Chapter 34 Grasses—Part Two
The sudden peculiar noises of a bamboo pole knocking on the ground sounded loud then soft, far then near, making it so that it was impossible to determine where or what exactly was making it.
Wei WuXian, “All of you, come over. Huddle close. Don’t move and don’t attack.”
Amid the fog, if the juniors all withdrew their swords and attempted to attack, it’d be possible for them to hurt themselves instead of the enemy. After a moment, the noise stopped. Having waited in silence for a few seconds, one disciple spoke under his breath, “It’s that again… Just how long is it going to follow us for?!”
Wei WuXian, “It’s been following you?”
Lan SiZhui, “After we entered the city, because the fog was too thick and it would be easy to wander off, we decided to walk closely together. Then, we suddenly heard the noise. At the time, it was not as fast. It went quite slowly, one knock at a time. Through the fog, we also managed to see a short shadow walk past, right in front of us. But when we chased over, it disappeared. The noise has been following us ever since.”
Wei WuXian, “How short?”
Lan SiZhui gestured at his chest, “Very short. Very small.”
Wei WuXian, “How long have you been here for?”
Lan SiZhui, “Around fifteen minutes.”
“Fifteen minutes?” Wei WuXian asked, “HanGuang-Jun, how long have we been here for?”
Lan WangJi’s voice sounded from behind the hazy fog, “Around thirty minutes.”
“Look, “Wei WuXian continued, “We’ve been here for longer than you did. How is it possible that you ended up in front of us, and only ran into us after you turned around?”
Jin Ling couldn’t help but replied, “We never turned around. We’ve always been walking forward, following this path.”
If both of them were walking forward, then would it be possible that someone jinxed the path and made it into a cyclic maze array?
Wei WuXian asked again, “Have you tried using your swords to fly up and see?”
Lan SiZhui, “Yes. I thought that I flew a long distance upward, but it was actually not that high. And there were also some fuzzy shadows darting here and there. I did not know what they were and was afraid that I could not deal with them, so I came down.”
Hearing this, everyone was silent for a while. Since the Shudong area was foggy anyway, they never thought too much about the fog in the city. Now, it seemed that the fog didn’t form naturally and really was a ghostly mist.
Lan JingYi was shocked, “The fog wouldn’t be poisonous, would it?!”
Wei WuXian, “It probably isn’t. We’ve been in here for quite a while, and we’re still alive.”
Jin Ling, “I should’ve brought Fairy with me. It’s all because of your damned donkey.”
Hearing the dog’s name, goosebumps climbed all over Wei WuXian’s back. He then heard Lan JingYi shout, “We have not even blamed your dog yet! It opened its mouth to bite first, and then it ended up with Lil’ Apple’s hoove. Whose fault was that? Anyhow, neither of them can move at this point.”
Wei WuXian, “What?! My Lil’ Apple was bitten by a dog?!”
Jin Ling, “How can that donkey be more important than my spiritual dog? Fairy was given to me by my youngest uncle. If something happened to it, not even ten thousand donkeys could pay for it!”
Wei WuXian retorted in all absurdity, “Don’t use LianFang-Zun’s name to scare people off. Well, my Lil’ Apple is a gift from HanGuang-Jun. How could you take Lil’ Apple out to night-hunt? And even let it be injured?!”
The juniors from the Lan Sect responded in unison, “Liar!” They would never believe that someone like HanGuang-Jun would choose such a gift for someone. Even if Lan WangJi didn’t speak up, they firmly refused to believe it. Lan SiZhui clarified, “Uhh… Sorry, Young Master Mo. Your Lil’ Apple… Your donkey had been making noise everyday in the Cloud Recesses, and the seniors had been complaining for a long time, ordering us to get rid of it during this night-hunt. So, we…”
Jin Ling didn’t believe that the donkey was a gift from Lan WangJi either, “I can’t even stand looking at that donkey. And it’s even called ‘Lil’ Apple’. It’s so damn stupid!”
Lan JingYi thought that, if it really were from HanGuang-Jun, then they’d be in trouble. He immediately spoke up for it, “What is wrong with ‘Lil’ Apple’? It likes to eat Apples, so it is called Lil’ Apple. How down-to-earth. This is ten times better than calling your fat dog ‘Fairy’!”
Jin Ling, “How is Fairy fat?! Try finding me a spiritual dog that’s in a better shape than…”
Suddenly, all of the chatter ceased.
A few seconds later, Wei WuXian asked, “Is anyone still there?”
A series of oomph-s and mmn-s came from around him, which meant that everyone was there. Lan WangJi coldly stated, “Noise.”
… How could he silence everyone at once? Wei WuXian couldn’t help but touched his lips, feeling quite lucky.
All of a sudden, the sound of footsteps came amid the fog on the front-left side.
The footsteps staggered in an tremendously cumbersome way. Immediately afterward, from the front, the front-right, the sides, and the back came the same sound. Although the fog was too thick for any figures to be seen, the rancid stench had already drifted over.
Of course, Wei WuXian wouldn’t worry about just a few walking corpses. He whistled lightly, and ended on a note that curved upward, signalling for them to back off. As he had expected, after the corpses behind the fog heard the whistle, they briefly paused.
However, a moment later, they rushed over!
Wei WuXian didn’t expect this at all. Not only did the command not work, it actually provoked them. He would never have mixed up the two different commands of “back off” and “be stimulated”!
Yet, at the moment, there wasn’t any time for him to think. Seven or eight slanting figures had already appeared through the white fog. Judging from the thickness of the fog in Yi City, the fact that they could see them meant that the corpses were already extremely near!
Bichen’s icy-blue sword glare tore open the fog. Surrounding the group, it drew a distinct circle in the air, cutting all of the walking corpses in half then returning back to its sheath. Wei WuXian let out a breath of relief, while Lan WangJi lowered his voice, “Why?”
Wei WuXian was also wondering why, Why couldn’t the command control these corpses? With a slow pace and rancid scent, they definitely weren’t any high-level corpses. I should’ve been able to scare them away with just a few claps. It was impossible for my whistling to suddenly not work anymore, since it doesn’t use spiritual powers anyways. A situation like this has never…
Suddenly, he remembered something. A thin layer of sweat seeped from his back.
No. It wasn’t that “a situation like this has never happened before”. In reality, it had indeed happened before, and not only once. There really was a type of corpse or spirit that he couldn’t command—
Corpses or spirits that were already under the control of the Stygian Tiger Seal!
Lan WangJi lifted the silence spell, and Lan SiZhui could talk again, “HanGuang-Jun, is the situation really dangerous? Should we leave the city at once?”
“But the fog is so thick. We cannot use the path or fly out either…”
One disciple exclaimed, “I think more corpses are coming!”
“Where? I did not hear any footsteps.”
“I think I heard strange breathing sounds…” The boy only realized what a ridiculous remark it was after he said it, shutting his mouth in embarrassment. Another boy responded, “You really are something, are you not? Breathing sounds. Corpses are dead—how can there be any breathing sounds?”
Before he finished, another large figure crashed over. With Bichen unsheathing again, the shadow’s head separated from its body. At the same time, strange splashing sounds could be heard. The disciples who were near the scene all screamed in fright. Afraid that they were hurt, Wei WuXian immediately called out, “What happened?”
Lan JingYi, “Something spurted out of the corpse’s body. I think it was some sort of powder. It tasted both bitter and sweet. And rotten!” It was very unlucky for him. Since he happened to have wanted to speak, he opened his mouth, and a fair amount of powder went inside. Not caring about how he looked, he immediately spat a few times. The things that gushed out from a corpse were undoubtedly not trivial matters. The powder still roamed in the air. If it was accidentally sucked into the lungs, it would’ve been even harder to deal with than if it entered one’s mouth. Wei WuXian instructed, “All of you, stand away from that area! Come here quickly. Let me see you.”
Lan JingYi, “Okay. But I cannot see you. Where are you?”
One couldn’t even see their hand if it was right in front of them, let alone walk in this fog. Wei WuXian recalled that, whenever Bichen was unsheathed, its sword glare could penetrate the white fog. He turned to Lan WangJi, who stood by his side, “HanGuang-Jun, draw your sword for a moment, so that he can walk over.”
Lan WangJi was standing right beside him, yet neither replied nor moved.
Suddenly, a clear, blue sword glare lit up an area around seven steps away.
… Lan WangJi was there?
Then who was the person that had always stood silently beside him?!
Suddenly, a shadow flashed before Wei WuXian’s eyes. A dark face approached from in front of him.
It was dark because, on top of the face, there was a thick layer of black mist!
The mist-faced man reached out for the Qiankun Pouch hung by his side. However, after he had taken it, the Qiankun Pouch suddenly swelled up. The string that had tied it snapped in half, and three enraged spirits shot forward. Forming an entangled mess, they charged toward him!
Wei WuXian laughed, “Did you want the Qiankun Pouch? Then, your eyesight must be in a bad shape. Why did you take my Spirit-Trapping Pouch instead?”
Ever since they snatched the recently-unearthed torso from the gravedigger’s hands in the YueyangChang Sect’s cemetery and caused him to retreat frustratedly, Wei WuXian and Lan WangJi had always been on the alert. They predicted that he wouldn’t give up and would instead look out for any opportunity to take it back. As they had expected, after they entered Yi City, the gravedigger attacked, intending to take advantage of the thick fog and the chattering crowd. Indeed, his attack worked, but Wei WuXian had long since swapped the Qiankun Pouch that held the left arm with the Spirit-Trapping Pouch.
With a clang, the opponent jumped backward and unsheathed his sword. Instantly, the spirits’ hatred-filled screeches sounded about, as if the attack pushed them toward the verge of dissipating. Wei WuXian thought to himself, So he really is someone with a high level of cultivation. He immediately shouted, “HanGuang-Jun, the gravedigger’s here!”
Without needing the reminder, Lan WangJi knew that something had happened just by listening. He stayed silent. Bichen’s swift, fierce sweep served as response.
The current situation was far from optimistic. A black mist covered the gravedigger’s sword, making it so that the sword glare didn’t come through and allowing it to hide perfectly within the white fog. On the other hand, the sword glare from Lan WangJi’s Bichen couldn’t be concealed at all. He was out in the open while the enemy was hidden in the dark. Also, the enemy was not only highly skilled in terms of cultivation, but he was also familiar with the GusuLan Sect’s sword moves. And, although both of them were fighting blindly in the fog, he could do whatever he wanted, yet Lan WangJi had to be careful so that he didn’t accidentally injure anyone on his own side. Seeing from all of this, Lan WangJi was really at a disadvantage. Having heard a few clashes of the blades, Wei WuXian’s heart suddenly tightened. He blurted out, “Lan Zhan? Are you hurt?!”
From afar, there came a muffled grunt, as if someone had received a critical injury. It clearly wasn’t Lan WangJi’s voice, though.
Lan WangJi, “Of course not.”
Wei WuXian grinned, “So it seems!”
It sounded as if the other person laughed bitterly. He attacked again. The clashing sounds of Bichen’s glare and the other sword were farther and farther away. Wei WuXian knew that Lan WangJi didn’t want to accidentally hurt them and purposely drew the battle away to deal with the gravedigger on his own. Of course, the rest was up to Wei WuXian. He turned around, “How are the ones who inhaled the powder?”
Lan SiZhui, “They are starting to have trouble standing up!”
Wei WuXian, “Come to the middle and number yourselves off.”
It was fortunate that, after finishing off a wave of walking corpses and leading away a gravedigger, nothing else came to disturb them. The noise of the bamboo pole didn’t come out to make trouble either. The remaining disciples gathered around and counted themselves off. Nobody was missing. Wei WuXian took Lan JingYi into his hands and felt his forehead. It was a bit warm. He then felt the foreheads of the other boys who had inhaled the powder from the corpse. They were the same. He lifted Lan JingYi’s eyelids, “Show me your tongue. Ahh.”
Lan JingYi, “Ahh.”
Wei WuXian, “Yep. Congratulations. You’re under corpse poisoning.”
Jin Ling, “How is this something to congratulate someone for?!”
Wei WuXian, “It’s another life experience. It’d be a conversation starter when you grow older.”
Corpse poisoning was mostly due to being wounded by a turned corpse or having a wound touch their necrotic blood. Cultivators usually didn’t allow walking corpses to get so near that they get wounded, so nobody made it a habit to carry elixirs that cured corpse poisoning. Lan SiZhui worried, “Young Master Mo, will anything happen to them?”
Wei WuXian, “Nothing at the moment. When it goes in the bloodstream and travels all around the body and enters the heart, then nothing could help anymore.”
Lan SiZhui, “Wh-what will happen?”
Wei WuXian, “Whatever happens to corpses will happen to you. If you’re lucky, you’re just going to rot away. If you’re not, you might become a long-haired zombie and you’ll only be able to hop around for the rest of your life.”
All of the poisoned disciples gasped.
Wei WuXian, “So you want to cure it?”
Everyone nodded. Wei WuXian continued, “If you want to cure it, then listen up. From now on, all of you have to behave and listen to whatever I say. Every one of you.”
Although a lot of the boys still weren’t familiar with him, seeing that he could intimately call HanGuang-Jun by his birth name as if they were from the same generation, that they stood in the middle of a ominously foggy haunted city, and that they were both poisoned and feverish, they felt particularly anxious, instinctively wanting to depend on someone. And, since anything that came out of Wei WuXian’s mouth somehow had a tone of confidence that eliminated all worries, they couldn’t help but listened to his words, answering in unison, “Yes!”
Wei WuXian pressed further, “You have to do whatever I tell you to. Be obedient. Understood?”
Wei WuXian clapped, “Stand up. Those who aren’t poisoned can carry those who are, preferably over the shoulder. If you can only lift them on your front, remember to position the head and the heart higher than the rest of the body.”
Lan JingYi, “But I can walk. Why do we need to be carried?”
Wei WuXian, “Brother, if you jump around, your blood is going to circulate quickly, and it will enter your heart sooner. So you shouldn’t move too much. It’s best if you don’t move at all.”
The boys immediately stood as still as boards, allowing their peers to lift them up. Carried on the shoulder of another disciple from his sect, one boy mumbled, “The corpse that sprinkled the poisonous powder really did breathe.”
The boy who carried him complained as he panted on, “I already told you. If it knew how to breathe, then it’d be a living person.”
Lan SiZhui, “Young Master Mo, all of them have been carried. Where will we go?”
Lan SiZhui was the nicest, most obedient, and least worrisome one. Wei WuXian replied, “At the moment, we definitely won’t be able to leave the city. Let’s knock a few doors.”
Jin Ling, “Knock the doors of what?”
Wei WuXian thought for a moment, “Is there anything else that has doors except for houses?”
Jin Ling, “You want us to enter these houses? It’s already this dangerous outside. Who knows what things are hidden in these rooms, watching and waiting for us.”
After he spoke, everyone felt that there really were pairs of eyes hidden within the fog and the houses, closely watching their every move, their every word. They couldn’t help but shuddered in fear. Wei WuXian responded, “True. It’s hard to say whether outside the houses or inside the houses is more dangerous. But, since it’s already like this on the outside, the inside can’t be any worse. Let’s go. There’s no time to lose. We still need to cure the poisoning.”
The group had to do what they were told. Listening to Wei WuXian’s instructions, everyone held the sword sheath of the person in front of him, so that they didn’t wander off amid the dense fog. From house to house, they knocked on the doors. Jin Ling pounded for awhile, and didn’t hear any response from within the house, “There doesn’t seem to be anyone inside this one. Let’s go in.”
Wei WuXian’s voice drifted over, “Who told you to enter if there wasn’t anyone inside? Continue knocking. We need to go into a house that does have someone inside of it.”
Jin Ling, “You want to find one with someone inside?”
Wei WuXian, “Yes. Knock nicely. Your knocks were too strong. It’s quite rude.”
Jin Ling was so irritated that he almost kicked the wooden door down. In the end, he only… stomped angrily on the ground.
Every household by the street shut its door tightly, refraining from opening it no matter how hard they knocked. The more Jin Ling knocked, the more annoyed he became, but the amount of force he exerted had clearly lessened. On the other hand, Lan SiZhui remained calm. At the thirteenth shop, he repeated the phrase that had already been repeated a number of times, “Excuse me. Is anyone inside?”
Suddenly, the door shifted. A thin, black slit had been opened.
It was very dark on the other side of the door, not allowing anyone to make out what was behind the slit. The person who opened the door didn’t speak either. The boys who were close by couldn’t help but stepped backward.
Lan SiZhui regained his composure, “Excuse us, but are you the manager of the shop?”
A moment passed, and an old, bizarre voice leaked from the slit, “Yes.”
Wei WuXian walked over and patted Lan SiZhui’ shoulder, signalling for him to step back as well, and spoke, “Manager, it’s our first time coming here. The fog was so thick that we got lost. We’ve been walking for a long time already, and we’re rather tired. Would it be possible for you to lend your shop so that we can rest a bit?”
The bizarre voice replied, “My shop is not for travellers to rest.”
Wei WuXian looked as if he didn’t find anything strange at all, and spoke with his usual expression, “But, in the area, there isn’t any other shop that has anyone inside. Manager, are you really not willing to do us a favour? We are willing to pay.”
Jin Ling blurted out, “How would you get the money to pay? Let’s make this clear—I won’t lend you money.”
Wei WuXian waggled a delicate pouch in front of his eyes, “Look what this is.” Lan SiZhui was shocked, “How dare you?! This is HanGuang-Jun’s!”
As they argued, the slit was opened a bit further. Although they still couldn’t see the furniture in the room, they could see that a gray-haired, expressionless woman stood behind the door.
Although the old woman had a hunched back, appearing quite elderly at first glance, she actually didn’t have a lot of wrinkles or age spots. It would even be possible to describe her as middle-aged. She proceeded to open the door and move out of the way. It looked like that she was willing to let them in.
Jin Ling was astonished. He whispered, “She really is willing to let us in?”
Wei WuXian also whispered, “Of course. One of my feet was within the slit, so she couldn’t close the door even if she wanted to. If she still didn’t let me in, I would’ve just kicked the door down.”
Jin Ling, “…”
Yi City was already frightening and peculiar; the people who lived here were definitely not ordinary either. Seeing how suspicious the old woman looked, the disciples all whispered in silence. Although they didn’t want to go inside at all, there wasn’t any other choice left for them. They could only pick up their peers, who were too scared to move an inch due to the poisoning, and enter the door one by one. The old woman stood waiting on the side, looking coldly at them. When everyone was inside, she immediately closed the door. The room was pitch-black again. Wei WuXian asked, “Manager, why do you not open the lights?”
The old woman, “The light is on the table. Light it yourselves.”
Lan SiZhui just happened to be standing by a table. Slowly feeling around, he found an oil lamp covered with a thick layer of dust. He fished out a fire talisman and lit it up. As he moved it toward the lampwick, unintentionally looking around the room, a gush of cold air washed from his feet to his head. His scalp tingled with terror.
Within the shop’s central chamber, a roomful of people were crammed inside, shoulders to shoulders and heels to heels. Each and every single one of them had their eyes wide open, staring at them without a single blink!
Spirit-Trapping Pouch: This used to be called the Spirit-Locking Pouch.