Su Jin and Chu Yi carefully made their way into the rooms that belonged to Lin Yue and her family members. Chu Yi just wanted to leave the place as soon as possible, but Su Jin insisted on looking through the rooms first.
“Bro, they’ll be back anytime now. If we don’t leave now, we won’t make it,” said Chu Yi anxiously.
Su Jin was a lot steadier with his thoughts than Chu Yi was. Su Jin knew that it would be safer if they ran away now, but Auntie Li’s talk about the hunters really bothered him. He had a strange feeling inside that these hunters could be the key to their survival.
“Relax, it won’t take a long time for us to look through this room. Let’s move quickly and leave as soon as possible.” Once Su Jin was done assuring Chu Yi, he focused all his attention on searching the room.
A few minutes later, the two had combed through the fairly small rooms once, and Su Jin now held onto two notebooks. The owners of these two notebooks were Lin Yue and her younger brother. They didn’t find anything else of value in these rooms.
“Let’s go!” As Su Jin and Chu Yi quickly left, Su Jin glanced one more time at the part of the wooden fence that had been repaired before. He realized that it had probably broken when someone who had been captured by Lin Yue and her family had tried to escape. But he had no idea if they were successful.
Once they got out, the two of them ran as far away from the house as they could and finally stopped to discuss a few things. They couldn’t leave Fengxi Town, so as they decided, instead of running all the time, it was probably better to look for the source of the problem. Their chances of survival would probably be greater if they did that, plus Su Jin guessed that the two veterans were probably not too far from that place.
“I’ve made some rough calculations. We’ve heard the bells twice, and it’s about two hours in between each one. It won’t be long before the bells ring a third time, which means that we’ve already stayed in this town for four hours. The Handbook needs us to stay here for one night, and most people define 6 am to be the end of night-time. In other words, we just need to survive the next two hours, and we’ll make it out of here alive.” Su Jin and Chu Yi continued their journey towards the location where the sound of the bells were coming from.1
“Are you certain that everything will be over once the bells ring for the fourth time?”
“I can’t be certain. It’s just my guess. But even if it’s not the end yet, at least it’s a possibility.”
“What makes you so sure?” asked Chu Yi puzzledly.
Su Jin used his right index finger to tap his nose absentmindedly and explained, “Think about it this way. After the bells rang the first time, the situation in the house we were hiding in suddenly became dangerous. When the bells rang a second time, Lin Yue, Zhang Jing, and that white head started going crazy at the same time. Auntie Li said just now that the hunters will return when the bells ring for the third time. Based on that, I’m sure that the bells represent a limit of sorts, and everything within Fengxi Town has to respect those limits during this time.”
“So, what you’re saying is… everything in Fengxi Town happens according to these limits, so when the bells ring for the fourth time, everything will come to an end?” Chu Yi seemed to understand Su Jin’s logic.
But Su Jin didn’t nod. He stopped walking and said, “I’m really not sure if everything will come to an end or not, but when the bells ring for the fourth time, we should be able to unravel this mystery.”
Just then, the bells began to ring for the third time. The entire town resonated with the sound of the bells ringing. Su Jin and Chu Yi turned to look nervously at Lin Yue’s house from afar and saw that some people had just walked into the house. And it didn’t take long for the howls of Auntie Li to pierce through the air.
“What have they done to Auntie Li?” Chu Yi widened his eyes.
Su Jin’s expression was grim. Auntie Li had been punished, after all, he thought. Then, he started tugging at Chu Yi to start walking again. It was better to move further away from there.
To their surprise, their journey was quiet even after they had covered some distance. None of the strange paranormal things they had seen earlier appeared again. Instead, some places they passed through were in a mess, and from the marks left on the floor, it looked like a fight had happened in these areas not too long ago.
“Auntie Li said that everything in Fengxi Town are prey, so this must have been where Lin Yue and her family hunted,” thought Su Jin to himself. But it wasn’t a bad thing either. If Lin Yue and her family hadn’t cleared this path for them, their journey towards the bells might not have been this smooth.
Su Jin opened one of the notebooks, and it was Lin Yue’s younger brother’s diary. The entries stopped halfway through the notebook. The entries, in the beginning, were normal, but they started to change after 15 July 1967. Su Jin couldn’t glean much from the contents, but he could understand the terror that the brother felt from the way he wrote. Most of the entries were about how he hid in his father’s room and refused to see anyone, as if he was hiding from something.
“1967 … that’s 50 years ago. In other words, Lin Yue’s younger brother is actually past 60.” It was hard for Su Jin and Chu Yi to imagine that the strange boy they had met earlier was actually an old man.
“If Lin Yue’s younger brother is past 60, doesn’t that mean Lin Yue herself is nearly 80? Her parents have to be over a hundred by now, right? Do none of them grow old at all?!” remarked Chu Yi.
Su Jin ignored Chu Yi and went on to read Lin Yue’s diary. Compared to her brother, her entries were a lot clearer. The entries also started becoming strange around the same date. Something had clearly happened to the town during that time.
15 July, Cloudy
Our neighbor, Auntie Li, and her family have returned from the capital city. They left many years ago, apparently before I was born. But they’ve come back because they said they couldn’t get used to city life. But a lot of the villagers are saying that they probably couldn’t survive in the city. After all, here, you can literally find food by digging in the vegetable patches, but you can’t do that in the city. Speaking of digging up stuff, a bunch of people dug out a black-colored stone from the area behind the shrine. It looks really scary, and it looks like a gigantic black eyeball.
16 July, Cloudy
The Catholic priest said that the black eyeball was demonic and told us to hand it to him. The Daoist priest also said that that thing was unlucky and even performed a rite. Even the monk from the Buddhist temple came to take a look at it. Actually, it seems like Fengxi Town didn’t have any such priests and monks in the past. These people only suddenly appeared some years back. But they’re all good people who take care of the old folks in the village who don’t have anybody else to rely on, so everyone’s quite happy.
17 July, Drizzle
I heard something bad happened! The black stone that looks like an eyeball was placed in the shrine, but this morning, everything in the shrine had been broken, and Uncle Wu, the old man who keeps watch over the shrine by himself, is dead too. Nobody can find that black eyeball stone either. Today was such a mess.
18 July, Drizzle
Grandpa isn’t in very good physical health, and he seems to be out of it too. He keeps talking about gods and ghosts, and he even kneeled in front of the altar in the house the whole morning. Neither Mom nor Dad could get him to get up, and Grandma was the one who finally managed to persuade him. After eating lunch, he went into his own room to sleep and never came out again.
19 July, Cloudy
The black eyeball stone has been found, and I heard they dug it out from Uncle Wu’s mouth. How gross! Grandpa’s health doesn’t seem to have gotten any better, and he even needs Grandma to bring his food into the room. Also, the Catholic priest, the Daoist priest, and the Buddhist monk have all stopped coming to the town. Everyone’s faces are grim, and nobody knows what’s going on anymore.
The diary entries continued all the way until the end of August, and most of it was about how her grandfather wasn’t in good health and how her grandmother had to take care of him as well as how Auntie Li was a nice person who gave Lin Yue things she bought from the capital city. The creepiest part was how several people died one after another, and it always had something to do with that black stone that resembled an eyeball. The villagers were able to pry that stone from the mouths of every person who died, but it didn’t make sense. There was only one black stone, but they had pulled it out from more than a dozen people’s mouths.
Lin Yue’s entries also became more and more frantic, and the last entry was on 30 August.
30 August, Partly cloudy
Grandpa passed away this morning, but I think it’s more like a release for him. My brother’s behaving more and more strangely. He kept hiding in Dad’s room and refused to come out even when we told him that Grandpa had breathed his last. Also, I’m really scared. The black stone has already killed more than a dozen people, and nobody knows who’s next. Grandma consoled me by saying that I don’t have to be afraid since we have the protection of God, but that’s crazy. Neither the Catholic priest, the Daoist priest, nor the Buddhist monk comes to the town anymore, so what God is going to protect me? I heard that they had all moved to the top of the mountain on the west side of town, but I don’t know why they did that. Also, Grandma was really depressed over Grandpa’s death, so she kept all of his hand rolled cigarettes, saying that she wanted them as a memento.
It seemed like there were more entries after that, but they had been torn out. There were probably another ten odd pages that had been torn out of the diary. But whatever Su Jin had read contained a lot of information already.
“A black stone that looked like an eyeball, a Catholic priest, a Daoist priest, a Buddhist monk … and Lin Yue’s dead grandfather!” Su Jin began tapping his nose with his index finger out of habit again. It wasn’t quite possible for him to draw a link between all these pieces of information yet, so he had to put them aside for the moment.
“Wait, a Buddhist temple, a Daoist temple, and a Catholic church would all have bells!” Su Jin’s eyes lit up suddenly. The bells they had been hearing all this time had probably come from one of these places. The diary mentioned that all three religious men had moved to the top of the mountain on the west side of town, so he looked towards the west and saw that there was indeed a low mountain located over there.
The mountain wasn’t too far off, so it was probably still within Fengxi Town’s boundaries. Now Su Jin had a destination to head for.
But just then, he suddenly felt a chill down his spine. He turned to see someone wrapped entirely in a cloak holding a longbow made from white bones. The bowstring had been pulled back and had shiny sparkles gathered on it.
Su Jin and Chu Yi felt all their hair stand on end. Something told them that those sparkles were very dangerous, as if they would die on the spot if just one of the sparkles hit them.
“Run! Run up that mountain!” yelled Su Jin before the two of them quickly ran in two different directions instinctively.
“Haha… Hey hey! Heee heee… haha…!” The person covered in the cloak started laughing creepily as he released his hand, and the sparkles shot out, heading straight for Su Jin’s back.
Su Jin didn’t need to turn around to know that the sparkles were headed for him, because the flying sparkles were accompanied by a roaring sound. He quickly jumped to the side and rolled on the ground.
But some of the sparkles still brushed past his arm. He felt a sudden pain in his arm before his entire arm turned to ash and vanished into the air.2
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