The student was headless, but still seemed to be able to see. He barged into the group. While everyone screamed and shrank away, he crashed to the ground. Only then did the blood start spurting from his neck!
The rain was cold and the blood was warm. Almost everyone’s clothes and skin had been splashed crimson. It wasn’t clear how it happened, but regardless, everyone was filled with indescribable terror!
Two of the girls fainted on the spot. Another guy started running back in the direction of the pool, screaming loudly, “I’m not leaving anymore! I’m going back! I’m going…” He got further and further away. No matter how desperately we called him, he didn’t turn back! The rest of us waited, restless and afraid that something else was going to happen. However, a while had passed without anything out of the ordinary.
At this time, the rain stopped.
“Maybe we should go back!” Someone suggested after the student that ran off didn’t seem to get harmed.
No one answered him because none of us knew what to do. We were like prey being hunted by something unknown within the darkness. It wouldn’t rest until we were all dead!
As we were being indecisive, that woman’s voice rang out again. She was humming, the muffled, plaintive tone coming from all directions and making it impossible to tell where she was. We only felt that the tune was right by our ears, seeping into the deepest parts of our hearts.
“Dearest son, hurry and sleep, the moon….” She slowly crooned.
She was singing a lullaby. Her voice was filled with content enthusiasm, as though she were a mother coaxing her child to sleep after dinner. What should have been a gentle rhythm ended up sounding incomparably sinister!
“We aren’t able to leave anymore! She’s going to eat all of us!” One of the students suddenly started screaming hysterically. He sat down and started digging, as though trying to make a hole to hide in. “All of us! Eaten! Eaten! Eaten!”
His insanity stimulated everyone’s already frayed nerves. The group immediately started destabilizing. Cries and shouts were everywhere, the despairing attitude spreading throughout the group. It was as if we had no chance of survival at all. It seemed everyone was giving up on all thoughts of resistance!
I was completely panicked. I yelled at them all, trying to get them to snap out of it. It was useless. Yet I knew if things continued like this, we would all die!
At this moment, the silent Ah Zhan suddenly walked over. He randomly grabbed the girl closest to him and, without regard for the fairer sex, gave her a resounding slap. Then he moved on to the next person. Only after getting to the seventh person did the others get themselves under control.
“Didn’t you want to die? Why are you scared of getting slapped?” He said mockingly. “Go scram off and die if you want to, stop making a ruckus. Go off by yourselves if you want. Go right into the woods. It’s death all the same, right?!”
The others were suddenly subdued by him flipping out, not daring to retort. They were frozen in place. He was usually cold and taciturn. No one had ever seen him lose his temper like that.
In the silence, that woman’s voice sounded once again. She was still singing the lullaby, but perhaps Ah Zhan was too infuriated because he yelled, “Shut up!” He actually managed to make that weird noise stop.
“Those who want to die, scram! Those who want to live should immediately crouch down for me!” Ah Zhan said loudly. “Moreover, I swear I will leave whoever disobeys behind in this ghostly mountain!”
His imposing manner and the “ghostly” word contained an indescribable sense of oppression. Everyone crouched down without a word, ready to follow him blindly.
Ah Zhan saw that the situation was slightly more under control and beckoned towards me. When I walked up beside him, he drew a seal in the air. The sound around us vanished. Only then did I realize he was afraid of being overheard and set up a boundary. However, his powers were rather weak back then and the boundary was very small. It was only enough to cover the two of us. If he had been able to cover everyone inside, there wouldn’t have been so many problems!
“We can’t keep going anymore.” He said quietly. Although the boundary was there, he still didn’t seem too assured. He looked around vigilantly as he spoke.
“I didn’t expect them to leave that place and pursue us.” He frowned in annoyance. “Perhaps they had already attached themselves to our belongings while we were busy saving people. Theoretically they shouldn’t be able to go too far from their remains, unless they are possessing something.”
“Those two are very fierce!” I said.
“That’s right. They definitely died violently, and not that long ago. Therefore, we can no longer keep going forwards.”
“Then do we have to go back there?”
“Approaching their territory is even more dangerous! Are you an idiot?” Ah Zhan glared at me. “The problem is that it’s the middle of the night and we aren’t familiar with the surroundings. There might be even more things hiding in the woods.”
“If we can’t go forwards or backwards, do we just wait in place?” I was a little anxious.
“That’s right, we can only wait. It’ll be dawn in a couple of hours. Everything will be easily resolved then. However, it seems these couple of hours will be rather dangerous. We can’t just sit around like sitting ducks. We have to come up with a plan!”
“If you have any ideas just tell me! I’ll definitely go along with it.” I said.
“They must have noticed that amongst the group, you and I are the hardest to handle. Therefore, we will each be responsible for covering a side.”
“Are you saying we should split up?”
“That’s right. You know there are two of them. I don’t have the ability to deal with both of them at the same time. They are still peaceful at the moment, but there will definitely be more ruthless moves coming as night gradually turns to day. I’m sure you’ve noticed their towering resentment. They won’t rest until they’ve killed us all. Therefore, I will go back to the pool by myself. They will definitely think I’m going after their nest, and won’t dare to be negligent. Even if they don’t both go back to deal with me, blocking me along the way, there will definitely be at least one. It’ll be the stronger one of the two. That way, you guys will have a much bigger chance of survival!”
“Then what about you?” I was a little worried. There were so many of us yet things had kept going wrong. Wouldn’t it be more dangerous for Ah Zhan by himself?
Ah Zhan laughed. “Even if I can’t win, I can still run. My powers are enough to at least preserve my life. You guys shouldn’t stay here. It’s best to find an open area.”
“But it’s pitch black. Where are we supposed to find an open space?” I was at a loss due to anxiety. “Even if we wanted to burn the place down, the heavy rain has just stopped. It’s impossible to start a fire with the trees being wet.”
“I can try using a spell, but you can’t let anyone else find out about it.” As he spoke, Ah Zhan cut his finger using a small knife he carried. Then, he pulled open my jacket and covered my white undershirt with symbols in blood.
“We’ll burn out a clearing. You have to prevent them from seeing what I’m doing so I can draw a few blood talismans on the floor. Those will provide a small measure of protection. However, everything will depend on you if whatever remains behind tries to attack after I leave. Keep the bloodwood sword. Although it can’t unleash more might than this, at least it’ll be enough to protect you…and Nana!”
He was about to head out of the restriction when I stopped him. “What did you mean by that?”
He hesitated. “We’ve already lost three people, but you should have realized there will be further losses. The two of us aren’t able to save so many people, and can only do the best we can. We don’t know how powerful those things are, so we don’t know what the outcome will be.”
“What about you?”
“Don’t worry about me. You must remember not to run. Just stay right here, no matter what tries to entice you. No matter how dangerous it feels here and how safe other places feel, stay here and do your best to keep the others under control! If I’m not back by dawn, you guys leave first. Come back for me after!”
“I don’t want to hear you say that!” I felt uneasy and insisted on getting a promise. “You must return!”
Ah Zhan froze for a moment before nodding solemnly. Only then did I relax. Ah Zhan ripped my white T-shirt into strips. He walked into the woods by himself, tying the strips of torn cloth on various branches until we were enclosed within a small circle.
“We have to burn a clearing!” He said, and pretended to use a lighter.
With a pop, fire erupted from all four directions. Since it had been started with a spell, it naturally burned very fiercely, without any smoke and without encroaching. It burned in a ring around Ah Zhan’s designated boundary.
I watched as Ah Zhan crouched and drew talismans in blood in every direction. I called the others to pull up the weeds still inside the circle. Now, we seemed to be within a clearing.
“Ah Zhan, where are you going?” Seeing him about to leave, the silent Nana cried out. Only then did I notice she was just as frightened as the rest. I actually didn’t pay special attention to her since we had all been in a state of shock.
“I’m going to look for the lost student. You stay here. Wan Li will protect you guys.” Ah Zhan responded and then left before anyone else could speak.
“None of us can leave this circle. As long as we stick together and stand firm, nothing will happen to us!” Seeing Ah Zhan leave, everyone seemed to have lost their backbone. I could only harden myself and act as the leader.
I wrapped the talismans Ah Zhan left behind in the weeds we pulled up and then made a bonfire, instructing everyone to sit around it. I told everyone to ignore any weirdness they may see. As long as they stayed here, they would be fine.
“Ah Zhan will return, right?” Nana sat beside me and asked while trembling all over.
I comforted her while observing our surroundings.
Everything had been peaceful. Due to the fire and our preparations, those ghosts hadn’t harassed us in a while. However, this unusual peace was like a heavy boulder on our hearts. It felt like they were hatching some bigger scheme. Things may seem alright on the surface, but the strong uneasiness weighed heavily upon us.
As expected, the moment the fire started weakening, rustling noises came from all over.
That woman’s crying rang out again.
“I’m so cold. Pull me out!” She begged. “I’m about to give birth to my child. Wu….he’s about to starve!”
We stayed in place, sticking close to each other, our arms touching. Everyone remained in the circle and didn’t dare respond or raise our heads.
“I’m so cold. Pull me out!” She repeated, slowly getting closer. However, she never entered the circle. It was clear the talismans arrayed in the trigram positions were effective. Although they couldn’t drive her away, they at least prevented her from coming close.
At this time, I also realized that Ah Zhan would be facing off against that weird infant.
“How heartless. Pull me out, I’m cold!”
She continued speaking but we still just ignored her!
“Hmph, you think you can hide?” After messing around for a while, she abruptly lost her temper. Her voice became extremely sinister. Suddenly, a strange wind blew by our ears.
Something swept over from the dark woods. It seemed like a balloon. It was inflated yet was light enough to float. It flew right above us!
“Look at me!” The balloon suddenly spoke.
We knew it was that woman speaking and that it wasn’t a balloon. However, we couldn’t help but look up.
A drop of blood fell.