Chapter 36 Grasses—Part Four
Jin Ling and the group felt that their hearts were about to jump out of their chests, as they feared that something would happen to Wei WuXian as he was looking outside and that he would collapse with his hands covering his eyes. With an ah of exclamation coming from him, the boys’ hearts skipped a few beats. Even their hair seemed to be standing, “What happened?!”
Wei WuXian spoke as quietly as he could, “Shh. Don’t talk. I’m looking at it.”
Jin Ling lowered his voice so that it was even quieter than Wei WuXian’s, “Then what are you seeing? What’s the thing outside the door?”
Wei WuXian neither took his gaze away nor gave a straightforward answer, “Hmmm… Yes… This is amazing. Truly amazing.”
The expression that could be seen from the side of his face was filled with delight, and both his praise and exclamation sounded as though they were from the bottom of his heart. The disciples’ curiosity immediately overrode their nervousness. Lan SiZhui couldn’t help but ask, “… Senior Mo, what is truly amazing?”
Wei WuXian, “Wow! It’s so pretty. Be quiet, you guys. Don’t scare it away. I’m not done looking at it.”
Jin Ling, “Move! I want to see.”
Wei WuXian, “Are you sure?”
Wei WuXian took his time stepping aside, as if he was unwilling to leave. Jin Ling was the first to move over. He looked outside through the thin slit between the wooden boards.
It was already nighttime. In the cold atmosphere, even the fog in Yi City had somewhat dissipated, just barely allowing one to see the street at a few meters away. Jin Ling peeked for a while. Failing to find the “amazing”, “pretty” thing, he was rather disappointed, thinking to himself, I didn’t scare it away by talking, did I?
Just as he was about to give up, a small, shrivelled figure suddenly flashed before the slit.
Having seen the entire appearance of the entity without any preparations, Jin Ling’s scalp prickled from the shock. He almost bursted out but, somehow suppressing the exclamation that was still in his chest, he actually managed to stay silent, and maintained the stiff, bent-down posture. After the tingles above his head had passed, he turned to Wei WuXian in spite of himself. Wei WuXian, the root of the commotion, leaned on the window beside the door. With one corner of his mouth curving upward, he raised his eyebrows and gave Jin Ling a sly smile, “Doesn’t it look pretty?”
Jin Ling glared back at him. Knowing that he was making fun of them on purpose, Jin Ling grit his teeth, “… Yes…”
With a change of heart, he straightened up and casually replied, “It’s so-so at best. Only barely worthy of a look!”
After the comment, he moved aside, waiting for the next person to be fooled. Their deceiving words roused the rest of the group’s level of curiosity to a peak. Lan SiZhui couldn’t hold himself from staying still and walked to the same spot. Just as his eyes approached the slit, he bursted out with an “ah!”, but in all honesty, unlike the previous two. With a face full of panic, he jumped backward from the shock. He only found Wei WuXian after dizzily spinning around a few times, then complained, “Senior Mo! There is a… a…”
Wei WuXian responded in absolute awareness, “There’s a that, right? No need to say it out loud, else it’d no longer be a pleasant surprise. Let everyone go see for himself.”
It was impossible for the others to still dare go over after they saw Lan SiZhui’s terrified reaction. A pleasant surprise? More like a nasty fright. All of them waved their hands in refusal, “No thanks. No thanks.”
Jin Ling spat, “The situation’s already like this and you’re still playing tricks. Just what in the world were you thinking?”
Wei WuXian, “You joined me as well, didn’t you? Don’t imitate your uncle’s tone. SiZhui, was it scary?”
Lan SiZhui obediently nodded, “Yes.”
Wei WuXian, “That’s good. This is an excellent opportunity for your cultivation. Why do ghosts scare people? It’s because when people are scared, their consciousness fades while their spirit surges, which make the easiest moments to suck out their yang energy. This is why ghosts are the most afraid of those who are fearless, who aren’t scared of them. There are no opportunities to seize, so there isn’t anything that ghosts can do to them. Thus, as disciples of cultivation, your number one goals are to become braver!”
Glad that he didn’t take a curious look due to his inability to move, Lan JingYi muttered, “Braveness is determined at birth. What can you possibly do if you were born a coward?”
Wei WuXian, “Were you born knowing how to fly on swords? People only know how to do it after practicing and practicing. Similarly, people can get used to things after being scared. Does the outhouse reek? Is it disgusting? Trust me, if you live in an outhouse for a month, you’ll even be able to eat your meals in there.”
The boys were absolutely terrified. They dismissed the claim in unison, “No you cannot!!! That is impossible!!!”
Wei WuXian, “It’s only an example. Okay, I admit that I haven’t lived in an outhouse before. I don’t know if you can actually eat in there. I have no evidence. However, you must try the one outside the door. You must not only look at it but, moreover, look carefully. Watch for the details. From the details, find any hidden weaknesses in the shortest time possible. You must take the situation calmly and search for chances to counter-attack. Alright, have I said enough for you to understand? Most people wouldn’t have the opportunity for my guidance. Make use of it. Nobody move any further away. A single-file line, please. Look one at a time.”
“… Do we really have to?”
Wei WuXian, “Of course. I never joke around. I never fool people, either. Let’s start with JingYi. Both Jin Ling and SiZhui have looked already.”
Lan JingYi, “What? I would not have to look, would I? People under corpse poisoning cannot move. You said so yourself.”
Wei WuXian, “Let me see your tongue. Ah.”
Lan JingYi, “Ah.”
Wei WuXian, “Congratulations. You have been cured. Bravely make your first step forward. Come on!”
Lan JingYi, “I have been cured already?! You are kidding, right?!”
With his protests denied, he could only toughen up and walk toward the window. He looked once, then looked away. He looked once more, then looked away again. Wei WuXian knocked on the board, “What are you scared of? I’m standing here. It won’t break through the board, much less eat your eyeballs or anything.”
Lan JingYi jumped away, “I’m finished looking!”
And then, whenever someone’s turn came, there’d be sharp gasps of fright. After everyone went, Wei WuXian spoke again, “Finished looking? Then, everyone, tell the group what details you’ve picked up. Let’s summarize.”
Jin Ling fought to speak first, “White eyes. Female. Short and skinny. Fine looks. Holding a bamboo pole.”
Lan SiZhui thought for a moment, “The girl’s height reaches my chest. She is only wearing rags and does not look too clean, dressed like a beggar roaming the streets. The bamboo pole appears to be a white cane. It is possible that her white eyes were not formed after death, but instead because she had been blind before she passed away.”
Wei WuXian commented, “Jin Ling had greater quantity, while SiZhui had higher quality.”
Jin Ling’s lips twitched in dissatisfaction.
One boy spoke up, “The girl is only around fifteen or sixteen. She has an oval face, with a lively air about her delicate features. She fastened her long hair with a wooden hairpin, which had a small fox head carved onto the end. She’s not only small—her figure is slender as well. Although she’s not that tidy, she’s not grimy either. After some grooming, she’s bound to be a lovely girl.”
Hearing this, Wei WuXian immediately felt that this boy would have a very promising future. He vigorously praised, “Well done, well done. The observations are both detailed and unique. Child, you’ll definitely be the sentimental type after you grow up.”
The boy blushed and turned to face the wall, ignoring his peers’ laughter. Another boy spoke, “It looks like that the sounds of a bamboo pole knocking on the ground were from when she was walking. If she had been blind before she passed away, she would not have been able to see even after she became a ghost, so she could only rely on the white cane.”
Another one of the boys argued, “But how would that be possible? You have all seen blind people, have you not? Because they cannot use their eyes, they move and walk slowly, in case they bump into anything. However, the ghost outside the door has swift movements. I have never seen such a nimble blind person before.”
Wei WuXian smiled, “Good job. Props to you for thinking about this. This is exactly how you should analyze. Don’t dismiss any points of suspicion. Now, let’s invite her inside to get some answers.”
As soon as he finished his sentence, he immediately took off one of the boards. Not only the boys inside, even the ghost outside the window jumped from his sudden movement, warily raising her bamboo pole.
Wei WuXian first greeted the ghost, then asked, “Maiden, do you have any business here, having followed them all this way?”
The girl widened her eyes. If she were a living person, she must have looked as adorable as can be. However, with no pupils and only two streaks of blood pouring from her eyes, it only made her look scarier than ever. Some more people in the back had gasped. Wei WuXian comforted them, “What are you scared of? You’re gonna get used to seeing people bleeding from the seven qiao in the future. It’s only two of the seven that are currently bleeding, and you can’t handle it? This is why I tell you to experience more things and toughen up.”
Before this, the girl had been irritatedly circling in front of their window, knocking on the ground with her pole, stomping her feet, glaring at everyone, waving her arms around. Now, however, her actions changed. She gestured, as if she wanted to express something. Jin Ling wondered, “Strange. Can’t she talk?”
Hearing this, the girl’s ghost paused, then opened her mouth.
Blood gushed out from her empty mouth. Her tongue had been pulled out from its root.
The disciples were covered in goosebumps, yet they felt a same sense of sympathy, So that was why she could not speak. Both blind and mute—how unfortunate.
Wei WuXian, “Is she using sign language? Does anyone understand?”
Nobody understood. The girl was so anxious that she stomped her feet, using her pole to write and scribble on the ground. Yet, she clearly wasn’t from a scholarly family. She was illiterate and couldn’t write anything. With only a mess of stick-figures, no-one could understand what she was trying to say.
Suddenly, from the far end of the street came a series of sprinting footsteps and human pants.
The girl’s spirit suddenly disappeared. She’d probably come back again, though, so Wei WuXian wasn’t worried. He quickly put the board back and continued peeping outside from the slit. The rest of the disciples wanted to see the situation outside as well, and all squeezed in front of the door. A row of heads stacked from the top to the bottom, blocking the entire slit.
Although the fog had thinned for a while, at the moment, it started to circulate again. A figure clumsily broke through the fog and rushed over.
The person was dressed in black. As if he had been injured, he staggered as he ran. A sword hung by his waist, which was also enveloped in black cloth. Lan JingYi whispered, “Is he the mist-faced man?”
Lan SiZhui whispered back, “Probably not. The mist-faced man had entirely different moves from this person.”
A group of walking corpses followed the person. Moving quickly, they soon caught up to him. The person faced the attacks by unsheathing his sword. Its bright, limpid sword glare sliced the fog open. Wei WuXian silently cheered, What a good move!
However, after the attack, the strange yet familiar spurts sounded again. The black-red powder shot out from the corpses’ severed limbs. The person was surrounded by them. With nowhere to hide, he stood where he was, and was immediately engulfed by the powder. Lan SiZhui was shocked by the scene. He urged in a hushed voice, “Senior Mo, this man, we…”
Another group of walking corpses went over and surrounded the person. The circle shrank smaller and smaller. His sword slashed out again, and more corpse-poisoning powder bursted out. He breathed in more of the powder as well, appearing as though he was already beginning to lose his balance. Wei WuXian spoke up, “We need to help him.”
Jin Ling, “How do you intend on helping him? We can’t go over there now. The corpse-poisoning powder is everywhere. You’re gonna get poisoned if you go near.”
After a moment of thinking, Wei WuXian left the window and walked inside the central chamber. The boys couldn’t help but follow him with their eyes. Differently-postured paper mannequins stood silently between the two wreaths. Wei WuXian strode in front of them, and stopped in front of a pair of female mannequins.
Each of the paper mannequins looked different. Yet, this pair seemed as if they were purposely made to be two twin sisters. Their makeup, clothes, and features were all the exact same. With curved brows and smiling expressions, one could almost hear their “hee-hee” laughter. They wore double-buns, red earrings, gold bracelets, and embroidered shoes, closely resembling a pair of maids from a wealthy family.
Wei WuXian, “How about these two?”
He lightly brushed his hand against a boy’s unsheathed sword, producing a cut on his thumb. Turning around, he smeared two pairs of eyes, four pupils, onto the mannequins.
Then, he took a step backward. With a faint smile, he chanted, “Eyes behind thy long lashes, lips parted, smiling in tease. Mind not the good or evil, with smeared eyes I summon thee.”
Out of the blue, a chilly breeze drifted across the entire shop. The boys couldn’t help but tightly grip their swords.
All of a sudden, the twin mannequin sisters suddenly trembled.
The next moment, giggles of “hee-hee” really came out of their brightly tinted lips!
It was the Summoning of Painted Eyes!
As if they saw or heard something hilarious, the pair of paper mannequins giggled incessantly. At the same time, the eyes painted with human blood spun rapidly inside their sockets. The sight was truly stunning, but also truly frightening. Standing before them, Wei WuXian lowered his head in salutation.
With respect, the pair of paper mannequins also bowed slightly, returning salutations of a higher level.
Wei WuXian pointed outside the door, “Take the living person back inside. Other than him, eliminate everything.”
Shrill laughter emerged from the mouths of the paper mannequins. An eerie gust of wind threw the doors open!
Side by side, the two mannequins swept outside and into the circle of walking corpses. It was beyond belief how, although they were mannequins made from pieces of paper, they had such strong powers. With dainty shoes and drifting sleeves, they severed the arm of a corpse with one swish of their hands, then severed half of a head with another—it was as if the paper sleeves had been turned into keen blades. The flirtatious giggles continued to echo through the entire length of the street, bringing about both horror and allure.
Not long afterward, the fifteen or sixteen walking corpses had been chopped into broken chunks that lay limply on the ground!
The two paper maids gained a complete victory. Obeying the command, they carried the weakened escapee inside. Then, as they jumped outside again, the doors closed on their own. Each of them guarded each side of the entrance as if they were lion statues that guarded estates, and finally quieted down.
The disciples inside the room were shocked speechless.
They had only seen and heard the descriptions of improper cultivation methods from books and their own seniors. At the time, they couldn’t understand it, If they were improper methods, then why would so many people still want to learn them? Why would the YiLing Patriarch still have so many imitators? And, now, after they had seen it with their own eyes, they finally realized the fascination around these sorts of practices. Moreover, this was only the tip of the iceberg—the “Summoning of Painted Eyes”. Thus, after the boys got over the initial shock, there were no signs of repulsion on their faces, but instead excitement that couldn’t be concealed. They felt that it enriched their experiences, allowing for more conversations between their juniors and them. Jin Ling was the only one who didn’t look too well.
Lan SiZhui went over to help Wei WuXian with the stranger. Wei WuXian spoke, “Nobody come near. Be careful not to touch the corpse-poisoning powder. It’s possible that even physical contact would poison you.”
When the person was carried inside by the paper mannequins, he was already in a state of only half-consciousness, appearing as if there was only little energy left of him. Now, though, his mind had become clearer. He coughed a few times, covering his mouth with his hand as though to prevent any powder that he had coughed up from affecting other people. He spoke in a low tone, “Who are you?”
The voice sounded extremely tired. He asked the question not only because he didn’t know who the people in the room were, but also because he couldn’t see anything.
A thick layer of white bandages wrapped around the man’s eyes. He was probably blind.
And, not to mention, he was both blind and relatively good-looking. With a high nose bridge and thin lips that had the hue of a soft red, he could almost be described as handsome. He looked quite young as well, somewhere between a boy and a man, naturally gaining the sympathy of anyone who came across him. Wei WuXian wondered to himself, Why have I been meeting so many blind people in the past few days? Both heard and seen; both alive and dead.
Suddenly, Jin Ling called out, “Hey. We still don’t know who he is, whether he’s friend or foe. Why should we save him without taking any considerations? If he’s a bad guy, then wouldn’t we be letting a snake in?”
Although this was indeed the case, it sounded rather awkward when spoken in such a frank tone right in front of the person himself. Strangely, the person wasn’t angered and didn’t appear to be worried that he’d be thrown out at all. He smiled, revealing the small tips of two canine teeth, “Young Master, you’re very right. It would be best if I leave.”
Not expecting this sort of reaction at all, Jin Ling paused for a second. With no idea what to say, he hastily snorted. Lan SiZhui hurried to mediate between the two, “But it is also possible that he is not a bad person. No matter what, not helping a dying person is against our sect’s rules.”
Jin Ling stubbornly continued, “Fine. You’re the good guys. If someone dies, it’s not my fault.”
Lan JingYi fumed, “You…” Before he could finish his sentence, it was as if the cat got his tongue.
It was because he saw the sword that the man propped up against the table. The black cloth wrapped around it had somewhat fallen off, and the body of the sword could be seen.
The sword was forged with unequaled skill. The sheath was in the color of bronze, with intricate patterns of frost hollowed out. Through the patterns, the body of the sword shone through as if it was made of silver stars, glistening with snowflake-shaped flecks of luminescence. There was a pure yet bright sense of beauty to it.
Lan JingYi widened his eyes, as if he was about to blurt something out. Even though Wei WuXian didn’t know what he wanted to say, since the man covered his sword with black cloth, he clearly didn’t want it to be seen. Instinctively not wanting to alert the stranger, he covered Lan JingYi’s mouth with one hand and put the index finger of his other hand to his lips, signalling for the similarly astonished boys to make no sounds.
Jin Ling mouthed two characters at him, then used his hand to write the two characters on the dust-covered table:
… The Shuanghua sword?
Wei WuXian mouthed his question, Xiao XingChen’s sword—Shuanghua?
Jin Ling and the rest nodded in confirmation.
The boys had never seen Xiao XingChen himself, but “Shuanghua” was both rare and well-known. It was not only strong in spiritual power, but also looked stunningly intricate. It had been illustrated as part of countless versions of sword catalogues, which was why everyone knew of it. Wei WuXian pondered, If the sword is Shuanghua, and the person is blind…
One of the boys thought of this as well. He couldn’t help but reach out toward the bandages wrapped around person’s eyes, in hope of taking them off so that he could see if his eyes were still there or not. Yet, just as his hand touched the bandages, a pained expression appeared on the person’s face. He inched backward slightly, as though he was scared of his eyes being touched.
Noticing his own rudeness, the boy immediately took his hand away, “Sorry, sorry… It wasn’t on purpose.
The person raised his left hand, which wore a thin, black glove. He wanted to cover his eyes, but was afraid to do so. It was probably that even a light touch brought about unbearable pain—a thin layer of sweat had already appeared on his forehead. He managed with difficulty, “It’s fine…”
His voice, though, trembled faintly.
With such behavior, one could almost ascertain that this person was Xiao XingChen, who had disappeared after the case of the YueyangChang Clan.
Xiao XingChen didn’t know that his identity had been exposed yet. After the pain had passed, he felt around for Shuanghua. Wei WuXian quickly pulled the black cloth that had fallen off back on. With Shuanghua in his hand, Xiao XingChen nodded, “Thanks for the help. I’ll take my leave.”
Wei WuXian, “Stay here for now. You’re under corpse poisoning.”
Xiao XingChen, “Is it severe?”
Wei WuXian, “Quite so.”
Xiao XingChen, “If it’s severe, then what is the point of staying? It’s long past hope, anyways. Why not kill a few more corpses before I become one as well?”
Hearing how he didn’t care for his own life, the boys felt their blood burn with indignation. Lan JingYi bursted out, “Who said that you are long past hope? Stay here! He will cure you!”
Wei WuXian, “Me? Sorry, but were you talking about me?” He really couldn’t speak the truth—Xiao XingChen had already breathed in too much of the corpse-poisoning powder. With a dark red hue to his complexion, he was most likely too ill for rice congee to work.
Xiao XingChen, “I have already killed a number of corpses in this city. They kept on following me and new ones would join shortly after old ones died. If I stay, you’ll be drowned in an ocean of corpses, either sooner or later.”
Wei WuXian, “Do you know why Yi City became this way?”
Xiao XingChen shook his head, “No. I’m only a roaming cul… roaming around the area. I heard about the strange events here and decided to night-hunt in the city. You haven’t seen how many, how powerful the living and walking corpses here are. Some move too quickly to take precautions against. Others, when killed, release corpse-poisoning powder that poisons people upon touch. However, if you don’t kill them, they would pounce on you and attack. Both result in poisoning, which makes it truly difficult to deal with. Judging from your voices, there are quite a few young masters in your group, right? It’s best if you leave as soon as possible.”
Just as he finished his sentence, the sinister giggles of the mannequin sisters came from outside the door. This time, the laughter was sharper than ever.
Qiao: This has been mentioned in the past. See the vocabulary sheet if you find yourself having memory loss.
Summoning of Painted Eyes: This originated from the story of a man who added pupils to the painting of a dragon, and the dragon became real. The incantation here is partly from He SiCheng’s poem—Meeting a Beauty in Nanyuan. Since he’s not a well-known poet and it’s not a well-known poem, it hasn’t been translated to English yet. Thus, although I spent quite a long time on it, the translation here is definitely not professional or even anywhere near perfect. Major thanks to Tracy for helping me.