so many grievances, he had no intent to harm others. The strange noises of the White Room gradually came to a stop after a couple of months. Presumably, now that the hero was dead, he finally screamed what he couldn’t before he died, and went to his new life with satisfaction.
It was only a pity for the people of the Bai residence. For a long time, they tossed and turned in pain, unable to sleep at night. The White Room had also once again risen to fame.