I know that this is probably the most trash translation anyone has ever come across. But, hey, this is NOT for profit or anything. I just love MXTX’s work…
MODAO ZUSHI by Mo Xiang Tongxiu
CHAPTER 5: Fighting Corpses
Translation by Plain Heyoka
Source (SFW Raw Version): https://www.kunnu.com/modaozushi/
The youngsters there were also inexperienced, and all of them looked nervous. Yet, they still kept a strict watch on the Mo’s residence and plastered talismans inside and outside the main hall. That servant, Ah Tong, had already been carried into the hall. Lan Sizhui was feeling his pulse with his left hand, while his right hand was pressing onto Madam Mo’s back. He could treat neither side at once, and was in a state of distress when Ah Tong suddenly rose from the floor.
“Ah Tong, you’re awake!” Ah Ding said.
Before she could express her joy, she saw Ah Tong raise his left hand and clutched his own neck.
Seeing this, Lan Sizhui tapped three times on his several acupoints. Wei Wuxian knew that although their clan members looked gentle, the strength of their arms were anything but gentle. With such a tap, anyone would have been unable to move right away. However, Ah Tong seemed to be oblivious of this. His left hand grip tightened, and his expression grew more and more painful and hideous. When Lan Jingyi tried to pry open his left hand, it was like prying open a knot of iron, it wouldn’t budge at all. Within a few moments, there was a loud “crack” sound, and Ah Tong’s head dropped crookedly before his hand was released. However, his neck was already broken.
He had actually strangled himself to death in full view of everyone!
At this sight, Ah Ding shuddered and said, “…Ghost! There’s an invisible ghost in here, making Ah Tong strangle himself to death!”
Her voice was so shrill and mournful that it sent chills down the spine of onlookers, who suddenly believed her. Wei Wuxian’s assessment was the opposite: it wasn’t a malevolent ghost.
He had examined the talismans chosen by these youngsters, all of which were of the spirit-repelling type, covering the entire East Hall in a way that could be described as impenetrable. If it was really a malevolent ghost that had entered the East Hall, the talismans would immediately burn with a green flame automatically, instead of doing nothing as they did now.
It wasn’t that these kids were slow to react, but the thing that came was really savage. The cultivation clans had a strict criteria for the term “malevolent spirits”, which meant that killing one person per month and continuing to cause trouble for three months could already be classified as a malevolent spirit. This criteria was set by Wei Wuxian, and was probably still in use at present. He was the best at dealing with these kinds of things. As he saw it, killing one person in seven days was considered to be a malevolent spirit frequently at work. This thing, however, had killed three people in a row. Moreover, with such a short interval, it was difficult for even established cultivators to come up with an immediate response, not to mention the fact that these were just a group of juniors who were freshly minted.
As he was thinking this, the candlelights flickered and a gust of chill wind blew by. All the lanterns and candles in the entire courtyard and in the East Hall went out in unison.
The moment the lights went out, screams erupted one after another. Men and women pushed and shoved, tumbled and fled. Lan Jingyi shouted, “Stay where you are, don’t run around! Seize whoever runs!”
This wasn’t an alarmist remark to scare people. It was the nature of evil spirits to take advantage of the chaos and cause harm. The more they cried and ran, the more likely they were to attract trouble upon themselves without realizing it. It was extremely dangerous to be left alone or in panic at such times. In a matter of moments, the East Hall fell silent, except for the soft sound of breathing and the faintest of sobs. Probably, there were no more than a few people left.
In the darkness, a firelight suddenly lit up. It was Lan Sizhui who had ignited a Minghuo* talisman.
[*「明火」 Mínghuǒ — Flame talisman]
The flame of the Minghuo talisman wouldn't be extinguished by demonic winds. He carried this talisman and reignited the candles, while the rest of the youngsters went to calm the others. Under the firelight, Wei Wuxian thoughtlessly glanced at his wrist and saw that another wound had healed.
At this glance, however, he suddenly realized that the number of wounds was incorrect.
Originally, he had two wounds on each wrist. When Mo Ziyuan died, one healed; when Mo Ziyuan's father died, another one healed; when Ah Tong, the family servant, died, another one. By that count, there should be three wounds healed, and only the last wound with the deepest mark and the deepest hatred remained.
But now there wasn’t a single wound left on his wrists.
Wei Wuxian believed that Madam Mo was definitely among the targets of Mo Xuanyu’s revenge. The longest and deepest wound was reserved for her. Yet, it had surprisingly vanished.
Was it that Mo Xuanyu suddenly saw the light and gave up his grudges? That wasn’t possible. His soul had long been sacrificed as the price for summoning Wei Wuxian. For the wound to heal, Madam Mo would have to die.
His gaze slowly moved towards Madam Mo, who had just woken up with a face as pale as white paper, and was surrounded by people.
Unless, she was already a dead person.
Wei Wuxian was certain that something had already possessed Madam Mo’s body. If this thing wasn’t a spirit, then what on earth could it be?
Suddenly, Ah Ding cried out, “Arm… arm, Ah Tong’s left arm!”
Lan Sizhui moved the Minghuo talisman over Ah Tong’s corpse. Sure enough, his left hand had disappeared too.
Like a lightning flash, everything became clear to Wei Wuxian now. The thing that was causing trouble, the missing left arms, connected all the dots. He suddenly burst out laughing. Lan Jingyi was exasperated. “You idiot, how can you still laugh at a moment like this?!” But then again, Lan Jingyi thought, ‘Why bother with him when he’s already an idiot?’
Wei Wuxian, however, grabbed his sleeve and shook his head. “No, no!”
Lan Jingyi tried to pull back his sleeve in annoyance. “What no? Aren’t you an idiot? Stop fooling around! No one has time for you.”
Pointing at the dead bodies of Mo Ziyuan’s father and Ah Tong on the floor, Wei Wuxian said, “These aren’t them.”
Lan Sizhui stopped Lan Jingyi who was about to get angry and asked, “What do you mean 'these aren’t them'?”
“This isn’t Mo Ziyuan’s father,” Wei Wuxian replied solemnly, “nor is that Ah Tong.”
The more solemn his painted face was at present, the more he was perceived as genuinely crazy. But in the dim candlelight, his words sounded chilling. Lan Sizhui was stunned and couldn’t help but ask, “Why?”
“The hands,” Wei Wuxian proudly answered. “They’re not left-handed. I know this well because they always beat me with their right hand.”
“What are you so proud of?” Lan Jingyi spat impatiently. “Look at your smug face!”
But Lan Sizhui broke out in a slight cold sweat. All of a sudden, he recalled that when Ah Tong strangled himself to death, he used his left hand. Madam Mo’s husband also used his left hand when he shoved his wife.
However, during the day when Mo Xuanyu was making a big fuss in the East Hall, these two men were busy grabbing and chasing him out, and both were using their right hands. It wasn’t likely that both men had suddenly become left-handed before they died.
He didn’t know exactly why, but if they wanted to find out what it was that had been causing the havoc, they had to start with the “left hand”. When Lan Sizhui figured this out, he was somewhat surprised. He glanced at Wei Wuxian for a moment, and couldn't help but think, ‘The fact that he suddenly said this… it really doesn’t seem like a coincidence.’
Wei Wuxian just smiled shamelessly, knowing that the hint was too emphasized, but he had no choice. Luckily, Lan Sizhui didn’t even bother to pursue this matter further either, and thought, ‘In any case, since Young Master Mo is willing to remind me of this, he most probably doesn’t have any ill intentions.’ Then he took his gaze away from Wei Wuxian, swept it past Ah Ding, who had just fainted from crying, and landed on Madam Mo.
His gaze traveled from her face down to her hands. The arms were hanging down limply, mostly covered by the sleeves, with only a small portion of her fingers visible. The fingers on her right hand were fair and thin, the hands of a well-off woman who never did any hard labor.
The fingers of her left hand, however, were a little longer and thicker than those of her right. The knuckles were bent and full of strength.
This shouldn’t be a woman’s hand—it was clearly a man’s hand!
“Hold her down!” Lan Sizhui shouted.
A few of the youngsters had already grappled Madam Mo. Lan Sizhui said “I apologize” and was about to slap down a talisman, when Madam Mo’s left hand twisted around at an uncanny angle and aimed for his throat.
A living person’s arm wouldn’t be twisted like that unless the bones were broken. She was so quick that she almost grasped him by the neck. At that moment, Lan Jingyi yelled out a loud “ah yo” and jumped in front of Lan Sizhui, blocking him from being grabbed.
No sooner had Madam Mo grasped Lan Jingyi’s shoulder, green flames erupted on her arm and she immediately let go of her grip. Lan Sizhui escaped death, and was about to thank Lan Jingyi for saving his life when he saw that half of the latter’s uniform had been burnt to ashes. Lan Jingyi was extremely embarrassed, taking off the other half of his remaining uniform as he turned back and cursed furiously, “Why did you kick me, you lunatic? Were you trying to get me killed?!”
Wei Wuxian scuttled away like a frightened rat. “It wasn’t me!”
It was him who kicked Lan Jingyi. The inner side of the outer robe of the Lan Clan’s uniform was densely embroidered with incantations in fine thread of the same color, which had the remarkable effect of protecting one’s body and life. However, when encountering such a powerful thing, it could only be used once and then scrapped. In desperation, the only thing he could do was kick Lan Jingyi and let him use his body to help protect Lan Sizhui’s neck. Lan Jingyi was about to curse again when Madam Mo fell to the floor. Her flesh and blood had been sucked from her face to the point that only a layer of skin remained attached to a skull. The man’s arm, which didn’t belong to her, had come off her left shoulder and surprisingly, its five fingers were still flexing and stretching freely, as if it was warming up its muscles. The pulsating blood vessels and green veins on them could be seen clearly.
This was the evil thing that had been summoned by the Yin Summoning Flag.
Dismemberment was a standard gruesome death, just slightly more decent than Wei Wuxian’s death, but not by much. Unlike in the case of pulverization, the body parts were tainted with some of the resentment of the deceased, desperate to return to the rest of its body, desiring to die intact. Therefore, it sought to find the other parts of its body. If they were found, it might be content to rest in peace henceforth, or it might stir up more trouble. And if they couldn’t be found, this part of the limb would have to settle for the next best option.
What was the next best option? Find a living body to make do with.
Just like this left hand: it devoured the left hand of a living person and replaced it. After draining this living person’s vitality, blood and flesh, it then abandoned the body and continued to search for the next host vessel until the rest of its body had been found.
Once this arm had possessed a person’s body, the host would die instantly. But before the flesh and blood was sucked out dry of the body, it was still able to walk as if it were still alive, under its control. When it was summoned, the first vessel it sought out was Mo Ziyuan. The second vessel was Mo Ziyuan’s father. When Madam Mo told her husband to get out, he uncharacteristically shoved her back. Wei Wuxian originally thought that it was because he was grieving over the death of his son, and was tired of his wife’s insolence. But now that he thought about it, that wasn’t at all what a father who had just lost his son should look like. That wasn’t the silence of a stupefied person with an aggrieved heart, but it was the silence of the dead.
The third vessel was Ah Tong. The fourth vessel was Madam Mo. Taking advantage of the chaos when the lamp went out just now, the ghost hand shifted to her body. And when Madam Mo died, the last wound on Wei Wuxian’s wrist also disappeared.
Seeing that the talismans didn’t work, but the clothes did, the youngsters of the Lan Clan all took their outer robes off and flung them in unison, covering the left hand, wrapping it in layers like a thick white cocoon. After a few moments, the white mass of clothes burst into flames, and the green flames lit up the sky wickedly. Although it worked for a while, it wouldn’t be long before the uniforms burned out and the hand would still break out of the ashes. Before anyone could notice, Wei Wuxian headed straight for the west courtyard.
The zombies that had been captured by the youngsters were standing silently in the courtyard, as many as ten of them. The incantation that restrained them was drawn on the ground. Wei Wuxian kicked one of the characters, breaking the entire formation, and clapped twice. The zombies gave a jolt and their eyes suddenly rolled back, as if they had been awakened by an explosive thunderclap.
“Wake up,” Wei Wuxian commanded. “Let’s get to work!”
He had never needed any complicated incantations, or invocations to control puppet zombies, just the most common and straightforward commands. The zombies standing in front of him shuddered and struggled to move a few steps. However, once they approached Wei Wuxian, as if their legs went weak with fear, and actually slumped to the ground like living humans.
Wei Wuxian wanted to laugh and weep all at once as he clapped his hands twice more, this time much more gently. But these zombies, probably born and died in Mo Estate, hadn’t been around much. They instinctively obeyed the summoner’s commands, yet were inexplicably fearful of the person who gave out the instructions, and crouched on the ground, whimpering and not daring to get up.
The more ferocious the evil spirits were, the better Wei Wuxian was able to control them into action. These zombies were untrained by him and couldn’t withstand his direct manipulation. He also didn’t have the materials at hand to make palliative tools right away, nor could he even make up a haphazard one. As Wei Wuxian helplessly watched the green flames in the east courtyard gradually dwindled down, an idea suddenly dawned on him.
Why would he need to go outside looking for a dead person with an extremely malicious, vicious grudge?!
There was more than one in the East Hall!
He dashed back to the east courtyard. Lan Sizhui ran out of tricks, and implemented another one. One by one, they drew their long swords and stuck them into the ground to form a sword fence. The demonic hand was bumping against the sword fence. They were doing their best to keep it from breaking out by pressing on the hilt, not even having time to notice who was coming in and out. Wei Wuxian stepped into the East Hall, lifting the corpses of both Madam Mo and Mo Ziyuan, one on each hand, and exclaimed in a low voice, “Still not awake yet?!”
And they instantaneously awaken!
After a split second, Madam Mo and Mo Ziyuan’s eyes rolled back, and their mouths gave the shrill growl characteristic of resurrected ferocious ghosts.
Another corpse rose warily to its feet amidst the growls, followed with a weak growl, too low to be heard. It was none other than Madam Mo’s husband.
The growl was loud enough and the resentment was sufficiently strong. Satisfied, Wei Wuxian said with a smile, “Do you recognize that hand outside?”
“Tear it apart,” he ordered.
The three members of the Mo family immediately rushed out like three gusts of black winds.
The left arm had snapped a long sword and was breaking through the fence. No sooner had it came out, the three ferocious zombies, all without a left arm, pounced on it in unison.
Apart from not daring to disobey Wei Wuxian’s commands, the three members of the family also harbored a fierce resentment towards the thing that killed them, venting their fury on the demonic hand. The main attacker was undoubtedly Madam Mo. Female corpses tend to be particularly vicious after their transformation. Her hair was disheveled, the whites of her eyes bloodshot, her five fingernails grew several times longer, the corners of her mouth foaming white as she sneered, and her shrieks nearly tore the roof off the building; extremely unbridled. Mo Ziyuan followed his mother’s lead, tearing and biting in tandem with her, while his father followed behind, bridging the gap between the attacks of the other two murderous corpses. Several youngsters, who had been struggling previously to hold on, were stupefied.
They had only heard of such fierce fights between corpses in miscellaneous books and hearsay. Having witnessed such a bloodbath with their own eyes for the first time, they couldn’t help but stare in amazement and couldn’t look away. They just thought that… it was thrilling!
The three corpses were fighting viciously with one hand when suddenly, Mo Ziyuan dodged out of the way with a sharp shriek. That hand had ripped out his abdomen, spilling several pieces of intestines. Madam Mo roared at the sight, and shielded her son behind her. Clawing even fiercer, her nails slicing through the air with the force of a steel sword. However, Wei Wuxian could see that she was already unable to withstand the attack.
Even the joined forces of three recently deceased fierce corpses couldn’t suppress this one arm!
Wei Wuxian watched the battle with rapt attention. The tip of his tongue curled slightly, suppressing a shrill whistle between his lips, which was about to be released. A whistle from him would have provoked even more hostility from the fierce corpses he was controlling, and perhaps turn the tide of the battle. But then, there would be no guarantee that no one would find out that he was behind it. In the blink of an eye, the hand was like a bolt of lightning, crushing Madam Mo’s neck with a vicious and precise grip.
Seeing that the three members of the Mo family were losing ground, Wei Wuxian was just about to whistle, when two strums of a stringed instrument resonated from far away.
These two strums seemed to have been plucked by a human hand, very ethereal and clear, with a calm, chill mood*. The forces of evil in the courtyard, who were in the midst of a fierce battle, froze at the sound.
[「泠泠的松风寒」Línglíng de sōng fēnghán — Reference to Tang dynasty poem from Liu Changqing titled “Listening to the Qin” 「听弹琴」. More info here: https://www.kekeshici.com/shicimingju/ticai/qita/1585.html]
Several youngsters from the Lan Clan of Gusu instantly refreshed, as if they had been reborn. Lan Sizhui raised his hand to wipe the blood from his face, and looked up with a sudden delight. “Hanguang Jun!”
As soon as he heard these two distant strums of Guqin*, Wei Wuxian turned around and left.
[*Qin; guqin (a seven-stringed plucked instrument in some ways similar to the zither)]
Another chord was struck. This time slightly higher in pitch, piercing through the air with a double dose of severe and destructive power. The three fierce corpses retreated one after another, simultaneously covering their ears with their remaining right hand. Nevertheless, the Lan Clan of Gusu’s Barrier-breaking Tone was unblockable. Before they could retreat a few steps, from their skulls came a faint crackling sound.
The left arm, which had just undergone a vicious fight, suddenly dropped to the ground at the sound of the Guqin. Though the fingers were still flexing and stretching, the arm was unable to move.
After a brief moment of silence, the group of youngsters couldn’t help but cheer loudly. The cheers were filled with the ecstasy of surviving a night of shock and thrill when the clan’s help finally arrived; they couldn’t care less if they were to be severely punished later for “disrespecting the clan’s ethical and moral standards by being disorderly and noisy”.
Waving towards the moonlight for a while, Lan Sizhui glanced over and suddenly noticed that someone was gone. He tugged on Lan Jingyi and asked, “Where is he?”
Lan Jingyi was only engrossed in his happiness. “Who? Which person?”
“That Young Master Mo,” Lan Sizhui replied.
“Huh?” Lan Jingyi said. “Why are you looking for that lunatic? Who knows where he ran off to for fear of being beaten by me.”
“…” Lan Sizhui knew that Lan Jingyi was careless and straightforward, never thought carefully when things happened, and never doubted much. ‘I’d better wait for Hanguang Jun to come and inform him about this person as well,’ he thought.
The entire Mo Estate was still sound asleep, but whether it was a real or a fake slumber, it was unknown. Even when there was a bloodbath between corpses taking place in the east and west courtyards, no one would get up in the middle of the night to watch. One had to pick what they wanted to see, and it was better not to watch an incessant shrieking frenzy.
Wei Wuxian quickly destroyed the remnants of the sacrificial formation in Mo Xuanyu’s room in a couple of minutes, and rushed out the door.
Coincidentally, the one who came was a member of the Lan Clan. And damn, it was Lan Wangji!
This was one of the guys with whom he had had dealings and fights. He was in a hurry to find a mount, and passed a courtyard where there was a large millstone and a donkey with its mouth chewing on something. The donkey seemed somewhat surprised to see Wei Wuxian hastily run over, and looked at him askance, as if it were human. Wei Wuxian locked eyes with it for a split second, and was immediately struck by the slight contempt in its eyes.
He went up to the donkey and dragged it out by the reins, but the donkey brayed loudly at him and whined. Wei Wuxian had to drag the animal along, and trick it onto the road with much persuasion. As the marble white light of dawn was breaking, they dashed up the main road.