Chapter 39: Ankang Ancient Town (18)
On the projection, Yan Mingguang had already used the long whip to drag Yan Wei behind him and, in the process, blocked the pursuing ghost.
The ghost was not strong, even retreating two meters from Yan Mingguang’s casual blow.
But just after the apparition was repelled, the surrounding mounds loosened slightly. One after another, skinless ghosts emerged from the piles of dirt. It could be seen from the projection alone that these skinless ghosts were men, women, and children, and their attack power was much lower than the skinless girls who appeared to kill the players at night.
Yan Mingguang could knock back two or three in an instant with one flick of the whip.
It looked like they could leave under the siege of skinless ghosts without effort — if there were no Yan Wei to make trouble.
The young man, whose face they couldn’t see clearly, shouted for help in panic. Yet instead of hiding behind Yan Mingguang, he scurried around like a headless fly. Initially, Yan Mingguang could repel the ghosts swiftly and temporarily leave, but Yan Wei ran everywhere. Yan Mingguang had to take Yan Wei into account every time he made a move, and he couldn’t attack too ruthlessly.
“Who said just now that this Yan Wei might have potential? What potential? The potential to obstruct?”
“I can’t bear to see it. Isn’t it good to stay behind Yan Mingguang…? The strength of these skinless ghosts is so low that it’s all because of Yan Wei that they can hold Yan Mingguang off for so long.”
“Yan Wei truly is the ghosts’ teammate. I’m dying of laughter.”
“Maybe if they spend a day here, Ning Yi and Lin Zhen will be able to take the lead. Yan Wei is not only the teammate of the skinless ghosts but also the teammate of Ning Yi and Lin Zhen!”
“I’m waiting for Yan Wei to drag himself to death.”
In the cemetery of the ancient town
Yan Wei actually did it on purpose. Confusing the players who viewed Yan Mingguang’s live broadcast was one thing, but the most important thing was that he was looking at the gravestones.
Yan Mingguang brandished the whip back and forth in the air. Under the sun, the skinless ghosts dragged their bloody bodies and rushed at the two.
Yan Mingguang stopped the ghost from approaching. Yan Wei dodged and deliberately ran around the graves, paying attention to the people’s identities and times of death. When he had seen enough, his thoughts turned, but he maintained a panicked expression and shouted, “Yan Mingguang, don’t we need to run?!”
In any case, they had cooperated in several crises. Yan Mingguang immediately understood the meaning of such words.
The whip wrapped around Yan Wei’s wrist and pulled him back to Yan Mingguang.
【Let’s leave first. I think these ghosts are like the skin and bone umbrellas. They are created from the ordinary deceased, are one level below the skinless ghosts of the girls, and are controlled by the skinless female ghosts. They’re going to attack us, most likely because of my debuff “The young girl’s favorite.” The skinless female ghosts must also count as a “young girl.” If we stay here and all the skinless female ghosts appear, we won’t be able to leave with ease.】Yan Wei’s voice gradually grew solemn. 【Turn off the projection and go back to our room in the temple first. I need to organize my thoughts. I have found a new first answer point.】
Yan Mingguang was just cooperating with Yan Wei. Now that he decided to leave, he pulled Yan Wei away.
The skinless ghosts didn’t catch up after the two ran out of the graveyard. It was already afternoon, and the town should have been lively on the day of the Mountain God Festival, yet no one wandered outside. Only an umbrella was placed at the front of every door.
They have moved away from reverence in their faith, rather gradually fearing it.
Before going up the mountain, Yan Wei stood at the foot and looked back at Ankang Town.
Yan Mingguang turned off the projection, and Yan Wei directly asked, “Do you think they’re suffering from the consequences of their own mistakes? Moreover, the so-called belief… They don’t believe in and respect the mountain god but worship the expectation that can bring a beautiful vision, which is a kind of expectation of an expectation. When that expectation is gone, and the mountain god symbolizes death, they fear more than anyone.”
“I’m tired of self-inflicted stories like this, but you seem to have a high tolerance for such behaviors.” Yan Wei turned to look at Yan Mingguang and raised an eyebrow. “What on earth did you do before you entered the tower? We’re all in it. It’s not too much to ask.”
Yan Mingguang remained silent.
Yan Wei knew that the person would not speak again and scoffed, “No fun. Let’s hurry back and sort out the clues. Living in such a disgusting Town, I really don’t want to stay any longer.”
After a morning of fruitlessness, Song Yu returned to the mountain temple.
Although Ning Yi had the lowest score at the moment, Ning Yi’s strength was clear to all. The mysterious and indifferent seed player of the Yuemang Organization was able to find 2 points alone yesterday. She couldn’t have stayed at 2 points today.
If he ends up empty-handed today, he’s bound to be one of the ones at the bottom.
Song Yu witnessed his roommate’s death with his own eyes on the first night, fearing that he would be next. He didn’t dare remain idle and ran non-stop to several places, but the townspeople were wary of him. After going down the well and losing his way for half a day, he needed to leave temporarily. At this moment, he had to go back to the mountain temple to examine for clues.
As soon as he returned, he saw Hu Ayu in a small garden of the mountain temple.
The beautiful cook had changed out her shabby clothing. She wore a cheongsam2 and a round hat embellished with jewels, complementing her fair and delicate skin.
When Song Yu walked down the hallway beside the small garden, she held a beautifully made ordinary oil-paper umbrella. Her eyes narrowed slightly, and it was unknown what she was thinking.
…Does the cook have a clue that others might not have considered?
Song Yu wanted to try again.
“Young lady!” He stepped forward, feigning a casual conversation. “It hasn’t been peaceful lately. Why don’t you go down and go home and hide? Why are you still in the mountain temple?”
The beautiful cook turned her head.
Beautiful purples and brilliant reds3 surrounded the garden, making her even more outstanding.
In such a remote ancient town, she was already regarded as a great beauty. According to Hu Ayu’s description, she should be 28-years-old, but the years seemed to have left no trace on her face. She appeared to be as young as a teenage girl.
But since all the stories that Hu Ayu told were recognized by the tower as first answer points, there was no mistake.
Song Yu wasn’t worried either. He looked at Hu Ayu’s liquid eyes. Seeing that the other person still seemed a little lost in thoughts, he unconsciously slowed down his voice. “What are you thinking?”
“Ah…” The cook finally returned and looked at him. “The traveler is asking me?”
She lowered her head again and gazed at the umbrella in her hand. A slender and fair finger slid across the umbrella, and she whispered, “Reminiscing. I miss my family.”
“Your sister? It’s been ten years since she left. My condolences… It’s all because of this damn tradition and pedantic matron. Sooner or later, those who killed her will get retribution.”
The beauty looked up at Song Yu.
Her voice, slightly altered by her indifferent and somewhat contradictory grief, emphasized with a hint of ambiguity, “You say… who will get retribution?”
Song Yu was taken aback. “…The person who killed your sister?”
The next moment, the cook showed him a gentle smile.
Song Yu’s eyes slowly widened.
–A gruesome head gradually poked out from behind the cook. The malicious face showed him the same soft smile, but the eyes sticky with blood stared at him lifelessly.
It took Yan Wei and Yan Mingguang faster than Yan Wei expected to return to the mountain temple.
Though Yan Mingguang’s stats were much higher than his, Yan Wei still had a body that had experienced an increase in stats, which was more than enough for ordinary people. They ran and walked but didn’t take too long to get back to the temple from the cemetery.
The guest room area was peaceful, and there was still some time before sunset. The other players should still be outside searching for clues. No one will hear their conversation.
As soon as the two men entered, Yan Wei closed the door and said, “I looked at the time of death of all the skinned dead at the graveyard and found an interesting situation. The first deceased in Ankang town was Li Yishu — the man who promised to take Hu Ayun away but broke his appointment. The second deceased was a bit interesting.”
Yan Mingguang opened the window, leaned against the window, and smoked a cigarette, silently listening to Yan Wei’s analysis.
The breeze from the mountains blew the smoke into long wisps, which soon faded into the air. The west-bound sun outlined the man’s cold side profile, revealing a rare tranquil atmosphere in this mysterious and gloomy place.
Yan Wei suddenly realized that there was speculation that Yan Mingguang might not know.
However, he continued. “The second deceased was a person not mentioned in Hu Ayu’s words. There was some information on the gravestone, generally saying that this person worked in the mountain temple before their death. They helped the matron with chores and so on. I’ve seen the times of death of all the people who died, except Li Yishu, who died the earliest, which shouldn’t be right.”
“It can be seen that Li Yishu was the first to die, and Hu Ayun turned into a skinless ghost after her death — and there’s no telling which ghosts we’ve met. Because of her anger, the first person she killed was the man who didn’t take her away. Also, I saw the groom we met back in the retrospective illusion. I heard the groom’s name at that time, and there was a tombstone with the same name. Although the retrospective illusion we entered was not the Hu family but another girl, it showed the sequence of the killings.”
“It suggests that the people dead are actually related to the degree of resentment of the ghosts. They resented their loved ones, their parents, their friends… Only later, when time got closer to the present, did the deceased begin to show great irrelevance, presumably because the people related to them were nearly dead. It was beneficial for the matron to place umbrellas later on because the skinless female ghosts no longer had any prominent targets of resentment. In that case, why did an ordinary townsman who worked in the mountain temple die earlier than Hu Ayun’s parents?”
Yan Mingguang extinguished the cigarette butt and said calmly, “She hated the man more.”
“Why hate him more? In this story, Hu Ayun resented her parents and fiance because they were supposed to love her the most. They failed to save her and even pushed her into a burning pit. Only her twin sister, Hu Ayu, was there to help her. What kind of situation could make her hate an outsider not related to her? Don’t forget, in the story Hu Ayu told us, to contact Hu Ayun, who was imprisoned in the temple, she bribed a person who worked in the temple, so this person should have helped.”
“The clues announced also mentioned this,” Yan Mingguang said, “The tower can’t lie.”
“Yes, whether it’s the matron, Hu Ayu, or the townspeople, they’re all from Ankang Town, and they can all lie. Only the tower can’t lie to us. My debuff ‘The young girl’s favorite’ isn’t wrong, and Hu Ayu’s story has also been recorded and broadcast to all players. Therefore, it’s absolutely infallible that Hu Ayu bought people who worked in the temple to contact her twin sister.”
Yan Wei took out the swallow coin in his pocket. He didn’t weigh it in his own hands but threw it ahead.
The man raised his hand and grasped the tossed coin.
Yan Wei asked, “Heads or tails?”
Yan Mingguang didn’t look. He threw it back and replied, “I believe the side you inferred.”
Yan Wei chuckled lightly.
“Then I speculate… There’s no problem with the story. It was raining on Hu Ayun’s wedding day, and she was selected, but the lover who had promised to take her away never showed up. The Hu family cook we met before did buy off the people in the temple that year to contact her twin sister. There is no problem with all this, and the tower had also broadcasted this story. The problem isn’t the truth of every sentence but… the story told to us was a combination of two people’s perspectives.”
Yan Wei concluded, “The twin sisters switched ten years ago.”
He held up the coin, pointed the front side toward Yan Mingguang, and pressed his finger on the front face of the coin. “The first half of the story was about Hu Ayu. Her sister was chosen as a sacrifice to the mountain god after heavy rain fell on her wedding day. Hu Ayun’s kind-hearted twin sister, unwilling to let her older sister die tragically, has been helping Hu Ayun connect with her lover. But before the sacrificial ceremony, her sister’s lover did not appear, and Hu Ayu, a girl, was even less able to save her sister…”
He paused and rotated the coin to the reverse side. “The second half of the story was from Hu Ayun’s perspective. She was desperate. Her lover betrayed her, her parents wanted her to accompany the mountain god, and her sister, who was the only one to side with her, didn’t have the ability to take her away. So she tried to bribe the people who worked in the mountain god temple, deceived Hu Ayu to the place where she was imprisoned, and with the person who worked in the mountain temple… replaced herself with her sister.”
“The cook we saw was not Hu Ayu, but Hu Ayun, the twin sister who swapped herself with her sister ten years ago. In fact, the twin exchange was not difficult to guess, but the tower confirmed the story told by the cook, which made us all feel that it was impossible, that the story was true, and that what the cook said must be true. But in fact, there is a contradiction hidden in it.”
“Ah, I’m so blind and such a gentleman. I wasted my invitations to exchange hand warmers for her, and I got a debuff. There’s something wrong with the cook, so it is normal for her to stay at the age of eighteen. The girl mentioned in the debuff is really her.”
That said, Yan Wei actually knew in his heart that this debuff was not necessarily a bad thing. Just the hints and clues brought by the words “The young girl’s favorite” were worth the risk of hanging onto this debuff.
“The story is accurate, but the first half, or the heads, is in the younger sister’s perspective while the second half, or the tails, is in the older twin’s perspective.”
Yan Wei hooked the corner of his mouth and stuffed the coin back into his pocket.
Yan Mingguang glanced at him. As if because of their improving relationship, this man talked a little more than when they first met. “There is a loophole that you need to explain. You can infer these according to the extent of hatred based on the murder of the skinless women, but if the reasoning is true, the first one to die should be the elder twin who used her sister as a scapegoat.”
“This is indeed a contradiction, and there must be other reasons for it–“
Yan Wei’s voice paused.
In the minds of all the players, the tower’s prompt sound suddenly rang.
【The progress of the instance has been updated. Some players have successfully responded to the clues related to the Hu sisters: The name and origin of the matron. The method of making skin and bone umbrellas in Ankang Ancient Town originated from the Hu family. The matron who often lived in the mountain temple and presided over all sacrifices and worship in the ancient town was the daughter of the Hu family. The previous generation would train young Hu daughters as the next generation. When the previous generation died, the new matron would carry on the work and criticism of the previous generation. The matrons of Ankang Town could also get married and have children, but the girls who are sacrificed to the mountain god must remain pure.】
【The corresponding players who successfully answered first will obtain 1 point. The race to answer first continues. May all players do their best to answer first and survive.】
“Ah, is it Lin Zhen, Yu Feizhou, or Ning Yi?” Yan Wei blinked. “But it helped me connect all the guesses. Look. Here’s the reason for this contradiction — Hu Ayun was the next generation matron cultivated by the old matron.
But just before she had inherited it, she was chosen by accident, and the matron’s successor became her sister. She changed from the respected successor of the matron to being placed on an altar as a result of a downpour.”
“Later, the things in the story happened. Hu Ayun ran out and became Hu Ayu. Because of her knowledge of evil techniques, she successfully manipulated the dead girls’ bodies and skin and bone umbrellas. She killed the lover who betrayed her first. The townsman who knew that she had swapped with her sister was second. They thought it was the impure tribute that made the mountain god angry, and they despised Hu Ayun more and more — In their eyes, she was Hu Ayu.”
As soon as his voice fell, the prompt sound reappeared in Yan Wei’s mind.
【Congratulations to the player on cracking the secret of the Hu family. As the first player to discover the clue, you will receive rewards: Sensory Stat 6, Physical Stat 6, Points 8.】
【You gained an extra 3 points for answering first.】
【At present, you have a total of 3 first answer points, temporarily ranking first among the players in this instance. Please make persistent efforts to survive.】
Yan Mingguang also got the three points. It could be regarded as the joint efforts of Yan Wei and Yan Mingguang. Both of them have gained extra points. At the moment, they were both at 7 points and tied for first place.
—The clue was worth three points and a high amount of stat rewards!
Yan Wei shifted and said with a smile, “With such a high reward, it appears that we are close to the last clue. Now that we have reached this step, where is the staircase? What should we do to end this instance?”
“I need to get this over with quickly. I always feel that I’ll be attacked at any time because of this rotten peach blossom 4 debuff.”
Apologies for the slightly late update 人(_ _*)
- An idiom that translates to “It’s only natural.”
- Figurative for beautiful flowers
- Peach blossom can be fig. for a love affair