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The boys on the side were all young and inexperienced. However, although they all looked nervous, they strictly stuck to their positions and protected the Mo family’s house, fixing talismans onto the walls. The servant named A-Tong was already carried into the hall. Lan SiZhui felt his pulse with his left hand and supported Madame Mo’s back with his right. He couldn’t save both of them at once, and was in a terrible fix when A-Tong crawled up from the ground.
A-Ding exclaimed, “A-Tong, you’re awake!”
Before her face had the time to light up, A-Tong raised his left hand and clutched his own neck.
Seeing this, Lan SiZhui tapped on a few of his acupoints for three times. Wei WuXian knew that, although they looked gentle, the people from the Lan clan had arm strength that were the opposite of gentle. With a force like this, it would be hard for anyone to move. However, A-Tong seemed like he didn’t feel anything, and his left hand’s grip tightened, his expressions looking more painful and twisted. Lan JingYi proceeded to grab his left hand, but it was like breaking off a chunk of iron, having no effect at all. After a moment, a crack came from his neck, and A-Tong’s head drooped down. His neck was already broken.
He actually strangled himself in front everyone’s eyes!
Seeing the situation, A-Ding’s voice wavered, “… A ghost! There’s an invisible ghost here. It made A-Tong strangle himself!”
Her tone was sharp and her voice was shrill, making everyone’s blood run cold, and so they believed it effortlessly. Wei WuXian’s judgement happened to be the opposite—it wasn’t a ferocious ghost.
He had examined the talismans that the boys chose; all of them were spirit-fending ones, and the East Hall was literally covered with them. If it really was a ferocious ghost, then, as it went into the East Hall, the talismans would have incinerated green flames. Yet, nothing was happening right now.
It was not the group of kids’ fault for reacting too slow, but the creature was indeed cruel. The cultivation world had a strict definition for the category of “ferocious ghosts”—they had to kill at least one person a month and continue the behaviour for at least three months. The criterion was set by Wei WuXian himself, and it was probably still being used. He was the best at dealing with this kind. To him, killing one person in seven days would be considered as a ferocious ghost who killed frequently. This thing killed three people at once, and within such a short period of time. It would be hard for even a capable cultivator to think of a solution immediately, let alone these juniors who had just started their careers.
As he was thinking, the candlelight flickered. A sinister wind passed, and all of the lanterns and candles in the courtyard and the East Hall died out.
The moment the lights were extinguished, screams came from everywhere. Everyone pushed and pulled, wanting to escape as fast as they could, stumbling and falling in the process. Lan JingYi shouted, “Stay where you are and don’t run! I’m gonna catch whoever runs!”
He wasn’t merely saying this to alarm the people. In fact, evil beings loved to cause trouble in the dark and make profits in times of trouble. The worse the crying and chaos, the more likely it was to unknowingly attract danger. At times like this, being isolated or becoming nervous was extremely unsafe. However, everyone was frightened to death, so how could they still have ears for words like this? After a while, the East Hall grew quiet, with only a few light breaths and faint sobs. It was likely that only a few people were left.
Amidst the dark, a fire lit up suddenly. Lan SiZhui ignited a Flame Talisman.
The fire from the Flame Talisman would not be extinguished by sinister winds. He used the talisman to light up the candle again, and the rest of the boys went to comfort the others. Under the light, Wei WuXian casually looked at his wrists. Another cut had healed.
After looking, he suddenly realized that there was something wrong about the number of cuts.
Originally, he had two cuts on each of his wrists. One healed when Mo ZiYuan died, and another healed when Mo ZiYuan’s father died. The death of the servant, A-Tong, healed one more of the cuts. Adding it up, only three cuts should have healed, with the last cut being the deepest and most hate-filled one.
But, right now, no cuts remained on his wrists.
Wei WuXian knew that Madame Mo was definitely one of Mo XuanYu’s targets of vengeance. The longest and deepest cut was probably saved for her. Yet, it had disappeared.
Did Mo XuanYu suddenly reach a point of epiphany and let go of his hate? That’d be impossible. His soul had already been sacrificed as the price for summoning Wei WuXian. Only the death of Madame Mo could heal the wound.
His gaze slowly moved towards the pale-faced Madame Mo, who recently woke up and was surrounded by everyone.
Unless, she was already dead.
Wei WuXian was sure that something was already possessing Madame Mo’s body. If the being wasn’t a spirit, then what was it?
Suddenly, A-Ding cried, “Hand… His hand! A-Tong’s hand!”
Lan SiZhui moved the Flame Talisman to above A-Tong’s body. Sure enough, his left hand had disappeared as well.
With lightning speed, Wei WuXian’s mind became clear, with the being that was wrecking havoc and the missing left arms finally completing the puzzle. He promptly bursted out laughing. Lan JingYi snapped, “You idiot! How can you still laugh in a situation like this?” But, after a second thought, he knew that he was an idiot anyways, so what’s the use of haggling over him?
Wei WuXian tugged at his sleeve, “No, no!”
Lan JingYi was annoyed, pulling his sleeve back, “What ‘no’? You’re not an idiot? Stop fooling around! Nobody has the time to pay attention to you.”
Wei WuXian pointed at the corpses of Mo ZiYuan’s father and A-Tong, which lay on the ground, and spoke, “These are not them.”
Lan SiZhui stopped the fuming Lan JingYi and asked, “What do you mean by ‘these are not them’?”
Wei WuXian stated solemnly, “This is not Mo ZiYuan’s dad, and this is not A-Tong either.”
With his makeup-covered face, the more solemn he looked, the more he seemed like an actual lunatic. Yet, surrounded by the dim candlelight, his words sent chills up everyone’s backs. Lan SiZhui stared for a second, and asked in spite of himself, “Why?”
Wei WuXian exclaimed proudly, “Their hands. None of them were left-handed. I’m sure of this, because they’d always hit me with their right hands.”
Lan JingYi spat, running out of patience, “What are you being proud for? Look at how complacent you are!”
However, Lan SiZhui broke into a sweat. Thinking back, A-Tong had used his left hand to strangle himself, and Madame Mo’s husband also used his left hand to push his wife.
But, during the day, when Mo XuanYu was causing trouble in the East Hall, the two were rushing to get him out of there, both using their right hands. It was impossible for them to suddenly turn left-handed before they died.
Although he didn’t know why, in order to figure out what the creature was, they had to think in the direction of “left hands.” After Lan SiZhui realized this, he felt surprised and looked at Wei WuXian. He couldn’t help but to think, suddenly saying this… It doesn’t seem like a coincidence.
Wei WuXian only smiled. He knew that the hint was too deliberate, but he couldn’t have helped it. The good thing was that Lan SiZhui didn’t think too much about it either, and thought, anyways, if Young Master Mo was willing to remind me of it, he probably didn’t mean any harm. His eyes moved away from him, passing A-Ding, who fainted from crying too much, and landed on Madame Mo.
His gaze traveled from her face down to her hands. Her arms were hanging down and were mostly hidden inside her sleeves, with only half of the fingers showing. Her right hand had fair, thin fingers, undoubtedly those of a woman who lived comfortably and never worked.
However, the fingers on her left hand were much longer than the ones on her right. They were also thicker. The knuckles were bent, full of power.
The hand isn’t that of a woman’s—it was a man’s hand!
Lan SiZhui commanded, “Take hold of her!”
A few boys grabbed Madame Mo. Lan SiZhui said “excuse me” and was prepared to slap down a talisman when Madame Mo’s left hand suddenly twisted in an absurd way, aiming for his throat.
Unless one’s bones had been broken, it was impossible for a living person to twist their arm like this. She attacked quickly, and was extremely close to grabbing onto his neck, when at the same time, Lan JingYi shouted “hey” and threw himself in front of Lan SiZhui, blocking the hand for him.
A flash passed, and as soon as the arm grabbed Lan JingYi’s shoulder, green flames ignited on his arm, making it loosen its grip. Lan SiZhui escaped death, and was about to thank Lan JingYi for it, when he saw that half of the latter’s uniform had already been burnt to ashes, looking quite awkward. Lan JingYi took off the other half of his uniform and scolded, fuming with rage, “Why did you kick me, you lunatic? Did you want to kill me?”
Wei WuXian scampered away like a frightened rat, “It wasn’t me!”
It was him. Inside of the Lan clan’s uniform jacket, there were compact stitchings of incantations using thin threads of the same color, included for protection. However, against strong ones like this, it could only be used once before it became invalid. During the emergency, he could only kick Lan JingYi and use his body to protect Lan SiZhui’s neck. Lan JingYi wanted to scold him again, but Madame Mo fell onto the ground, with all of the blood and flesh on her face being drained until only a thin layer of skin was left on the skull. The male arm that didn’t belong to her had fallen off her shoulders. Its fingers bent freely, as if it was stretching or exercising, and the throbs of its veins were clearly visible.
This was the evil being that the Phantom Attraction Flag had attracted.
Being dismembered was a classic example of a distressing death. It was only somewhat more dignified than the way Wei WuXian died. Unlike the situation of being crushed to powder, the limbs and parts of the corpse would be tainted with some of the resentment of the person who died, and it would want to reunite with the other parts and die with a whole corpse. Therefore, it would come up with strategies to find the other parts of the body. If it found it, it might be satisfied and rest in peace, or it might stir up more trouble. If it couldn’t find it, the body part would have to put up with the second best option.
What would the second best option be? It would have to make do with the bodies of living humans.
It was like this left hand—eat the left hand of a living person, and replace it. After draining all of the person’s blood and energy, it would abandon the body and find another container for parasitism, until it finally collected all of the other parts of its corpse.
As soon as the arm had possessed a person, they would die immediately. But, before all of the flesh had been eaten, they would still be able to walk around, under its control, as if the person was still alive. After it was attracted, the first container that it found was Mo ZiYuan. The second one was Mo ZiYuan’s father. When Madame Mo told her husband to go away, he acted out of the norm and pushed her. Wei WuXian originally thought that it was because he was grieving his son’s death and also tired of his wife’s arrogance. Now that he thought about it again, it wasn’t what a father who had just lost his son should look like. It wasn’t the indifference from feeling hopeless. It was a deadly tranquility—the tranquility coming from an already-deceased person.
The third container was A-Tong, and the fourth one was Madame Mo. During the chaos from when the lights suddenly went out, the ghost hand had transferred onto her body. When Madame Mo died, the last cut on Wei WuXian’s wrists also disappeared.
The boys from the Lan clan saw that, although talismans didn’t work, clothing did, and all took off their coats to cover the left hand. The layers of clothing looked like a white cocoon. After a second, the ball of white clothes ignited with a whoosh, creating a green, abnormal inferno. Although it would take care of the moment, after a while, when the uniforms were completely burnt, the hand would emerge from within the ashes. While nobody was looking, Wei WuXian ran towards the West Courtyard.
The ten-or-so walking corpses that were subdued by the boys stood silently in the courtyard, sealed by the incantations drawn on the ground. Wei WuXian kicked one of the symbols, destroying the entire formation. He clapped twice. Suddenly, with a jolt, the whites of the walking corpses’ eyes all turned upward, as if they were woken up by a bolt of thunder.
Wei WuXian spoke, “Wake up. It’s time to work!”
He usually didn’t need complex incantations to control these corpse puppets—a straightforward command would do as well. The walking corpses in front of him moved a few quivering steps. But, as they approached Wei WuXian, their legs grew weak and they collapsed onto the ground, as if they were real humans.
Wei WuXian found it both funny and annoying. He clapped his hands again, this time lighter. However, these walking corpses were probably born in Mo Village and died here as well, not having experienced life fully. They instinctively followed the summoner’s commands, but were also horrified at the summoner, lying on the ground and afraid to get up.
The crueler the being was, the better Wei WuXian could control it. These walking corpses hadn’t been trained by him and couldn’t withstand direct manipulations from him. He didn’t have any materials on him, which meant that he couldn’t immediately make tools to ease the walking corpses. He couldn’t even muddle and assemble bits and pieces. The soaring green flames in the East Courtyard gradually grew dimmer. Suddenly, Wei WuXian found a solution.
Why would he need to come outside and find a dead person with strong resentment and a cruel personality?
There were not only one, but multiple corpses in the East Hall!
He ran back to the East Courtyard. As Lan SiZhui’s first solution failed, he found a second one. The disciples pulled out their swords and stuck them into the ground, making a sword fence. The ghost hand crashed into the fence, and they spent all their energy compressing their hilts so that it didn’t break out, paying no attention to who was entering and leaving. Wei WuXian strode into the East Hall and grabbed Madame Mo and Mo ZiYuan’s corpses, one on each hand, and spoke in a low voice, “Wake up!”
In a split second, Madame Mo and Mo ZiYuan’s eye whites turned up, and started making the shrill and powerful shrieks that ferocious ghosts made after they came back to life.
Amidst the shrieks, another corpse trembled and crawled up, making the lowest and faintest shriek. It was Madame Mo’s husband.
The shrieks were loud enough and the resentment was strong enough. Wei WuXian smiled, feeling quite satisfied, “Do you recognize the hand outside?”
He commanded, “Tear it apart.”
The three members of the Mo family whipped out like three clouds of black wind.
The left arm fractured one of the swords, and was about to break out, when three cruel corpses without left arms came at it.
Aside from being unable to defy Wei WuXian’s command, the family also loathed the creature that killed them, and let out their anger on the ghost hand. The main attacker was undoubtedly Madame Mo. Because female corpses were often especially fierce after they were modified, her hair was loose and her eyes were bloodshot. With nails that multiplied in length, foam gathering at the corners of her mouth, and shrieks that were enough to uplift the ceiling, she looked extremely insane. Behind her followed Mo ZiYuan, who cooperated with her and used both his teeth and his hands. His father was at the end, covering for the gaps between the attacks of the other two corpses. The struggling boys were stricken dumb with amazement.
They had only seen these battles between multiple fierce corpses in books and hearsay, and they all gaped as they saw the gore-splattered scene for the first time, unable to avert their gazes. They all thought that it was… Absolutely thrilling!
The three corpses and the hand were in the middle of a tough battle, when Mo ZiYuan abruptly moved out of the way. His abdomen area was attacked by the hand, causing a few chunks of his intestines to spill out. As Madame Mo saw this, she screamed incessantly and shielded her son behind herself. Her attacks were more violent, the strength of her fingers almost comparable to that of steel and iron weapons. But,Wei WuXian knew that she was gradually being overpowered.
Even three cruel corpses who recently died couldn’t subdue this single arm!
Wei WuXian was watching the battle attentively. His tongue was slightly curled, suppressing a sharp whistle inside of his lips, preparing it to be let out. The whistle would be able to evoke even more hostility in the cruel corpses, which might turn the tables. Then, however, it would be difficult to ensure that nobody knew that it was his doing. In the blink of an eye, the hand moved like lightning, ruthlessly and precisely breaking Madame Mo’s neck.
Watching as the Mo family grew closer to defeat, Wei WuXian prepared to blow the whistle that he suppressed under his tongue. At the same time, the echoes of two strums on a stringed instrument came from far away.
The sound seemed to have been played by a human. The timbre was ethereal and clear, carrying the bleak chills of windswept pines. The creatures battling in the courtyard all stiffened as they heard the sound.
Instantaneously, the boys from the GusuLan clan started beaming, as if they were born again. Lan SiZhui wiped the blood off his face and raised his head, happily exclaiming, “HanGuang-Jun!”
As soon as he heard the two faraway strums of the zither, Wei WuXian turned around and began to leave.
The sound of another strum came. This time, the pitch was higher, piercing through the sky with a few degrees of bitterness. The three cruel corpses backed off and covered one ear with their right hands. However, it was impossible to block out the Eradication Tone of the GusuLan clan by means such as this. They had just retreated a few steps, and slight bursting sounds came from within their skulls.
Because the arm had just endured a tough fight, after hearing the sound of the strings again, it instantly fell onto the ground. Although the fingers were still flinching, the arm was unable to move.
After a short moment of silence, the boys couldn’t help but to cheer loudly, celebrating the joy of surviving the incident. They had struggled through the exhilarating night, and their clan’s reinforcement had finally came. Even if they’d be punished because of reasons such as “being discourteous and making noise is harmful to the clan’s reputation,” they didn’t care.
After waving towards the moon, Lan SiZhui suddenly realized that someone had disappeared. He tugged Lan JingYi, “Where is he?”
Lan JingYi was absorbed in the act of rejoicing, “Who? Which one?”
Lan SiZhui replied, “Young Master Mo.”
Lan JingYi said, “Hmm? Why are you looking for that lunatic? Who knows where he ran off to. He’s probably frightened by my threats to hit him.”
“…” Lan SiZhui knew that Lan JingYi had always been careless and straightforward, not thinking twice about anything or suspecting anyone. He thought, I’ll wait for HanGuang-Jun to come, and then tell him about everything.
Mo Village was still asleep, but it was difficult to tell whether it was a real slumber or a faked one. Although the corpse fight was a mass of blood and gore, the villagers didn’t wake up during the early morning to watch. After all, even bystanders needed to choose which events to show up at. One that involved lots of screaming was definitely not the safest type.
Wei WuXian eliminated all evidence of the sacrificial formation in Mo XuanYu’s room as fast as he could, and ran out the door.
Unfortunately, the person who came happened to be from the Lan clan, but even more unfortunately, he happened to be Lan WangJi!
This was one of the people who had fought with him before, so he should retreat quickly. He was in a hurry to find a mount, as he passed a courtyard and saw a big millstone inside. A donkey was tied to the handle, chewing on its mouth. When it saw him run over rashly, it seemed like it was surprised, and eyed him sideways as if it was a real person. Wei WuXian made eye contact with him for one second, and was immediately touched by the minuscule amount of contempt in its eyes.
He tried to grab onto the rope and pull it out, but the donkey complained by making a few loud noises. Therefore, Wei WuXian had to use both his words and his strength to deceive it and get it onto the road. As dawn came over the horizon, they went off onto the main path.
Seal: This does not mean to seal a piece of paper. It means to “apply a sort of power to an object/person so that they cannot use one or more of their usual powers” (“Baidu Baike”).
The bleak chills of windswept pines: Here, the author makes reference to a poem by Liu ChangQing. The translation of this phrase used chinesepoems.blogspot.ca as a reference.
HanGuang-Jun: HanGuang-Jun is the seme’s “alternative name” or “hao”. An alternative name is usually a title given to a person by themselves or others. In this case, the “-Jun” suffix at the end directly translates to “gentleman” or “a man of noble character”. Interesting enough, the “-kun” suffix in Japanese derived from this, although the two are used differently.
Zither: Here, the zither refers to the Chinese zither.
Eradication Tone: The literal meaning is “sounds that can overcome obstacles”. It is often used while attacking.