128 Shadow in the Pas

    Translator: Lonelytree Editor: Lonelytree

    Under the cloudless night sky, the whipping wind made the wild grass inside the old graveyard sway. At the grave that was at the furthest corner of the graveyard, the chaos from the grave digging was clear. The old tombstone had toppled over, and the coffin that was supposed to be underground had been lifted and left to the side. The coffin lid was pried open, and the skeletal remains had disappeared. Not much trace of it was left.

    "Perhaps because they came from a different village, Ol' Uncle Dog's family had always stuck out like a sore thumb around here."

    Chen Shu sat down on the bench that was brought over for him. His expression was complicated as he slowly brought up his memories from the past. Be it Gu Jun in his youth, Xue Ba in his prime, or Yao Sinian in his later years, they all begged this elder to tell them everything he knew about the family of Ol' Uncle Dog, no matter how ludicrous it might be. Chen Shu was lured forth by the captive audience. Like most elders, most people had started to ignore them or had better things to do.

    "There were about ten in their family. The adults were all deformed, but the children looked no different from the rest of us. At the time, I was still young. With childish cruelty, I pointed fingers at them, making horrible jokes about their appearances, but Ol' Uncle Dog never got mad at us. In fact, I don't think I ever saw him lose his temper. As I've mentioned before, the villagers were initially against them staying here, but it was Grandfather who accepted them. But ultimately, they were the outsiders. Plus, they did not attempt to form a bridge of communication with the rest of us, so we did not venture too close to them. They stayed at the end of the village, practically up against the mountain. They chopped some wood and mixed it with mud to construct simple huts, forming a small community of their own..."

    At this point, Gu Jun broke in to ask, "Are those old huts still standing?"

    Mayor Chen continued to translate. Hearing that, Chen Shu sighed. "Of course not. With the materials used, they all collapsed with time... No one stays there now. It has been vacated for about sixty years already. I'm sure none of you young 'uns know why."

    After finishing translating that last statement, Mayor Chen added, "I really have no idea why. The villagers merely said it was because the place has bad Feng Shui."

    "When I was young, I liked to explore the village, but even I was afraid to go too close to their huts." Chen Shu remembered the things from decades ago like it was yesterday. "Ol' Uncle Dog's family did not rear livestock, not even a dog, but there was always this strange smell that drifted out from their yard...'

    Gu Jun's heart tightened. The others latched onto this detail as well. 'Strange smell?'

    But at that moment, another elder in the wheelchair interrupted with condescension. "Ol' Shu, it's just their body odor. Don't make a mountain out of a molehill." It was hard to imagine body odor strong enough to form a mist around an area, but if the physical attribute was hereditary, meaning every member of Ol' Uncle Dog's family suffered from it, then it was not entirely out of question.

    "That was not body odor. You might not remember it, but I certainly do..." Chen Shu huffed, but he knew it was a waste of time to go arguing with his old friend. "I cannot explain clearly what that smell was. It was incredibly pungent, and it smelled kinda like dead bodies... As I said, it was time of war. Occasionally, dead bodies would flow down our village river, and the smell that came from the bodies was rather similar to the one that came from Ol' Uncle Dog's family yard..."

    A thought flashed across Gu Jun's mind then. 'Ol' Uncle Dog's strange appearance, the smell of putrefaction, could Ol' Uncle Dog and even his whole family have been zombies?'

    "We used bamboo poles to nudge those floating corpses so that they would continue on their way down the river, or else they would beach on our village. But no one was willing to take up that chore because of the negative Feng Shui. After Ol' Uncle Dog's family moved in, they volunteered to take on this task. It was the reason the villagers started to accept their presence around here, but it also prevented people from getting too close to them." Chen Shu sighed. His age-spot filled face started to blanch. "The strange thing that I mentioned earlier started around then...

    "I was told to go up the mountain to collect firewood every day, so I would pass their homes each day. I felt strangely uncomfortable every time I did. There was always a member of their family around watching me. They were either inside the yard or leaning against the door. They weren't doing anything, not even talking to me or among themselves. They just stood there and watched me walk by. I cannot remember which day it was, but one time, when I passed, I heard a banging sound coming from inside their yard. It sounded like something clashing against wood. It was followed by what sounded like the low growls of an animal... The first thought that came to me was perhaps Ol' Uncle Dog's family was keeping a roe inside their yard."

    Eighty years later, when Chen Shu described these details, the explanation still eluded him.

    "Food was scarce during the time of war, and meat was only reserved for big events. In my mind, I believed Ol' Uncle Dog's family had wrangled a roe from the mountain and was butchering it for food... When I went home, I told my father, who then went to find Grandfather. It was only fair that if Ol' Uncle Dog's family had precious wild game, they should share it with the rest of the village."

    Gu Jun frowned. Xue Ba and Uncle Dan felt imminent danger...

    "F*ck." Lou Xiaoning cursed under her breath. It reminded of her experience looking through the keyhole.

    Chen Shu continued his story. "Grandfather did venture to find Ol' Uncle Dog to ask for an explanation. Ol' Uncle Dog admitted their omission and brought out the roe for the villagers to share. After that, Ol' Uncle Dog would come to the village to share the fresh meat whenever he caught any wild game. It was then that the villagers really started to accept them, and it was why Ol' Uncle Dog was given a plot here after he died. However, I was there at the slaughter of the different roe. I heard its pleading and cries. I was certain it was not similar to the sound that I heard coming from Ol' Uncle Dog's yard that day. In any case, the sound disappeared for a long time... until it returned again.

    "By then, I was in my youth, and with that came its youthful impetus. I made it my goal to get to the bottom of the mystery, so one early morning, I climbed up a tree near to their home and kept a look out over their yard..."

    At that point, Chen Shu stopped again. His mouth opened and closed several times before he could force himself to continue.

    "I hid there until midnight. I was so cold and hungry. I had decided to return when I suddenly saw it... Ol' Uncle Dog's whole family exited their huts and gathered around the yard. They walked in this strange manner while mumbling something incoherent. They moved around in circles... I thought perhaps this was their culture. But then I saw it! Right in the middle of the yard, a strange black shadow crawled out from the mud...

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    "I was so scared I almost fell from the tree... I could sense their eyes on me. I did not dare speak or turn to take another look... I do not know what happened later. When the yard quieted down, I immediately ran home as fast as I could. Along the way, I noticed that all the livestock in the village had stopped making noises. They were frozen like their souls had departed. The next day, they all died in captivity. At the time, this news hit the village hard, but no one knew what had happened. People suspected the neighboring village had come to poison them. I told Grandfather what I saw, and after Grandfather went to talk with Ol' Uncle Dog, he came back and told me that I was just dreaming and forbade me from talking about it further.

    "But I knew it was no dream. The horror was too real to be one... but that incident never repeated itself. The strange noises stopped coming from Ol' Uncle Dog's yard. They lived their lives peacefully until they disappeared.

    "So many years later, I still cannot tell whether it was a dream or not."

    Chen Shu finished the story with his body shivering. The horror from back then was imprinted in his eyes. "But what was the black shadow?"

    Mayor Chen was quite embarrassed that the old man was rambling on about such nonsense in front of the city folk, but he translated honestly. After all, he was not the only one who knew the local dialect. People would point it out if he strayed. At the same time, the Demon Hunters, Yao Sinian, and Gu Jun's faces darkened because they were thinking about the same thing...

    A summoning ritual?

    Ol' Uncle Dog's family was definitely related to the zombies or the summoning of the zombies. What was the history behind them?

    Then, Yao Sinian showed a few pictures on his phone to Chen Shu. They were the wilted face of the red leader from Lai Sheng Company and the faces of the Necro-skins. Chen Shu shook his head, saying he had not seen any of them before.

    "Ol' Chen, how about this one?" Yao Sinian switched to a sketch. Before he showed Chen Shu, he ordered Gu Jun and the rest to turn away because this was related to the Nightmare Illness.

    "Huh?" This time, Chen Shu gasped in shock. "That's him. He's much older here, but that is definitely Ol' Uncle Dog!"
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