Sorry for the slow update. Currently on business trip.
The new town was constructed over the kiln facility. Was this related to the appearance of those spirits within the town?
If it was as Ruan Zhan judged, everything currently happening in the new town was related to some case where many people had died unjustly. Furthermore, the timing should be within the decade. For something so major to happen recently, something was definitely wrong if the world didn’t know about it due to how quickly information can spread in modern times.
If someone intentionally covered things up and fooled the populace, asking around would definitely be useless. It might even result in obstruction or violence as the interests of certain parties were threatened.
There might be no records or files either. Even if there were written accounts, they were probably top secret. Although Ruan Zhan had left some invisibility talismans behind, Wan Li didn’t wish to start the investigation this way. Digging through files without any general guidelines would be like finding a needle in a haystack. Finding such evidence was something he should do at the end.
Furthermore, the ability required to cover up the death of so many people would be extraordinary. Only someone high up in society would be able to do it. This meant that the mayor who was widely praised might very well be involved! Unless Si Ma Nan had brought those resentful spirits over from elsewhere. But Ruan Zhan had said that even if the theoretical tragedy occurred elsewhere, it couldn’t be too far from here. There must be some evidence to be found in town.
Where should he begin?
Wan Li walked as he pondered. He had already left that restaurant and had been wandering the streets for a while. To others, he looked like he was admiring the unique scenery of northern towns. In reality, he was pondering how he could investigate matters related to the supernatural events within the new town.
“Gotta tell you something!” He was walking along when suddenly a hand grabbed his left arm. At the same time, an aged voice wormed into his ear.
His defensive instincts caused him to grab the hand on his arm as he prepared to throw the ambusher to the ground. Yet in that moment, he saw the person’s face and his movements came to a forced halt.
It was all Si Ma Nan’s fault. If it weren’t for him being a hidden threat, Wan Li wouldn’t be so on edge, reacting violently to the slightest thing. He almost injured someone!
This was Wan Li’s first thought. He next wondered who the elderly person in front of him was. Why did she look at him fervently and excitedly, as if they had known each other for many years?
She was an old woman in her sixties. She was tanned and her white hair was a little messy. She was tall and skinny. Her hands were very large with protruding joints. Her palm was rough, clearly having done years of physical labor.
“Gotta tell you something.” She repeated mysteriously. “It’s true, my son came to see me last night again! Don’t you know? My son is famous for his filial piety in this region. Of course he would come see me. Oh, he still looks the same as before. He hasn’t changed in all these years. Even his face…”
“Madwoman!” Before the elder could finish speaking, a middle-aged woman rushed over. She pulled at the old woman while smiling apologetically at Wan Li. “Sorry, mister. Madwoman has some issues here.” She pointed at her own head.
“Madwoman?” Wan Li was a little surprised.
“Her surname is actually Feng.” The middle-aged woman explained. “However, she truly ended up…, therefore, we also call her “mad” woman.”1
“What’s going on?” Wan Li looked at the old woman who was being pulled by the sturdy middle-aged woman. Although she couldn’t run off, she repeated the same words towards passersby. She was so fervent and happy. He couldn’t help but feel a little sad.
“Ai, it’s truly a sin.” The middle-aged woman sighed. “Madwoman was widowed young, and raised her only son by herself. Since she didn’t have the money to let him bring home a wife, she ended up letting him marry into the bride’s family. Yet unexpectedly, her son died not a year later. Madwoman thus turned insane. She keeps saying that her son hasn’t died, and that he visits her in the night!”
“How long has this been going on? Did she not go to a doctor?”
“What use is going to the doctor?” The middle-aged woman looked Wan Li up and down. She seemed to be wondering how such an intelligent looking person was so lacking in common sense. “She just misses her son. Where can a doctor find her another son? Besides, maybe Feng Yong Zi…that’s the son’s name, couldn’t bear to leave his mom behind. Therefore, his spirit remains and he visits her at night! Ai, such is life!”
“Where does this elder live? Can you tell me? I’m a doc…” Wan Li almost let it slip and hurriedly corrected himself. “I know a very good doctor. Maybe he can help her.”
Wan Li’s words surprised the woman a little. She probably didn’t expect a foreign stranger to be so kind. However, she seemed like the chatty and warmhearted type, and also trusted others easily. Therefore, she directly have him the address.
It turns out she and Madwoman were neighbors. Although the person in questions was “mad”, she was still able to take care of herself. She just frequently wandered off. The kind neighbors pitied her and were afraid of something happening to her. Therefore, they took turns keeping an eye on her. Today happened to be this middle-aged woman’s turn!
“Actually there isn’t too much wrong with her. She just tells everyone her son’s not dead and that he often visits her. The sounds of conversation can often be heard from her house at night, but everyone can only hear her talking to herself.” The middle-aged woman said mysteriously. “In my opinion, it’s enough if you know a Daoist. If you’re kind, find someone that can help her collect the spirit. Or perhaps it’s best to let Feng Yong Zi pass on. Ai, this can’t go on no matter how reluctant to part she is. Everyone has their own place where they belong. Isn’t that right?”
Wan Li didn’t know how to respond. He randomly chatted with her a little longer before leaving. Perhaps he was meddling a little, but the old woman’s face gave him the urge to help.
Lying on the small, narrow bed in the inn, Wan Li felt everything was a jumbled mess.
He knew that Ruan Zhan and Xiao Xia were holding out in the new town. He really wanted to find them useful information as soon as possible. Yet he wasn’t a criminal investigator. He really felt a little at a loss where to begin at the moment. He had waited for the dead of night to transmit the information he obtained regarding the site where the new town was built to Ruan Zhan. He was both testing out the communication method while also seeing if there was any positive feedback. If the supernatural events were related to the construction site, he would have somewhere to start.
He started feeling sleepy as he pondered. After Ruan Zhan had contacted him, he had been busy making preparations. Then, he immediately rushed over. He was truly a little exhausted.
His rectangular room was at the end of the hallway. Perhaps due to lack of space when the inn was constructed, one of the room’s corners was cut off. The entire room became an uneven pentagon instead. The innkeeper had clearly separated out another room in the building for the sake of making more money.
There was a drab window on the inner wall of the room. Overall, the room felt like a coffin. Furthermore, since it was quite narrow, the bed was also aligned in that direction with the head on the inside. Someone more superstitious would absolutely have refused the room. It was extremely inauspicious. However, Wan Li was someone who didn’t fear much so he didn’t really care.
However, as he was lying half-asleep, he suddenly heard the door unlock with a click. Someone seemed to be turning the doorknob. The sound was very soft but it was especially piercing in the silent night.
Had the door not been locked? Even so, there shouldn’t be anyone in the inn barging in without permission in the middle of the night. Did one of the other guests enter the wrong room?
He thought blearily, but due to his half-awake state he didn’t move. Yet due to the angle of the bed, he was able to see the door through his eyelashes.
The door silently opened!
After it opened, nothing happened for a while. It was just pitch black outside and a slight breeze swept in from the hallway. It was the end of summer. Wan Li was afraid of the heat so his upper body was bare and uncovered. The night wind actually felt a little chilly. Goosebumps rose up all over his body and he became slightly more awake.
Was it a thief or a ghost?
He remained still, waiting silently.
After another while, a head slowly poked out from the doorway. The face couldn’t be seen in the dark but he felt it was a woman due to the long, thick hair. Since she was tilting her head around the doorway, the hair trailed to the floor as if growing out of it.
Seeing that Wan Li wasn’t moving, the woman at the door slowly walked inside. She took very small steps, as if she wasn’t able to split her legs apart. She shuffled over to the bed but her steps didn’t make any noise at all!
Only when she got close did Wan Li realize this woman was very tall, and so skinny she just seemed to be a large skeletal frame. Her hair completely covered her face and only her eyes shone with white light, seeming very sinister!
She hesitated before the bed for a while before actually climbing into it. Because Wan Li slept closer to the wall, she directly laid down next to him. The moment she got on the bed she stuck to him, her limbs winding tightly around him.
Her whole body was cold like a block of ice, making Wan Li shiver involuntarily. Yet he still gritted his teeth and didn’t move. He felt that “woman’s” hand feeling about his body. Her long nails were like iron spikes that carved across his bare flesh, making him feel stinging pain.
Slowly, her hand reached over his waist and across his flat stomach, finally landing on his sturdy chest. After circling for a bit, she made a digging gesture.
Wan Li grabbed her wrist. “Are you trying to be Ancient Tomb Spirit Nie Xiao Qian? But why is your seduction technique really mediocre? Didn’t that Granny Fiend teach you properly?”
The female ghost wailed and tried to use her other hand to attack Wan Li. However, that hand was already pressed under his body and she wasn’t able to pull it out after a couple attempts.
“You’re going to leave? You haven’t extracted my blood essence yet.” Wan Li sat up nimbly, holding both her wrists with one hand. “How can there be someone so unprofessional?”
The female ghost struggled desperately. She was actually very strong and got free of Wan Li’s grip, swiftly escaping towards the door. This time she no longer moved quietly. She made a loud thump while squeaking like a mouse at the same time.
It was a signal. As she cried out, two large fiends with pale faces and fangs squeezed into the narrow room. They roared and rushed over.
Wan Li had pulled out a baseball bat from somewhere that blocked the fiends’ metal rods!
“Now I’m confused. Aren’t you ghosts? Why would you use such common objects? You should at least float around for me to see!” He spoke teasingly, then forced his opponents’ weapons aside. He deftly took a step forward and his bat struck one of the fiend’s legs, making it kneel with a tragic cry.
“No need to stand on such ceremony. Go back and tell Si Ma Nan that even though I don’t approve of violence, it doesn’t mean I’m helpless against it.”