The father and son surnamed Bao were called Bao Xiao Tong and Bao Da Tong. The strange thing was that the father was called Bao Xiao Tong and his sloppy son was called Bao Da Tong.1
They said Ah Zhan had called them over telepathically. I was skeptical of this. Although I could feel they harbored no malicious intent, I wasn’t able to easily accept new developments due to the night of terrors. However, I was anxious about Ah Zhan’s situation and chose to trust them in the end. Therefore, we headed to the pool together.
“Really, everyone who knows Daoist arts can communicate like this. Ordinary people call it telepathy. Well, you look a little dense so you probably don’t understand!” Bao Da Tong was very chatty. I really disliked him but he kept bothering me.
“Do all of you ordinary people hate speaking? I met that Ruan Zhan or whatever once eight years ago. He was even more impressive, able to go an entire day without saying a word.” He tutted, putting on a dumb expression that said “I don’t understand you people.” For some reason that mouth of his irritated me to the extreme. If one of my hands wasn’t broken and if I wasn’t in a hurry to find Ah Zhan, I really wanted to punch his smiling face!
He chattered on like this the whole way, not stopping even once. Right as my head was about to split from his fussing and as I was about to snap, I saw Ah Zhan sitting silently next to the pool.
“Ah Zhan!” I cried out, immediately running over. I saw that he was bruised and bloodied all over. His right arm hung in a simple brace made of branches. It was clearly also broken!
“Truly birds of a feather!” Bao Da Tong suddenly said from the side, unable to keep the amusement from his voice. It really pissed me off but Ah Zhan was rather indifferent.
“Are you ok?” Ah Zhan ignored Bao Da Tong and asked me.
“I’m fine. However, four students died and the rest are gone.” I shamefully explained what had happened during the night.
“Why didn’t you say anything earlier!?” Bao Da Tong interrupted again. “Maybe we can find some clues back there?”
I was about to explode, but before I could speak Ah Zhan said, “How would you be of any use?”
“Then why did you call us over!?”
“I invited Uncle Bao. Who would have thought someone useless would tag along!?”
“Uh…” Bao Da Tong was unable to retort. I wanted to laugh, but thinking of the encounter last night, I was unable to do so.
“Children, don’t bicker after just meeting each other!” Uncle Bao Xiao Tong finally spoke, calming the verbal battlefield. “On the way over I noticed Yin energy all along the way! Ah Zhan, what’s going on?”
“There was a weird infant that seemed to be the child of that female ghost. However, from what I saw while exchanging blows, he isn’t a ghost!”
“More like while you were taking a beating!” Bao Da Tong grumbled.
Ah Zhan ignored him and continued speaking. “The moment I arrived at the pool, he harried me the entire way, desperately trying to stop me. I almost died at his hands several times. I’m guessing he’s cultivated for at least a century. However, I’m sure his nest is here! Therefore, when the sun rose and he vanished, I waited here to see if anything strange would happen.”
Bao Da Tong opened his mouth after hearing this, about to say something. Yet after his dad glared daggers at him, he stuck out his tongue and shut his mouth.
“He couldn’t withstand the sunlight?” Uncle Bao asked.
Ah Zhan shook his head. “He was very sensitive to light. The moment the sun rose past the mountain peak, he suddenly vanished. However, he also wasn’t a ghost. I could feel it. What does it mean?”
“It must be a ghostly fiend. Those things are fiends, yet live underground. They are associated with objects of extreme Yin and consume rotting objects of Yin. Therefore, they are just as afraid of light.”
“But how did this happen? How did we end up provoking them?” I asked in grief and indignation.
“How can those things be explained using conventional reasoning?” Uncle Bao sighed. “Let’s take a look first. Ah Zhan, do you know where they are?”
“I’m not too sure, but they should be over there.” Ah Zhan pointed. “I sensed some ghostly aura heading that way earlier!”
“Not sure? What a shame it was to seal your innate talent! Ai, what a waste of resources, what a waste!” Uncle Bao shook his head and sighed. He walked over slowly to a higher elevation. His steps were unusual, as though walking in a specific pattern and rhythm. We followed behind him.
The place Ah Zhan pointed out was slightly in front of where we camped. It had been flooded last night but the water had swiftly retreated overnight. The ground was covered in rocks like a riverbed. Those pebbles were wet and cute so we had picked some up yesterday. We never thought something so horrifying could be hiding underneath!
This place was a valley-like depression in the land. There were cliffs on all sides while one side was a gentle slope that gradually extended upwards. We had entered from that side, and it was actually the only exit from this little valley. Across from this path was that small yet delicate and cute waterfall, along with the clear pool we saw during the day.
The beautiful sunlight was shining into the valley. After the rain, the scene was so clear and beautiful, yet we had almost died here last night. In my memory, it would always be hell!
Uncle Bao closed his eyes, though he didn’t perform any of the Daoist moves I had expected. He merely kept them closed and thought for a moment before saying, “The time isn’t right. Wait another hour so we can have the biggest advantage. If those things are very powerful, we just need to keep them trapped until quarter to one and we’ll be able to capture them all in one go.”
Uncle Bao’s words were rather archaic and I didn’t really understand what he meant. Only after did I find out that quarter to one was when the Yang energy was most abundant during the day. This was why prisoners were historically beheaded during this time. People felt those who died around this time wouldn’t come back for revenge!
I watched as Uncle Bao methodically made preparations along with Bao Da Tong. He found a large, round rock to use as an incense burner table, and also arranged talismans and dharmic tools. It was completely different from Ah Zhan’s concise gestures. They seemed to be putting on a show, and in my mind I felt the father and son pair seemed rather unreliable. The campsite was scattered and our things were strewn everywhere. However, I didn’t dare go gather them, and slowly walked over to Ah Zhan.
“If we don’t make a move right now, won’t those things escape?” I asked quietly.
“This is their nest and it’s during the day. Although they are powerful, they aren’t so strong that they can come out in the middle of the day! Besides, Uncle Bao’s position wasn’t randomly chosen. It is a chokepoint.”
“Who are the Bao father and son?” I lowered my voice even more. “They look like extras in a movie. Are they reliable?”
“Uncle Bao is my dad’s friend. My dad took me to visit them during the summer eight years ago.” Ah Zhan glanced at the little Daoist Bao Da Tong who had an exaggerated demeanor. “He and my dad are from different sects, but there was mutual respect. Therefore, they both made a pledge. If one side encounters difficulty, the other would offer assistance one time. Furthermore, it would be to the best of their abilities, regardless of life or death!”
“So you used telepathy or whatever to find them? How did they get here so fast?”
“They live in these mountains. The reason I agreed to come along was because I planned on visiting them along the way.”
Hearing his explanation, I felt even more doubtful about this duo. If they lived thousands of miles away and were able to arrive overnight, they might have been able to travel via a flying sword or perhaps some other magical spell. However, they lived right in these mountains. If it had taken them this long to get here, they must have walked!
Ah Zhan clearly saw my doubts and added. “I only sent for Uncle Bao in the morning. I was being pursued and attacked last night. I barely escaped with my life, how could I have time to seek reinforcements?”
“That’s more like it. That uncle brought over so many bits and pieces. Must have taken him a while to pack. I guess they arrived pretty quickly in that case! However, is it really going to be ok?” I was truly restless about the unknown fate of those students.
“Put it this way…” Ah Zhan looked at me without any doubts. “My father is already gone. In my opinion, out of everyone in the world, if Uncle Bao isn’t able to deal with those ghostly fiends, we should all just wait for death!”
Hearing Ah Zhan say so, I could only shut up. However, I kept stealing glances at the father and son due to my uneasiness. After they finished their arrangements, Uncle Bao sat next to the rock, closing his eyes and resting as if nothing had happened. His calmness was something that impressed me. Even Bao Da Tong was able to refrain from speaking nonsense, and stood silently to one side.
After an unknown amount of time had passed, I was almost unable to endure any longer. Uncle Bao finally opened his eyes.
“Da Tong, defend this chokepoint and listen to my commands.” He stood and ordered. “Ah Zhan, you have to guard the entrance. We definitely cannot let them escape from there! Wan Li, come with me. I need to borrow your abundant yang energy!”
I looked up at him and changed my impression of him in that instant. I started to have some confidence in this exorcism because of how different he was now. He was no longer the smiling, sincere, foolish and even a little comical old man. His eyes were bright and his bearing was calm like that of a master!
The three of us juniors agreed respectfully and followed his orders. I trailed behind him, slowly walking up the rocky path.
I had just gotten in place when I felt abnormal movements beneath my feet. It felt like something was shivering. My legs went limp and I sat down. Before I could get up, I heard a faint voice coming from beneath the ground. “Oh, son. People often say sparing the rod spoils the child. You shouldn’t have disobeyed me and provoked that group of people. There were two among them who weren’t ordinary people. Now we’ve provoked a huge disaster! I won’t be able to escape. Oh, son. You should run quickly. Take mom’s pearl and escape with your life! Hurry, go!”
Urging, reluctant, weeping. It was that beautifully dressed female ghost’s voice. However, she no longer sounded the slightest bit vicious or sinister, only sorrowful. She sounded like any mother about to send her son far away, perhaps even a little more mournful than that. This made me feel a little unwillingness for a moment.
“Wan Li, come. Stand over here!” Uncle Bao called me. Although he wasn’t as cold as Ah Zhan when facing the enemy, he was still very calm. It was like he was just doing his job, and there wasn’t any trace of sympathy.
I walked over obediently and saw he had drawn a circle on the ground. It had clearly been drawn using an ordinary peachwood sword in a single stroke, but it suddenly gave off a red shadow. Then, one of the talismans burnt up inside, strangely without leaving behind any ashes.
“Enter the circle. I need to borrow your Yang energy!” He said. It wasn’t clear if he had put up a restriction or if he wasn’t afraid of being overheard. “You can sit or lie down. You can even sleep, as long as your feet don’t leave the circle! Can you do it?”
I didn’t respond. There was another strong tremor underfoot. The ground started rumbling, as though there was an earthquake.
“He’s coming!” Uncle Bao said with a solemn expression. He retreated ten meters with indescribable speed and guarded the other direction.
I was about to ask something but wasn’t able to form the words. With a bang, a large hole burst in the ground. A small, furry thing with a long tail burst out.