“The living and the dead exist in two separate worlds. A dead person in the world of the living is nothing but a body without a soul. All of you look like the modern and educated sort, so I’m sure none of you believe in these superstitious things, right? Besides, as long as you remain respectful of the dead, I don’t think his body will bring any trouble to all of you,” the village chief rambled on and on but refused to change his mind.
“Sir, since you’re so open minded about this, why don’t you bring him back to your own home?” Xiang Nan was very annoyed. His high levels of intelligence didn’t matter as long as the village chief absolutely refused to budge. This man was the village chief and had the final say on such things, so there was nothing Xiang Nan and the rest could do either.
“Young man, how could you say that? I’m already so old. What if something does happen? What am I going to do?” said the village chief very earnestly even though he just told Xiang Nan that nothing would happen as long as he wasn’t superstitious.
Su Jin tried not to laugh at the situation. Xiang Nan had made very clever moves, but not a single one worked on the village chief.
“All right now, it’s almost night time, so have a good rest, everyone!” The village chief waved at everyone in the hall and left with the other villagers.
Su Jin and Xiang Nan exchanged glances, then they went to check out the young man’s body. The body had been placed behind the hall and was covered with a white cloth. They could feel a drop in the temperature just by going close to the body.
Yu Guangde and the rest had also come along. Su Jin pulled the white cloth back and froze on the spot. Xiang Nan noticed Su Jin’s reaction and leaned in to take a closer look, then froze in shock as well.
“I doubt this was done by a human.” Su Jin stared closely at the young man’s body. The body hadn’t just been covered by snow and ice on the outside earlier. The young man’s nose and mouth were also full of ice and snow. From the looks of it, there was probably ice and snow all the way into his stomach. In other words, this young man had been frozen from the inside out.
“Is this the evil spirit’s doing? Unless someone here has an industrial freezer, there’s no way you can freeze a body to this extent.” Yu Guangde reached out to press down on the young man’s stomach to find that it was just as hard and frozen.
Xiang Nan’s expression was grim as he said, “If it’s the evil spirit, then we’re in trouble. In short, it means that besides using the pond water, it has other ways of killing a person.”
The atmosphere grew heavy. Su Jin had just solved the mystery behind the pond water, but now, it seemed like the evil spirit had more than one method of killing them. This thought made everyone feel very demoralized.
“I have two hypotheses. One, the same evil spirit has two methods of killing people. Two, we’ve got two evil spirits with two different methods. After we found out how the first evil spirit kills, the second one started getting to work.” Su Jin tapped his nose rapidly. The dangers that came with either hypothesis were different and had to be dealt with differently.
“Two evil spirits…if that’s the case, the threat to us will be a lot greater.” Xiang Nan frowned, then asked, “Is there any evidence that can support this hypothesis?”
Su Jin nodded. “When this young man came to talk to us, he said that when he was a child, he had heard the village chief say something about how Rubble Village had let some woman down. In other words, there is a woman involved in this Challenge’s story, and she’s a victim of sorts.”
“Also, when I went up the hill with Brother Yu and Yang Mo earlier and arrived at the pond, the evil spirit that attacked me was in the form of a baby. If that woman had also died, then it’s possible that we’ve got two evil spirits coming after us.”
“Let Lili take over from here. Making use of her ability would be much easier than trying to speculate here,” Yu Guangde suddenly spoke up.
“Miss Tian?” Su Jin raised an eyebrow.
Xiang Nan explained, “Lili has the ability to speak to the dead, but sometimes it doesn’t work.”
“Does Miss Tian have Spirit Power too?” Su Jin was rather surprised. According to his observations, only those with Spirit Power would attain some special abilities. Owners who hadn’t activated their Spirit Power yet, would only be able to strengthen their physical bodies and use some tools and weapons that didn’t require Spirit Power. All these items were very ordinary and there was no way any of them could communicate with the dead. A Spirit Power tool could probably do that, but that would also require Spirit Power.
Xiang Nan shook his head. “No, Lili hasn’t activated her Spirit Power.”
“Mr. Su, you don’t have to be so surprised. This is my own special ability.” Tian Lili walked over and Su Jin saw her pupils begin to move. One of her eyes actually had two pupils.1
“Lili is different from the rest of us. She’s a famous medium in the real world. But once she’s inside a Challenge, her ability as a medium is greatly weakened, so we can’t guarantee that this is going to work,” explained Yu Guangde.
Su Jin and Kano Mai were surprised to hear that someone among them actually possessed this sort of ability. Then again, the Handbook seemed to pick owners at random, so there was always the probability of being grouped together with someone like that.
Tian Lili placed her hand on the young man’s chest and started the process. This was going to take quite some time, so Su Jin turned his attention to the newbie in the hall.
This newbie wasn’t like the other newbies. He constantly hid himself in a corner and his eyes always darted around timidly. During this time, he didn’t ask to become part of the team, but didn’t go through a mental breakdown nor run away. It was as if he was a wooden puppet or something.
“Hello, what’s your name?” asked Su Jin quietly.
But the newbie refused to answer him. He looked at Su Jin with a fearful look in his eyes, then looked down without saying anything while hugging his Handbook tightly.
Kano Mai noticed what was going on and walked over. She observed the newbie for a while and whispered to Su Jin, “I think he’s autistic.”
“He’s autistic?” Su Jin didn’t expect that. But Kano Mai nodded very confidently. This Challenge had proved that the Handbook really selected owners at random. First a medium, and now an autistic boy.
“Hello there, can I take a look at your Handbook? You’re a newbie, so there might be some important information that only a newbie would have inside.” Su Jin tried to speak softly and gently to the newbie, but the newbie refused to respond to him. The newbie just kept his head down and held onto his Handbook.
Su Jin scratched his head and wasn’t sure what to do. This boy was the only surviving newbie and the Handbook always gave newbies additional hints that could be very helpful to getting through the Challenge. These hints also motivated old timers to protect newbies and help them get through their first Challenge. Su Jin really needed this hint now.
Kano Mai saw that Su Jin’s attempts ended in futility, so she gave it a shot instead. She squatted down next to the newbie and said gently, “Hello there, my name is Kano Mai. We really need to see the content of your Handbook. Could you let us take a look?”
The newbie lifted his head slightly and actually opened his Handbook up. Su Jin immediately rolled his eyes and felt like he had been slighted for no reason, while Kano Mai tried not to laugh at him.
The newbie let Kano Mai read the additional information in his Handbook. She read it carefully, then nodded. “Thank you.”
The newbie immediately shut his Handbook again and went back to huddling in his corner. Su Jin sighed. Someone like this boy was definitely going to end up dead in a Challenge. Finding good people to work with was very vital to surviving a Challenge. Even if this boy was lucky enough to survive this one, would he still be as lucky the next time?
Kano Mai said to Su Jin, “The additional information reads: When did the freezing snow leave this village for good?”
Meanwhile, Tian Lili seemed to have successfully established a communication channel with the dead young man. There was even some frost forming on her eyebrows.
“As usual, we get to ask three questions,” said Yu Guangde to Xiang Nan and Su Jin. He was clearly giving the two of them the chance to ask the questions. Su Jin felt that this was really something that made Yu Guangde an excellent leader. Yu Guangde always assigned tasks to the person who would be able to do it best. Such a leader would be able to raise the standards of the team even if he didn’t possess any special abilities.
“Mr. Su, you go first.” Xiang Nan had faith in Su Jin’s analytical skills, so he allowed Su Jin to ask the first question.
Su Jin nodded, deliberated for a moment, then asked, “When did snow stop falling on this village?”
His question was basically a paraphrase of the hint he got from the newbie’s Handbook. Tian Lili’s double pupils rotated and her voice replied hoarsely, “40 years ago.”
“Woah.” Su Jin breathed a sigh of relief. He had been mentally prepared for no answer, which would mean that he had wasted a question. Thankfully, he had gotten a concrete answer.
“Where is Clear Pond Village’s chronicle kept?”2 Su Jin asked again. He didn’t ask if the village kept one because if the answer was yes, he would have to ask a third question to find out where it was.
“With the village chief,” replied Tian Lili.
Su Jin gave a pleased nod, then motioned to Xiang Nan to ask the next question. He had already used up two questions, so he had to leave the last one for Xiang Nan.
Xiang Nan seemed to have thought of a question already, so he asked immediately, “Who killed you?”
The moment this question was asked, Tian Lili’s entire body lurched and she started to tremble violently as she clutched her head like she was in tremendous pain.
“Crap!” Yu Guangde exclaimed and quickly pulled Tian Lili’s hand away from the young man’s dead body. She immediately collapsed onto the floor once her hand left the dead body.
Everyone quickly reached out to help Tian Lili up. She seemed to have lost consciousness and they could only see the whites of her eyes.
“Is she alright?” asked Su Jin worriedly.
“She’ll be fine. Lili is always extremely exhausted after each session and she’ll be fine after taking a rest. But this is the first time she’s collapsed from exhaustion before answering the third question,” said Yu Guangde.
Xiang Nan was upset as he blamed himself, “It’s all my fault. She collapsed because of the question I asked, it’s my fault!”
“You don’t have to blame yourself. If I were you, I would have asked the same question.” Su Jin patted Xiang Nan’s shoulder. Out of any other question he could have asked, that would definitely be first on the list because the answer to that question would help to confirm if there really was a second evil spirit or not.
Just then, they heard some noise coming from the ancestral hall!
Unlike actual polycoria where you’re born with two pupils in your eye, this double pupil concept is like a Chinese version of having a third eye, so some believe that there are people who have a hidden third pupil that can see stuff or do supernatural things. ↩️
It’s quite common for small villages and towns to keep their own records of their layout, history, population, economy etc., so it’s google maps, birth and death registry and Wikipedia page rolled into one. ↩️
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