Chapter 8 – Congshan Village (1)

The bus traversed the rugged mountain roads, and the consequence of playing games despite motion sickness was that Jiang Yujin completely conked out towards the latter part of the journey, peacefully closing his eyes.

This bus made numerous stops along the way, and each time it braked, it tested the occupants’ endurance. Congshan Village was the terminal stop, and by the time he groggily opened his eyes, only two people remained seated in the back row.

Surprisingly, aside from them, not a soul on the bus was heading to this village.

Jiang Yujin moved to a window seat, opened it wide to feel the wind blowing. But fog had started forming on the mountain, and the driver didn’t dare to speed up. The wind wasn’t strong enough to make much of a difference.

Upon getting off the bus, Xu Tonggui held half a leftover steamed bun in one hand and supported someone with the other, successfully becoming the other party’s human-shaped walking stick.

The bus driver hesitated for a moment, then reminded them, “There have been strange occurrences lately in Congshan Village. There won’t be any afternoon buses to this stop these days. If you’re planning to return, you’ll have to wait until tomorrow. If you’re heading there, be extra cautious.”

Jiang Yujin suppressed the vomit and waved, saying, “Thank you.”

Watching the old bus disappear into the fog, Xu Tonggui redirected his gaze to the person beside him and asked, “Where are you heading?”

It was evident that the other person couldn’t move around alone in this state.

Jiang Yujin loosened his grip on the human-shaped walking stick, casually rubbed his head, and said, “I guess we’re going different ways.”

Having said that, he walked away. Perhaps due to the motion sickness, he didn’t walk as briskly as he did in town, but he moved without hesitation, without a moment’s pause.

Before the person vanished into the fog, Xu Tonggui spoke up, “How did you know my name?”

In the midst of fog and wind, the rustling of leaves seemed to engulf the entire world when the wind blew.

Jiang Yujin, who had already walked a distance, turned back and smiled, casually saying, “Saw your handsome face at the convenience store and asked around.”

He smiled without any seriousness, speaking as if he were making it up on the spot, making it hard to discern the truth.

Without paying attention to the perplexed Captain Xu here, Jiang Yujin walked straight into the fog.

The bus couldn’t reach Congshan Village directly; the village was on the edge of a cliff, vaguely visible from a distance, indicating a need for a considerable walk.

The aftermath of motion sickness lingered, and Jiang Yujin held himself back, finally not leaving anything foul in this pristine land.

As he progressed, the fresh air began to lose its freshness, intermingled with a sickly sweet scent, faint but impossible to ignore, adding to the already dizzying sensation in his head.

Closing his eyes briefly, Jiang Yujin took a turn midway, not continuing toward Congshan Village but instead veering towards the base of the cliff.

Descending was much easier than climbing up the cliff. Passing through abandoned fields, as he entered the woods, the fog thickened suddenly to a point where even his feet were hard to see.

The dense fog, obstructing his view, seemed to be slowly shifting, as if something else might appear at any moment.

Jiang Yujin felt the fog severely impeding his breath.

From the thick fog surrounding him, thin, elongated black hands extended slowly, reaching towards his throat.

Effortlessly breaking the black hand and sidestepping the rigid hand emerging from the ground, Jiang Yujin’s expression remained unchanged, still navigating through the misty path in the woods.

But the incessant appearance of these black hands was truly irritating.

As the fog surged, he casually snapped off a tree branch and turned around.

The densely packed, thin, black hands emerging from the fog were neatly broken, without any blood, dissipating into black smoke upon hitting the ground. The fog contorted and swirled, as if trying to condense again, but the disruption was too severe, preventing it from immediately taking shape.

Jiang Yujin wandered through the woods, eventually reaching a mountainside.

The place looked no different from when he arrived, except for a weathered-looking statue of a local deity. Thick cobwebs covered it, and the small plate for offerings had developed cracks, concealed by leaves.

Politely murmuring “Excuse me,” Jiang Yujin moved the statue aside.

Behind the statue was a hollow space, not very spacious, with a small black flower in the center, planted on a decaying palm. The petals of the flower had eerie and twisted patterns. The nauseating odor immediately assaulted him the moment the statue was moved.

Around the flower were cuboid-shaped dark crystals. Jiang Yujin glanced at them, then at the tree branch in his hand.


The crystal was pierced by the branch, emitting a faint sound before shattering.

As the flower was plucked, its black petals instantly shattered and disappeared, dissipating along with the lingering sickly sweet scent.

Jiang Yujin felt relieved. He glanced at the hole in the ground where the hand had emerged, then compared it to the tree branch in his hand.

The sizes matched quite well.

With another masterpiece completed, he stood up, clapped his hands, and continued up the mountain.

Playing his game while walking, time passed swiftly.

When his phone battery reached half, he lifted his head and could already see the outline of the village.

The sun had risen, dissipating much of the fog. In the nearby fields, someone was working, the clear sound of a hoe digging into the earth reaching his ears.

As he prepared to approach, footsteps came from behind. Jiang Yujin turned and saw Xu Tonggui, who should have gone separate ways by now.

Seemingly surprised to find him there, Xu Tonggui hesitated momentarily before striding closer and asking, “Are you heading to Congshan Village?”

Jiang Yujin nodded. “Heard it’s quite natural and serene here, perfect for unwinding after work.”

Deep in the mountains, indeed, it was remarkably natural.

“This isn’t a place to unwind right now,” Xu Tonggui said. “You should head back.”

Disappointed, Jiang Yujin shook his head, echoing the bus driver’s words, “The only way to go back is to wait until tomorrow.”

“Many livestock carcasses are found in the nearby woods,” Xu Tonggui presented his credentials, introducing himself formally for the first time. “I’m Captain Xu Tonggui from the Special Investigation Unit for Strange Species.”

“There is something strange in this village, make sure to stick close to me.”

He had a rugged appearance, a serious demeanor, and a deep voice, all quite intimidating.

They departed around the same time. It made sense why he arrived later; turns out, he had been scouting the nearby woods.

Jiang Yujin nodded with a smile, “I’ll rely on Captain Xu then.”

The sound of hoeing from a distance ceased. An elderly man who had been working in the field stopped and waved at them.

As they drew closer, a woman passing by the village entrance also noticed them, approaching with a basket of vegetables to greet them.

Sociable as ever, Jiang Yujin raised his drooping eyelids slightly and waved back.

The elderly man and woman were welcoming, with genuine smiles on their faces. Realizing they wouldn’t be able to leave today, they briefly considered and invited them in, “The second floor of Li Er’s house is vacant. He’s been living alone for so long; having someone stay over might make him happy.”

Before Xu Tonggui could speak, Jiang Yujin nodded and said, “Thank you.”

With just a few words, they found a place to stay for the night in the village, and Jiang Yujin’s smile became even more genuine.

Congshan Village wasn’t much different from other ordinary villages, with standalone houses and small sheds presumably for livestock. Approaching, there was a faint smell, but there was nothing inside.

Li Er, the homeowner mentioned by the woman, was at home. He had a limp and took a while to respond to their calls, and when he did, his expression wasn’t pleasant. It worsened upon seeing the unfamiliar faces behind them.

He didn’t seem too pleased.

Nevertheless, even though Li Er wasn’t in the best mood, he stepped aside to let them in and escorted them upstairs.

In the center of the ground floor’s hall was an altar. Jiang Yujin glanced at it briefly before shifting his gaze away.

The environment on the second floor could be described as rudimentary. There was one room with two benches and a bed inside. The elderly couple didn’t follow upstairs.

Li Er spoke bluntly, “These are the conditions. If you can’t bear it, it’s best to leave early.”

Jiang Yujin and Xu Tonggui stayed behind.

It was midday, transitioning into the afternoon, still early. Xu Tonggui had tasks remaining. After a brief rest, he left. The unarmed citizen named Jiang followed him as he said.

The village appeared quite ordinary. Some people were tending to crops in the fields, others gathered for conversation, occasionally erupting in laughter. There was nothing out of the ordinary. They inquired and learned that recently, there had been outsiders like them in the village, but they had all stayed only for a night before leaving.

Outside the house, Xu Tonggui asked questions while inside, people were playing cards. Jiang Yujin hesitated for less than a second before decisively entering the room to observe the card game.

Several others, like him, stood around watching. Even though it was their first meeting today, he still engaged in occasional brief conversations with those nearby, quietly analyzing the game. Those who interacted with him even praised him as a skilled card player.

Jiang Yujin modestly waved off their compliments, saying they were exaggerated.

Amidst the chatter in the room, there were intermittent sounds of collisions coming from the floor above, not too loud. He glanced upward slightly.

Someone nearby gestured, saying, “It must be Xiao Ya playing around again.”

Jiang Yujin shifted his gaze back, smiled, and remarked, “She’s quite energetic.”

While Xu Tonggui was conversing outside, he caught a glimpse of the people inside wearing loose shirts, standing lazily to the side, with faint smiles and relaxed postures. As soon as he noticed their gaze, they nodded and gestured, as if inviting them to watch the card game together.

Xu Tonggui didn’t go to watch the game, and consequently, Jiang Yujin didn’t continue either. They wandered around the village until the sky gradually darkened before they began their journey back.

There was nothing unusual in the village, except that nearly every household had altars, all closed off, concealing what was inside.

While returning, they passed through a narrow path and from a subtle angle, both simultaneously noticed a partially concealed black shrine halfway up the mountainside.

The shrine, like the altars they had seen today, was also a very rare black color.

Glancing at each other, Xu Tonggui diverted his gaze and said, “Let’s head back first.”

Jiang Yujin readily agreed.

Bad news, Li Er didn’t bother with dinner. Good news, Xu Tonggui still had half a steamed bun left from this morning.

Sitting on a small stool, Jiang Yujin took his own bun and generously shared half of it with the person beside him.

Xu Tonggui declined.

Jiang Yujin couldn’t believe it. “You’re rejecting my offering!”

In the end, Xu Tonggui reluctantly accepted half of the half steamed bun and slowly ate it.

Jiang Yujin nodded satisfactorily, holding a quarter of a bun while sitting by the window, peering out.

Now it was completely dark outside, and the mist was beginning to thicken once more.

After finishing dinner and reaching the point of rest, Jiang Yujin, lying on the bed playing a game, yawned, and his eyes teared up a bit.

Xu Tonggui, still sitting on the stool, was quite straightforward, moving the stool closer to the bed and saying, “You sleep.”

He followed up with, “Tomorrow, take the morning bus and leave this place.”

It wasn’t an inquisitive tone, coupled with his chillingly stiff voice, it was quite intimidating.

Jiang Yujin comfortably tucked himself in, casually responding, “Okay,” before dozing off deeply. It wasn’t until midnight that he heard some noise and opened his eyes.

The nights in the village were much quieter than in the city, devoid of insect chirps or animal noises; every sound was amplified in the darkness.

Xu Tonggui was also awake, his eyes fixed on the room’s door.

The noise was coming from outside the door, sounding like someone climbing stairs, but different, intermittently light and heavy, the sound of footsteps and a cane hitting the ground in alternation.

If there was nothing unexpected, it should be Li Er.

The sound grew nearer, likely ascending to the second floor, and it quickened.

In Xu Tonggui’s hand, something flashed with a chilling metallic light as Jiang Yujin slowly put on his shoes and got out of bed.

The room echoed with the sound of the door handle being turned, but they habitually locked it, so the handle wouldn’t budge.

There was a moment of silence outside the door, followed by the jangling of keys, harsh and consecutive.

He had probably found the keys; after the rustling sound of key-searching faded, there was the distinct noise of a key entering a lock and turning.

Xu Tonggui stepped closer to the door.

“Quick, someone! The shrine is on fire! Hurry to put out the fire, don’t anger Lord Saka!”

Outside erupted in panicked shouting, and the whole village instantly became bustling, as if brought to life.

The key retreated from the keyhole, and the sound of the cane tapping gradually faded away.

There were flashes of light outside, and looking down from the window, one could see villagers holding flashlights running in a particular direction, even Li Er, with a limp.

He had left. In comparison to the fire gradually intensifying halfway up the mountainside, this place seemed oddly safe.

Glancing at Xu Tonggui, still looking towards the mountainside, Jiang Yujin said, “I’ll stay here. You go check the situation.”

His tone was sincere, remarkably understanding, truly living up to the label of a concerned citizen.

Xu Tonggui glanced at him and then handed him a walkie-talkie before leaping out of the window.

There was no way he could stay here.

Yawning, Jiang Yujin opened the room’s door and descended the stairs.

The villagers in this village had exceptional mobility; by the time he reached the ground floor, there was no one on the way.

His sense of direction was decent. He navigated through the twists and turns of the village until he arrived at an unassuming house.

It was where he had seen people playing cards earlier today.

The ground floor lights were on, but there was no one inside. It was evident that the occupants had left in a hurry, leaving the front door wide open.

Jiang Yujin casually walked in through the main entrance, climbing the stairs with an air of a seasoned elder taking a stroll.

The second floor remained dark, but there was some light seeping through from below, providing meager visibility.

Jiang Yujin, with his hands behind his back, strolled around the second floor as if he owned the place, his gaze scanning the area before stopping at a middle-aged man lying on the floor, saying with a smile:

“Hello there, Xiao Ya.”

The man called “Xiao Ya,” restrained in both hands and feet, stared wide-eyed in terror. He squirmed incessantly, trying to move backward, his hair drenched in sweat. As he looked at the approaching figure, his eyes instantly filled with bloodshot veins.

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