Chapter 15 Evil Spirits

That kind of odor was the one Pan Ma smelled coming from the iron box, but the one from the box was more intense.

To Pan Ma, it was the smell of death, and he thought those demons– who he was still unsure whether they were humans or ghosts– must have brought it from hell.

“Your friend has that smell, too. If it wasn’t covered by the smell of herbs, I would have smelled it the first time I saw him.” Father Pan Ma looked at me. “He’s just like them, a monster from the lake!”

What did Poker-Face smell like? I wasn’t very sensitive to smell, nor was I a hunter, so I didn’t have an excellent sense of smell. I was skeptical, but decided to secretly sniff him next time.

If this was the end of the matter, maybe it would have passed into oblivion, because people doubt their own memories after a period of time and automatically erase those that cannot be explained. But I knew that the matter definitely wasn’t over, because Father Pan Ma wouldn’t have come to the conclusion that Poker-Face would cause my death based on that alone.

Sure enough, Pan Ma went on talking. He said that what happened after that made him unable to forget the smell for the rest of his life.

After this strange thing happened, Pan Ma always felt uneasy. Although those people seemed to be exactly the same as before, Pan Ma always felt that their eyes and facial expressions were slightly different. He had no factual basis for this feeling, and it was all just in his head, but Pan Ma had a premonition that something would happen in the village.

A few days later, something did happen, which made his hair stand on end.

He was accompanied by four people when they committed the murder. All of them were related by blood and were slightly different from each other. One of them, Pang Ergui, was the least daring out of the bunch. When he suddenly disappeared, Pan Ma and the others dared not say anything since they had secrets in their hearts they had immediately buried. The group searched the mountains for two days before eventually traveling back to the lake, only to find that Pang Ergui was in the camp, talking and laughing with the people in the archaeological team.

They brought him back without trouble, but when Pan Ma grabbed him, he smelled the mysterious odor coming from Pang Ergui.

Although it was broad daylight out, Pan Ma got goosebumps just looking at Pang Ergui. He felt that Pang Ergui’s expression wasn’t the same as before, as if he had become a different person.

The fear was indescribable, and he felt like Pang Ergui must have been possessed by ghosts. When he returned to the village, he told Pang Ergui’s wife to tell him immediately if she found her husband acting abnormal.

But she had no chance to find out. When she got up the next day, she found Pang Ergui had hanged himself by the bed, and the whole room was filled with that strange smell.

The village thought that Pang Ergui was either depressed or bewitched by a fox spirit, but Pan Ma was more certain that those people were monsters, and that Pang Ergui must have been possessed by an evil spirit.

Pang Ergui’s wife was frightened and never dared to live in the house again, abandoning it when she moved back in with her mother’s family. The others were scared to death, and two of them moved out of the village. Pan Ma and the other one stayed behind, though they didn’t dare sleep at night. They even borrowed several dogs, for fear that they would be next.

But the dogs were useless. A week later, the other person who had stayed in the village also disappeared. Two days later, a child found him in Pang Ergui’s abandoned house, where he had hanged himself in the same position as Pang Ergui.

Pan Ma was strong-willed by nature and traversed the mountains since childhood, so he was very strong. After his fear reached its peak, he threw caution to the wind and rushed to the lake with a gun. He couldn’t sit and wait, and told himself that he was dead anyway so he might as well die finding out the truth. After he entered the mountain, he happened to catch up with the archaeological team, which didn’t seem to need a guide anymore.

He had been determined before, but he faltered when he saw them, and instead followed the team out of the mountain in terror.

As Pan Ma said before, the archaeological team left the village with a box emitting a strange smell, and never appeared again until now. Nothing happened to the other two people who fled the village, and after a year of panic, they gradually calmed down and believed that they were free.

This thing was like a nightmare that had been haunting Pan Ma, and I could imagine the kind of fear he felt. Half a month after the army left, he returned to the lake again to find out what had happened. After walking around the lake, he found that a piece of clothing had been washed up on the shore somehow, inside of which was the strange piece of iron.

The discovery of this piece of iron confirmed that those people had climbed up from the lake, because the iron was wrapped in the cloth and couldn’t have been washed ashore otherwise. The iron piece gave off a creepy smell, and he felt it was no small matter, so he kept it on him. He wanted to sell it when he was living in poverty in his early years, but now his life was better. He couldn’t help feeling a little scared when he thought of that year, and just wanted to keep this secret and take it to his grave.

That’s when we appeared.

This was the end of Pan Ma’s secret.

I was lost in thought for a long time after hearing this, but surprisingly enough, I didn’t feel more confused. For the first time, I felt as if I had found a chain that could connect the doubts in my heart.

These mysteries were like a double-headed screw pipe, and the place where they were connected was a puzzle. But if two of the puzzles were connected, then half of the mysteries would be solved, and all the steel pipes would be connected. As a result, what appeared to be many mysteries may only boil down to two in the end as the puzzle was connected one piece at a time, which made me very happy.

If it were the me from before, I would definitely go mad. But now I had learned not to look at the problem itself. I was clearly aware of the truth of this matter, so it just needed to be verified. If my theory was correct, then the questions that Uncle Three— in other words Xie Lianhuan— had been puzzling over would finally be answered.

To prove this matter, we had to go to the lake.

Father Pan Ma showed me the iron block, and it was exactly the same as the one we found under Poker-Face’s bed. It had the same iron bumps with primitive patterns, but this one was slightly larger. I gave it a small sniff, and indeed, I could smell a strange, very weak and almost indistinguishable odor coming from it. Pan Ma said that the smell was very strong when he first found it, but it gradually disappeared bit by bit. When he left the iron piece in his home, no bugs could be found in the house.

For the time being, I lost interest in this thing while my heart was full of various speculations.

Pan Ma refused to go to the lake again, so I thought about asking Agui to find another guide. I gave the money to Pan Ma and got up to leave, but suddenly remembered something when I got to the door. I turned back and asked, “By the way, old man, how did you get your tattoo?”

Pan Ma looked at me and was somewhat surprised when I suddenly asked this question out of the blue. His son explained for him, “This is the tattoo of Fanggu, given to him by a passing Miao shaman when he was a child.  At that time, my grandfather saved his life, and he thanked my father with it. It’s said that with this tattoo, you can pass through the Miao village without any hindrance and no one will stop you.”

<Chapter 14 Magic Lake> <Table of Contents> <Chapter 16 Plans>


Updated 7/22/2020

4 thoughts on “Chapter 15 Evil Spirits

  1. If my theory was correct, then the questions that Qilin and Uncle Three had been puzzling over would finally be answered. –> “.. Uncle Three, in other words Xie Lianhuan, ..”
    Qiling isn’t mentioned here in the Chinese text. (如果我的想法是正确的,那么,三叔,或者说解连环一直疑惑的问题,就有了答案)


      1. No, it’s this paragraph: ‘If it were the me from before, I would definitely go mad. But now I had learned not to look at the problem itself. I was clearly aware of the truth of this matter, so it just needed to be verified. If my theory was correct, then the questions that Qilin and Uncle Three had been puzzling over would finally be answered.’


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