They walked together through the village. Jin ZiXin kept a close eye out for anything suspicious or his fellow disciples, but no matter how hard he looked, he couldn't find anything.
It was as if they were simply disappeared.
Gone without a trace.
"Come," Yue said and gripped his hand. "we'll ask around the villagers, see if they know what's going on."
Jin ZiXin nodded in understanding and together, they walked over to a shabby door of a shabby, small house. It wasn't the village chief's house, yet it was somehow even smaller. He didn't think it could possibly contain more than one room, certainly not more than two small ones. Yue knocked on the door in an even rhythm.
There was no response, and so Yue knocked harder. When they still couldn't hear anything from the other side of the door, Yue gave him a smirk and broke the handle with her bare hands. With a single push, the door opened inward, falling to the floor behind it with a loud '"BANG!" and a cloud of dust meeting it. Jin ZiXin immediately had to resist the urge to vomit, as the same smell of the village chief's house rushed out to meet them, only somehow a thousand times worse.
He groaned at the smell and used the one hand not holding a torch to cover his mouth and nose as best he could. To be honest, with a smell this strong, there was no doubt any more. There was a corpse in here.
If not more than one.
He watched on with watering eyes as Yue entered the small house without any hesitation. He couldn't understand how she wasn't vomiting or running away when she wasn't even trying to cover her nose.
Did she not have a sense of smell? Because even if it wasn't very good, there was no mistaking it.
Jin ZiXin swallowed the bile rising in his throat and followed after her in.
There was a murderer out here somewhere! He couldn't let them get separated, which meant that he had to follow her, even if it went against his every sense of danger!
The smell only got stronger once he passed the threshold, and he barely had to take more than two steps inside before he could see the mummified corpse laying on the ground next a low broken table.
He squeezed his eyes shut at the unpleasant image and turned away from it, only to jump in fright when that only revealed another corpse, this one much smaller.
It was the mummified corpse of a small child, no older than five.
This time, there was no stopping it. He ran outside and as soon as the smell dissipated even just a little, he bent over, dropped the torch and vomited everything in his stomach out.
"GEH!" he spat out the disgusting taste, screwing his eyes shut so he wouldn't have to see his own bile.
He felt a warm hand on his back.
Jin ZiXin spit out once more, trying to get rid of the taste, but nothing seemed to work. This was the first time that he had vomited in this world since he got sick at age the age of four.
He didn't miss it.
"Here." Yue held out something at the side of his face, and Jin ZiXin carefully peeked at it from the corner of one narrowed eye. It was a water bottle, or the equivalent of it in this world, anyway. He grabbed a hold of it gratefully and leaned back, drowning half of the of the bottle in one go and gurgling the water in his mouth before spitting it out again.
Then he swallowed the last of the water in the bottle, breathing deeply in relief at it. "Thank you." he whispered to Yue.
He felt her hand on his shoulder and couldn't resist leaning against it.
"It's okay. Was that your first time seeing a corpse?" she asked, sounding concerned.
He nodded. "En. I've only dealt with possessions before."
"Then it's fine. Everybody has an adverse reaction their first time seeing one. It's perfectly understandable."
He stepped away from his vomit and turned his back on it. Glancing up, he saw Yue's face above him, managing to look both reassuring and serious. He couldn't stop himself from asking, "Who would do something like that?"
"It's not a question of who, but of what." Yue stated.
Jin ZiXin gave her a disbelieving look, and she smiled down at him. She started walking, steering him along with her hand on his shoulder. "When a person dies with unfinished business, or aren't properly buried, or are murdered, they can come back as ghosts. The only difference between malicious ghosts and general ghosts, is that malicious ghosts are purposefully trying to hurt living beings, whereas normal ghosts don't. This, you must know."
He nodded, though he didn't see the point of this lecture. But if he disagreed with her, then he was undoubtedly going to end up in another argument about cultivation, and even he could recognize that this wasn't the time for it.
Yue continued, "A ghost capable of this level of devastation, must either be very old, or very resentful. Most likely, they are a victim of a horrific crime, and have come to get revenge."
"Killing a child is revenge?" Jin ZiXin scoffed and felt rage burning in his gut.
He could disregard a lot of awful things about this world, especially if it didn't impact him negatively, but killing a child for revenge? In what kind of messed of world and ideology could that possibly be considered acceptable?
"Most people think so, yes." Yue mirthfully stated. "But that's not the point. The point is, if the ghost is that strong, it's going to be difficult to exorcise. You won't manage it alone."
Jin ZiXin lowered his head and looked toward his sandal covered feet on the hard ground. "Then we need to find Shifu."
He was certain of it now. This 'ghost' was probably a relative of someone that was murdered by someone from this village, and they were taking out their anger and rage at everyone in it. Wu Mei would know what to do with them, when they caught them.
They started searching immediately, without wasting any more time.
Jin ZiXin did his best to spot any clues, but this was his first major mission and he wasn't really sure what he was looking for.
In the end, it was Yue who found it.
A piece of fabric from a robe like his.
The white fabric laid on the ground, stained with only a few drops of something red. It made worry start to crawl its way up his throat, to know that that was probably one of his fellow disciples'. They were hurt, and most likely alone. They had all gone in different directions, with different instructions.
Yue picked it up and folded it in her hands. "We can use this." she said, giving him a devious smile.
Jin ZiXin nodded at her, though he didn't understand, and followed after her as she walked determinedly in a single direction. They walked passed houses, until suddenly they were completely out of the village again. This time, they were on the other side, where the fields were located.
"Here?" Jin ZiXin asked, looking around with a doubtful expression.
Yue nodded and smiled at him. "Yes."
They walked between the fields, and it was as they were getting farther and farther away from the village that Jin ZiXin finally remembered. He had dropped his torch, so where was the light coming from?
He abruptly looked over at Yue and stared at the glowing piece of paper in her hands. "What is that?" he asked, sounding slightly breathless.
She rose an eyebrow at him. "A talisman for light. Don't worry, it's not harmful, it can't even shine very bright. It's absolutely useless in the sun."
He nodded absentmindedly at her and let his mind drift a little as they walked. Some sort of self-glowing paper? Was such a thing possible? Then again, he couldn't say for sure that they wouldn't be. After all, his old world had had fire-flies, so why shouldn't such a thing as glowing paper be a thing here? Perhaps it somehow observed light from the sun and when night came, it lit up on its own.
He wondered if the trees the paper came from were the same, or if it just the paper. If the trees glowed, then he wouldn't mind seeing it for himself sometime.
Eventually, they reached the very end of the fields.
Jin ZiXin dragged in a broken breath and ran over to the still body in the middle of the path. He dropped to his knees by its side and rolled it over until he could see Long Kun's bloodstained, pale face.
"Shixiong?" he shook him, but Long Kun didn't even make sound. His eyelashes didn't so much as flutter.
Jin ZiXin placed his head on the other teenager's breast and listened intently, feeling his breath leave him in a 'voosh' when he heard a faint, struggling heartbeat. He then moved his hand over Long Kun's mouth, waiting until he could feel the air of him breathing against his skin before he sat back on his hunches.
Long Kun was alive, so all wasn't lost. Now he just had to wake him up to find out what had happened, and then they could go find Wu Mei and An Bao together.
He shook him gently, and when that resulted in nothing, he shook him harder. Finally, after several minutes of shaking Long Kun's body from side to side and slapping his face a couple of times, the boy's eyes finally started to open. Jin ZiXin breathed out in relief one final time and asked, "What happened?"
Long Kun groaned and raised his hand to press it against his own eyes. Eventually he answered, "The ghost. It came out of nowhere and knocked me up before I had a chance to call for help."
"Were you all the way out here then?" Jin ZiXin asked, furrowing his brows in confusion when the other teenager nodded in confirmation.
Jin ZiXin asked bewildered, "Why?"
"Because all of the houses were locked and it would be impolite to break down the door and break in." Long Kun stated. He said it so matter of factly that Jin ZiXin could hardly refute him, but really, must he insist on being so polite? This was a life and death matter, for heaven's sake.
Jin ZiXin sighed and said, "Okay. So you were all the way out here alone. Did you manage to see anything of the murderer?"
"No." Long Kun shook his head and sat up from the ground. "How did you fin me?"
"I didn't. Yue did."
"The-" when Jin ZiXin turned his head to motion toward Yue, he found that she wasn't there. In fact, as he searched all over the area around them, he couldn't see her at all, not even so much as a trace of her.
He frowned and shook his head a little, choosing to help Long Kun up instead of worrying about it. They had bigger things to be concerned about, after all.
"Nothing." he stated when he saw Long Kun's suspicious look. "Just a stray dog who picked up your scent. It must have run away."
"Anyway," Long Kun said once he stood on his feet while leaning on Jin ZiXin. Long Kun scowled and continued, "it was definitely a powerful malicious ghost. We need to find Shifu."
"That was the plan. For now, we should go back to the village chief's house." Jin ZiXin said and together, they started walking back in the direction of the village.
He felt like this would be his fourth time passing through it.
Above him, Long Kun groaned in pain and grumbled, "Why couldn't it have knocked out An Bao?"