author: Yi Shi Si Zhou (一十四洲）
They did indeed have swords.
Someone handed one over.
It was a short, crude wooden sword, carved for a three-year-old to play with.
That child started crying and wailing, “My sword! My sword! Gimme back my sword!”
The child’s howls made Lin Shu’s ears ring. In the end, he didn’t take the sword and broke a branch off of a dead jujube tree in the courtyard instead. He grasped it and let out a small breath, feeling a little better.
In his sect, he was taught that it was better to die carrying his sword than to live having abandoned it. Those words had been carved into his very bones early on in his ten years of training. Although the sword had no practical use now since his cultivation base had ceased to exist, just holding it in his hand was enough to slightly alleviate the misery he felt at being surrounded by the crowd.
Lin Shu passed the group of people and walked towards the outskirts of the village. The closer he got, the denser the grey fog became.
Across the boundary, he suddenly met eyes with a rotting, purulent corpse wearing tattered clothing not far away.
That thing was actually still alive! Roaring, it half-leapt and half-jumped like the movement of a monkey and rushed forward, only to be stopped by the barrier. Lin Shu retreated several steps and watched it madly crashing into the boundary. Its claws could break through. Clearly, the boundary was not very reliable.
Even half-decayed and with its four limbs lying on the ground, its movements were still fast and nimble. This type of creature had been recorded in the Harmonious Tales of the Strange, Volume Nine and was called a crawling corpse. It was a low-level demonic entity that feared light, wind, and fire. The villagers obviously knew some of its characteristics as they had already grabbed torches to drive it away.
However, the sounds of rustling and movement gradually carried over from the shadowy jungle and it wasn’t long before dozens of corpses gathered near. According to the villagers, thousands of these evil creatures had been lingering and pacing up and down outside the barrier.
Lin Shu looked at the crawler that had been driven away from the barrier. He knew very well that the boundary was already extremely weak. It probably wouldn’t last more than half a month. If he couldn’t find a way out in that half a month, he would be trapped in the village.
But, he knew his cultivation base would not be restored in just a short time. That is to say, it was unknown whether or not his cultivation base would ever be able to return in this lifetime. The body of this little simpleton was very weak, mostly due to years of malnourishment. Taking two steps was enough to make his heart beat wildly—only if he reconstructed his spiritual roots and forcibly removed the block on his Eight Extraordinary Meridians could he finally press forward with great effort to take the step over the threshold into immortality cultivation.
The villagers watched him irresolutely muttering to himself, their hearts beating like drums inside their chests. No one dared to approach him.
After half a minute had passed, Lin Shu finally spoke. “Is there a qin?”
One minute he wanted a sword, the next he wanted a qin. In such a remote and desolate village, who would have such a thing?
Lin Shu saw them look at each other in dismay. He thought for a while and then haltingly said, “Anything that can make a sound……will do.”
They did have that.
A few young men ran towards the east side of the village. In no time, they had taken an old man by the arm and were assisting him and his erhu over.
That old man suffered from an eye disease and was blind. Once, he had been Mister Zhou, the folk singer and storyteller from a certain teahouse in Minzhou City. Ten years ago, he had journeyed from the city to his hometown to see his family. Who could have foreseen the disaster? He was trapped in the village and was unable to go out again.
After hearing the entire tale from onlookers, old Mister Zhou cupped his trembling hands in obeisance. “Young hero, as long as you can take us to Minzhou City to avoid disaster, you can ask these old bones of mine to do anything.”
Although it was said like this, what could this old man do? He was quickly approaching his coffin. The villagers did not understand what Lin Shu meant to do.
Yet Lin Shu did not want to make this old man, with one of his feet already in the grave, do any manual labor. He wanted him to play the erhu.
To study the sword, one must first cultivate and nourish the mind and spirit. His sect had a tradition of studying the qin to clear and purify one’s heart, so he knew several pieces of music to destroy devils and exorcise demons. He chose a song called “Warding Off Evil Spirits” and tried to teach the old man.
However, they had trouble communicating as Lin Shu’s speaking ability was subpar and the music scores written for the guqin and for the erhu had many inconsistencies between them. They returned to a room and messed with the erhu for a long time before they were finally able to pull together a song with the correct pitches.
It was night. The old lady’s two young sons, Li Jimao and Li Yamao, held torches aloft at the front to light the way. Lin Shu and old Mister Zhou again arrived at the edge of the boundary while a few strong, robust villagers followed.
In the thick fog, the ground glowed with phosphorescence as several dozen eyes again fixed themselves on the humans.
Old Mister Zhou picked up his bow and started to play.
The villagers called out in amazement, “They’re really leaving!”
They saw only the trembling of the trees as a number of crawling corpses left one after the other and crawled far away. After the song was played a few times, more than half had already left.
The sound of the music was indeed effective, but the musician was only a normal person. There wasn’t any magic in the song either, so the intimidating effect it had on demonic creatures was still limited.
Lin Shu silently pondered how to increase the power of the song.
While he was thinking, old Mister Zhou’s motions came to a stop.
“There’s movement outside,” he said.
The ears of blind men were always somewhat OP.
Sure enough, several breaths later, voices could gradually be heard. At first, there was a sharp sound of impact interspersed with a girl’s clear shouts, then came the sound of footsteps and voices.
A girl’s voice could be vaguely heard: “Just now there was still some noise, why did it stop?”
The old man was astonished and resumed playing. Li Jimao and Li Yamao also realized that strangers had arrived in the area and joyfully waved their torches.
The girl sounded as if she was hailing a companion: “Over here!”
After a while, the clamor of footsteps came closer and closer. Li Jimao shouted, “Here! Here!”
Hearing the wind from the swinging of weapons and the sounds of colliding flesh, the few remaining living dead also fled. A group of people pushed aside the bushes and passed through the boundary—as it turned out, the barrier only held off evil spirits and did not prevent the living from entering.
Lin Shu raised his head and saw that there were seven or eight of the newcomers, all young women in duanda that provided ease of movement and wearing sabers at their waists. They were clearly long-time practitioners of martial arts and held their bodies tall and straight, appearing quite heroic.
The leader in front sheathed her saber with a clang and asked, “Who are you?”
Li Jimao said honestly, “We’re villagers.”
Li Yamao tried to flatter her and stepped forward to ask, “Sister Fairy, did you come to save us?”
She contemptuously spat and drew her saber, pointing it at Li Yamao’s neck. “Shameless, vile man! Are you a human or a ghost?”
He only said “sister” and now he was shameless? The girl was beautiful, but who could have guessed she would be this fierce. Li Yamao was scared out of his wits.
“We’re not ghosts, we’re not ghosts,” he said. “My lady, we’re humans.”
“Nonsense! How could there still be ordinary people here?”
She met the eyes of several of the people behind her and her fingers pressed on the hilt of her saber. They all looked extremely on guard.
Li Jimao said, “My lady, we have been trapped here for ten years. If you don’t save us, we’ll become ghosts for real.”
The young woman in front strode forward and carefully looked him over. She also looked over the shivering Li Yamao standing off to the side. It was probably because she had never seen an evil ghost acting so terrified that she finally let down her guard a little.
“There is indeed no such living ghost. We were rude. It must have been difficult for you to spend ten years here,” she said. “We came in to look for someone. Has anyone come here in the past three days?”
“This……,” Li Jimao said. “My lady, we’ve gone ten years without seeing anyone from the outside.”
His countenance was simple and honest, and his tone was sincere and not at all like he was lying. Once he said that, some of the girls standing behind the one wielding the saber became anxious. “There’s no one here, there’s no one there. Where on earth did Young Miss go?”
That girl’s face also had a worried look, but she forced herself to calm down and asked, “What on earth happened here ten years ago?”
Li Yamao: “Ten years ago, I don’t know how, it w-was all those things……”
Next to him, the villagers all answered one after the other; one saying this, another saying that. It was basically what they had told Lin Shu earlier, that it was a disaster that happened overnight and that a celestial being had saved them. Since then, the village had been isolated from the rest of the world and no one had ever gone out.
Li Jimao cautiously said, “My lady’s skills are tremendous and you don’t fear any of those things. Can you take us to Minzhou City?”
—At this time, no one paid Lin Shu any attention. The girls in front of their eyes had become their new saviors.
“Minzhou City?” She shook her head and said, “No one has been to Minzhou City in ten years! Whenever anyone goes within thirty li of Minzhou City, they don’t come back and would be gone without a trace!”
Everyone was stunned.
They had thought that it was only their village that had suffered a disaster and that the city would be fine. Yet after hearing this, they realized that the situation in Minzhou City was probably ten thousand times worse than that outside the village.
When the girls finally calmed down and spoke with the villagers about this, everyone finally knew the whole story.
The hot-tempered leader was a girl called Ling Baoqing who came from a place called Phoenix Heights. They had traveled with their young miss to an area in the vicinity of Minzhou City. They had heard that Minzhou City had become a ghost city empty of all life and had set their hearts on exploring the city.
Speaking of Minzhou City, another thing soon came up.
Regarding this matter, Ling Baoqing started by boasting wildly about the beauty of their family’s young miss, bragging and making her out to be exceptionally gorgeous and stunning, and simply peerless under the heavens.
In the Jianghu, every beauty always had many admirers and their young miss was obviously no exception. Yet, their young miss had been betrothed since childhood. It had even gone through three matchmakers and the sending of six kinds of bridal gifts, following tradition and propriety. Her parents and his master had personally written the marriage certificate for the childhood betrothal. Therefore, besides being more beautiful than any other beauty, she also had the special distinction of being a beauty who could be seen but never touched, a beauty who could be adored yet never pursued.
—And that fiancé was from Minzhou City. These past ten years, correspondence from both the fiancé and his master had broken off right about when Minzhou City had become a ghost city.
This being the case, the young miss had even more of a reason to explore Minzhou City. After all, there was a big difference between observing widowhood and not.
When they entered the boundary of the ghost city, they encountered innumerable reanimated corpses, evil ghosts, and hopping corpses. Because of their strong martial arts skills, they did not suffer any injuries and entered the depths of the city.
“Young Miss said at the beginning that what had happened in the city must have been complicated. Later, we came upon a corpse king whose cultivation base was extremely high and fought him. A few of us were injured and Young Miss made us stay where we were and forbade us from moving around. She lured away the corpse king but unexpectedly did not come back that day or night, so we had no choice but to look all around.”
—In the thick fog where one could neither see their own five fingers even when stretched in front of themselves, nor find their bearings even with a torch lit up, the girls tried to navigate around but still found themselves lost. They had heard the sound of the erhu and were led here.
At this point, a girl suddenly started to cry.
“It’s so horrible!” She stamped her foot and said, “I’m afraid there’s already no one left alive in Minzhou City. Our poor young miss, becoming a widow at such a young age!”
Another girl said, “Don’t speak of whether Young Miss is a widow or not, I just hope she’s safe and sound right now!”
“Everybody shut up!” Ling Baoqing said, “Young Miss’s martial arts are world-class, she is surely completely unharmed. Right now we should be thinking about how to meet up with her.”
These fourteen or fifteen-year-old young women who had spent the night walking around the desolate mountain and wild forest were already anxious about whether their young miss would have to observe her widowhood and worried that she had been hurt. Now their fear rose at the continued separation and inability to contact her. After coming to this conclusion, they all started weeping bitterly. It was total chaos.
The author has something to say:
Young Miss appears tomorrow ::smile suddenly becomes perverted:: ww