Chapter 55: The Haunting
Reading letter by letter, I glared at the slab of stone with my name written on it.
“Yes. I’m indeed a good person, but don’t kill me on your own.” A pout fleeted, and I felt stuffy. I shut my eyes and decided to just laugh it off despite the gnawing melancholy eating my heart. Taking a deep breath, I focused my eyes on the epithets.
There were dusty wiggly stick scribbles of a long-haired lady and three kittens sculpted on another chunk of smooth stone nearby.
Okay… that was cute. Did the little kittens draw this fine art? If so, they’re talented that I wanna hire them for personal use!
There was also another bunch of fading messy scrawls on the side, but I left the rest for later since the night had already crept in and veiled the letters anew.
The nightfall came forth, and it was a starless night. There were no moons tonight, and a thick weird fog slowly skulked its way towards the grasslands. The night breeze was frosty as compared to last night when I stayed here. The usual buzzed of the insects was nowhere to be heard. It was dead silent.
“Just like the time when the three goons saved me.” I mused and watched the fog hugged the earth.
Anyway, should I visit the kittens first? But what if they think that I’m some haunted ghost? Wait, there’s no ghost here but undead. It’ll be bad if they throw things at me.
I glanced at the golden-haired lady still sleeping deeply as she floated like a ghost. I scratched my cheeks and immediately rejected the idea of the night visit. Staring through the deep creeping fog, I frowned and felt a chunk of worry filling me as if something just went really wrong.
I shrugged and remembered Murphy’s Law. “So be it. I’ll just go tomorrow, hm, but where will I sleep. The giant priest might be an excellent choice, but where does he live now?”
The sounds of shattering glass echoed, the crisp noise had me jumping out of my feet. To my left, where the sound had come, a few broken shards from an old depilated oil lamp scattered itself on the floor, its flames slithered onto the moist grass fields, illuminating the darkness caused by the thick night mist, just enough for me to see the source of it all.
I cast a gaze at the source of the sounds and found a spooked old catkin. Beyond pale, the owner of the spoofed brush tail quivered. With her lips trembling, she said. “L-Lady V-Victoria?”
Emma’s mouth hung wide open as if she had seen a ghost, ashen-faced and lips quivering. Her shoulder-length hair had already shifted its hues, there were still a few reddish tints, but the whites and gray had already taken over the rest. She looked like a feeble and sick cat. The traces of shock flickered within the aged streaks on her face.
Perhaps witnessing the village head’s house vanish in a blink of an eye was too much to take in, muddling some of her beliefs in magic. Or perhaps seeing us standing atop of the mounds was too much for her old heart. I put myself in her shoes and knew that if these things happened to me, I’ll also think a ghost had visited me and be as frightened as she was now.
Anyway, was she waiting for our return, but why does she look too scared? Come on, we were gone for only a day.
I took a step forward, waved, and smiled.
Yet, she almost dropped on her butt as she retreated two steps further.
I reached out to her, wishing to explain my side. “Emma, calm down… I-I…”
But before I could even complete the words in my head, the old catkin spent no time and had herself sprinting into the direction of her house. She left just as fast as she arrived, leaving me stunned.
“Alistair? Maggie? Am I that scary?” I asked the blobs’ opinion with a hand on my chin.
‘Nah!’ The little blob twittered. ‘You looked more perfect than ever! You’re releasing this don’t touch me feeling. You’re so awesome! I want to be like you and mom!’
‘That’s not what she’s asking for and… please don’t be like your mom.’ The tempest groaned. His voice sounding like I had saved him from the pits of hell. Well, listening to the energetic blob’s prattles was indeed a tiring endeavor. ‘You’re perfectly fine Victoria, but I suggest you recant the dreadful aura coming out from you.’
“Dreadful aura? What are you talking about? I only feel marvelous and all.” My brows furrowed at Alistair’s vague explanation.
Alistair’s long-suffering sigh echoed through the link. ‘Look around. Your very presence is twisting the entirety of these grasslands. The dark haze, the moonless skies, and starless night are all because of you. According to the natural laws established by the primal chaos, you’re now considered as a monstrosity though human. You just killed at least tens of thousands of those rats. The world’s natural laws had marked you and thus produced this natural death aura field, a warning for the stupid weaklings that no one should cross you or else they die a gruesome death.’
‘Explain on Maggie’s level, please.’ I slapped my head and felt dizzy.
‘You reek of death and danger!’ The little blob sneaked a word in the conversation. It seemed like she felt a bit left out.
‘There you have it. Maggie’s level.’ The tempest shrugged its proverbial shoulders. ‘Well, that mortal catkin must have been scared because you’ve been gone from this world for at least three years. The time within the spirit realm and the mortal world’s too different after all, but for most of us spirits, it’s all the same.’
“Three years, pfft, you’re not serious, right? Is that some joke?” I sniggered and entertained the tempest’s jest. “Nice try, by the way.”
I continued to laugh for a few more seconds and suddenly choked on my spit. A weird silence loomed within my spiritual link with the blobs.
‘Uh, Victoria? Alistair’s not joking, you know?’ The little blob twitted, sensing something was wrong.
The hairs on my arms stood ramrod akin to well-trained soldiers. My face turned white… blue… and then black.
I drew a few circles on the ground, turning into a grumpy aunt after realizing that I had myself fermented inside the spirit realm for at least three years without me even knowing. It’s not a serious problem for a transmigrator like me since I had read a few who spent thousands of years in a cave, but it still felt like I had lost something precious.
‘Don’t worry, Victoria,' said the tempest, throwing an effort in consoling me after being nagged to submission by the little tumultuous blob. ‘At least, your body is now fine-tuned for the spirit realm. The next time you go there, the time you’d spent would be the same as the mortal world. And you only aged a few years, not a big deal.’
‘You know you are not helping, right?’ I whispered in a deadpan voice. ‘And I don’t want to go back there.’
‘Eh, but my mom has already made an appointment with you.’ the little blob said. ‘As far as I know, no one has managed to outrun mom when she wants to meet somebody. Not even dad. The one who dared to run away always ended up in a very very bad place.’
‘T-That’ll be a bad idea, Victoria.’ Alistair choked.
A creeping shiver crept down my spine. I don't know why, but I felt someone was watching me somewhere between the void. Even though it sounded like she was stating a fact, Maggie’s words felt like a threat. ‘O-Okay, I’ll meet her.’
‘Anyway, tell me how to control this death aura, Alistair.’ I immediately changed the topic despite Maggie’s quick protest.
‘That’ll be easy. Okay, but first close your eyes and take a deep breath.’ The tempest asked. ‘Now think of your body like a cracked and leaking water jar. A container. A vessel’
‘Okay, what’s next.’ I asked and felt a mysterious quivering in some parts of my body. My entire body turned numb and soon felt like a cracked jar.’
‘Can you sense the trembling now? The cracks?’
‘Fissures. Y-Yes.' My voice squeaked. I felt like I had submerged myself in the ocean depths, floating inside a hollow ocean. I also felt that certain parts of the vast ocean had some bizarre fissures.
‘That’s good. What you have sensed just now is your soul. How powerful? You alone could feel that. The vibrations are the natural laws produce by your soul. Those fissures are the ones pushing this dreadful aura out from you. In short, it's all coming out from your soul.’ Alistair said. ‘The next step would depend on your imagination. Tell me, how would you normally stop a leaking jar?’
‘Put a tough glue bond.’
‘What’s a glue bond? Won’t human [Repair Magic] work? Anyway, just seal the leaks on your own way.’ The tempest said. ‘Remember, you are the cracked jar. The vessel.’
“Alright.” I inhaled and imagined the toughest glue bond on earth and sealed the cracked parts of the jar. After sealing the imaginary cracks, the vibrations reverberating within my soul calmed.
The grassland insects buzzed throughout the grassland and the bloated feeling I had also vanished.
‘You can now control it? Just think of yourself as a cracked jar if you want to use that aura to your advantage.’ Alistair said. ‘As for the grasslands, it would return to normal tomorrow… probably.’
‘Thanks.’ I slowly blinked and stared at my hands. I squinted at the complicated webbing lines waltzing on my palms and immediately discovered that my eyesight had improved by leaps and bounds away from the human standard.
‘I’m feeling so powerful and…’
Suddenly, I caught the scent of the living drifting into my nostrils. I turned in the perfume’s direction and saw a few familiar people walking snail-paced towards me. Despite the distance, I could see their solemn expressions, disbelief flickering in their eyes, especially the ragged giant priest, Astolfo. Unlike his clean priestly looked before, he now sported a messy beard with his eyes bloodshot. He had aged and looked like someone who spent years with the wrong spirit, the spirit of alcohol.
He had turned into a total mess. A pang of guilt struck me as I shifted my gaze towards the sleeping blond lady. A wry smile slipped out of my lips. “I’m sorry. It seemed like I did something terrible to you.”
I scrutinized the crowd further and discovered that they were more of a mercenary band than simple villagers. Some had swords, wands, staves, and various weapons. Weirdly, the crowd had themselves armed to the teeth, making me gulp.
‘Alistair, give me the lady.’ The wind gently carried Hild onto my arms. I crafted a short, simple script in my mind. After all, my guest would soon arrive.
The band of warriors stopped a few meters away from me. The villagers pulled out all their weapons and pointed them at me. I was already about to open my mouth when the old catkin rushed out of the ranks.
Emma stared towards me and the Lady in my arms with tears piling in her eyes. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry you two. I-I could not save you. I was the one who’s supposed to help you, but…”
“Stop it, Emma. They’re dead!” The scruffy scarred giant roared with his snot dripping. “To think the vengeful witch still had this in store for us. Three years. Three fucking years, I waited! Y-Your revenge is just too much. I-I, *hick*, Hild…”
I choked and had myself lost for words. The sentences that I was about to say ended up stuck in my throat as I watched the temperamental giant make a show. I almost cried myself after watching the drama, but soon winced, realizing that I caused all of this.
“No. we’re not de-…!”
“Y-You… You monster! I don’t need your explanation!” Suddenly, the scarred giant pulled a sword and rushed towards us. His eyes filled with unquenchable fury. He cut his own wild charge short as he tripped on his feet, rolling like a dead log onto the ground.
“What did you do to my wife! You want to return their bodies now! You’re not fooling anyone!” The ragged giant punched the ground, again and again, wailing like a tired kid before he had himself pulled up by a few armed villagers. Still, he kept gazing at us like a demon-possessed.
“Astolfo?” The lady in my arms uttered in a soft voice. Slowly, she opened her eyes and curiously glanced at me. “Your not Astolfo.”
‘Duh.’ I rolled my eyes. I gently put her down, allowing her to stand up on her two feet while asking the tempest blob to assist her if she stumbles or anything.
“Yeah, I’m not. That’s him.” I whispered and pointed toward the shrieking giant. “I don’t have too much time to explain, but they think that we’re part of some witch plot. Please fix him first and I’ll explain everything to them later. I think I’ve made a mess plus a big misunderstanding.”
She puckered her brows and gave me the suspicious look. Turning, she watched her husband crying, her frown slowly turned into a scowl. She trudged forward and ignored the armed crowd standing behind Astolfo.
Sensing that the blond lady had marked him, the scarred giant wobbly stood up, cackling like a madman. “That’s right. That’s right. You want me to end my own wife. You’re so evil! Come and fight me, you fake Hild. Watch how I’ll end you! I’ll take this one, all of you retreat. Let me deal with her myself! Come, you ugly ogre!”
I winced after hearing the self-made delusions of the village chief.
“You… dare… Astolfo!” She growled under her breath. Those words seemed to have affected Hild as two, uh, pink horns slowly rose from her head. She stopped for a moment and gazed at her loonie husband with disbelief and fury.
“What you’re scared now damn ugly?!” The village head roared and taunted. His hideous scar twisted, gazing back with his deep-seated ferocity.
With those words, the golden-haired lady turned into a golden blur.
The next thing I saw was a gyrating giant, flying in the air with a fist sticking on his jaw. I’m sure he’d be seeing a lot of stars tonight.