C33 – Nuo Mask (VI)

Bonus Chap


Thanks for the ko-fi ✨✨✨✨k✨✨✨✨




So far, things were more complicated and confusing.


Kou Dong looked at the villager. The villager’s movements were ordinary, and he couldn’t see anything wrong at all. On the surface, he was just an ordinary person from head to foot.


Only the photo in his hand reminded Kou Dong that he wasn’t just an ordinary person.


This, there must be another connection, but he still hadn’t found it.


Kou Dong stood in place for a while thinking. Then, he whispered to Ye Yanzhi: “I think, we still have to go to the temple again.”


Ye Yanzhi didn’t object to this.


“A ghost also died ……” Kou Dong said, “I want to see, if the back of the light will change.”



He remembered the oil lamps with the villagers’ names on them.


It wasn’t easy to escape from the eyes and ears of the villagers. Fortunately, there were some disputes between Nuo masks on the street and the villagers who had returned from the funeral. Several people guarding the temple in the daytime couldn’t help looking at the place, they hesitated for a moment, and left for a while.



Kou Dong took this opportunity to sneak the door open a crack and didn’t hesitate to get in.



The temple during the day wasn’t the same as at night. Now that the red cloth had been pulled off the top, in the daylight, the statue of the god was sitting on top of the throne, with a majestic face. Behind the layers of streamers, there were curls of white smoke coming through, the scene was obscured by a fog.


But he wasn’t like an ordinary god that was kind-hearted, undress he seemed cold and inhuman. Kou Dong passed under the eyes of the idol, but he always felt that the idol’s painted black eyes turned downward, staring firmly at him.



He didn’t pay attention, he walked straight back, to the front of the lamp, and reached out to count the number.


One, three, five ……


Before he finished counting, Ye Yanzhi had calmly reported the number, “One hundred and fifty-seven.”


His speed was far faster than Kou Dong.


Kou Dong paused.


“The last time we came, it was still one hundred and fifty-eight.”



When the ghosts died, the lights were gone.


Ye Yanzhi didn’t speak.


Kou Dong was silent for a while, giving a guess that made his own scalp vaguely numb: “The ghosts hidden in the Nuo masks …… are actually all dead villagers?”


This idea, it really made people a little shudder.


Kou Dong wasn’t very fond of associating people and ghosts together. He reached out and turned over the lights, his heart sinking.


The white mist was full of sandalwood scent.


Ye Yanzhi said, “It’s time to go out.”


Kou Dong nodded and went around from the back to the front door. But before he could get close to the door, he suddenly heard the sound of people – the villagers who were guarding the temple had actually gone and returned, standing in front of the door again and guarding it.


One of them put his head close to the door and looked inside suspiciously.




Kou Dong’s feet jerked to a halt, hiding himself in the gloom of the corner.


“It’s over,” he whispered, “there’s no way out ……”


He didn’t want to collide with these villagers face to face. What exactly these people would do if they caught him trespassing in the temple wasn’t guaranteed.


But it would never be anything pleasant.



He didn’t know if it was his illusion, but the idol’s expression became pleasant, and the corners of his lips rose slightly, as if he was smiling.


Kou Dong glared at him.





“It’s okay,” Ye Yanzhi said calmly, “there are still people guarding the temple during the day, it should not trigger anything. –The trigger condition is at night, if not unexpected.”


At night, the idol would come to life and catch the trespassers.



Kou Dong had already lost a paper man here, and was a bit hesitant to hear the words, “So let’s stay inside first?”


Ye Yanzhi affirmed his idea, “Stay inside first.”


He understood these potential rules better than Kou Dong.


Anyway, being locked inside, Kou Dong simply strolled through the entire temple again in a big way. With the daylight at this time, he carefully examined the painted walls and pillars in the temple.


The painting looked like the feast of the gods, the gods riding horses and leading cattle, each showing their magic powers, towards the ethereal upper heaven. Kou Dong saw a familiar face in it, Zhong Kui, land, Erlang …… they all had the face painted on the mask surface, feet stepping on clouds.


He finally knew where the Nuo mask pattern came from, the original was a transcription of this mural.


In the temple’s innermost still stood the wall, the mural was painted with the scene of the celestial maiden scattering flowers. The Heavenly Maiden stood on her toes, with a comfortable posture, and acted like a proud crane.



Kou Dong’s steps stopped.


He stared suspiciously at the painting in front of him, and then looked at the other – the theme of this one, seemed to be a little different.



Halfway through, Ye Yanzhi suddenly leaned down and reached out to touch the wall in front of him.



Kou Dong said, “What?”


The little man pressed his hand on the painting, then frowned, “This wall is not flat.”




Kou Dong came back to his senses. He also pressed his hand on the wall and felt a slight bumpy undulation under his hand, not obvious, but not like the result of an unusual brush stroke either.


It was more like there was something hidden behind the mural.



Kou Dong craned his head and locked eyes with his cub.


“Tear it down?”


Ye Yanzhi nodded.




Kou Dong began to feel around the edge of the wall. When he touched the place near the ground, he found the interface.



He used some strength and uncovered the interface a little, being careful not to make too much noise with his hands.


With a slight “sting” sound, the mural was completely torn off by him, and what was behind it was instantly reflected in Kou Dong’s eyes.




Kou Dong jerked back a breath and took a step backwards.



Surprisingly, it was still a painting. On the painting auspicious clouds, immortal beasts on the side, the god in the center of the face was clear, lips with a smile, one hand holding a flower, his expression showed compassion and peace of mind.



His dark eyes, reflected the multitude of beings worshipping him, seemingly sad and compassionate. He was more like a real god who cared for the world than the statues of gods that were now enshrined on the stage.


But what really surprised Kou Dong wasn’t this.


He stared at the face on the portrait and couldn’t help but reach out and touch his own face, muttering, “…… me?”


The god in the painting was clearly Kou Dong himself!


At the same time, his eyes fainted violently, the white mist in the temple drifted and diffused, blocking most of his vision.


He heard the cries of the crowd.


“God, please ……”


“Please bless your people ……”


He heard himself endlessly asking.


“What do you ask for?”



Someone among the crowd took a few steps on his knees and kowtowed to him, none other than the village chief. He was much older than Kou Dong saw him today, and hit his forehead heavily on the ground again and again.


“I beg for your blessing–”


He finally lifted his knocked and bloodied head.


“We want eternal life.”




“Eternal life!”


“Eternal life!!!”


Bewildered, Kou Dong surprisingly also felt that he was the god being prayed for. He listened to the pleading of the crowd on the throne of the gods, but he was also a bit overwhelmed, and only after a long time murmured a word, “No ……”


The expression of the village chief on the ground changed.


“What did you say?”


Kou Dong heard his voice reply, “Life and death have a constant–”


The villagers who had been kneeling stopped moving when these words were spoken. They slowly lifted their faces up, and where was the raised human face – they had green, hideous and ugly faces, clearly ghost faces!


“The gods who cannot shelter us,” they hissed, “cannot shelter our gods ……”


They surged toward Kou Dong. Countless hands pushed him and smashed him, as if they wanted to push him into the infernal hell. Kou Dong gradually couldn’t breathe, and as far as he could see, there were villagers who had lost their minds, with bitter hatred and jealousy written on their faces.



He heard something shatter and lowered his head to realize that it was his own foot.


He turned out to be an idol.


A voice suddenly sounded in his ears, and someone said to him, “Go!”


No sooner had the words fallen than a hand suddenly penetrated the white fog into this picture, with its palm reaching for him. Kou Dong subconsciously felt that this person was harmless to himself.



Without thinking, he put his hand firmly on it, and was tugged tightly by the man, pulling Kou Dong out with one hand. Kou Dong opened his eyes and met the frowning face of the little man, Ye Yanzhi looked to grit his teeth and said, “By any means ……”


Kou Dong blinked, still looking a little dazed, all but unable to understand what was happening.


“There is a problem with incense.” Ye Yanzhi said briefly, “He dragged you into his dream world.”


Kou Dong was a bit stunned loose and muttered, “That’s a dream world?”


He looked at the mural in front of him. In the painting, he was exactly the same as he was in the square.



All the people admired him, all the people worshipped him.


Ye Yanzhi held his face with two hands and said without question: “It’s a dream. Even if it is the reality that has happened in this world, that is not really you, do not fall into his scheme.”



The villain glared at the idol.


“I already knew that this wasn’t a good thing either.”



The idol who was scolded for no reason: “……”


Huge injustice.



After scolding the idol, Ye Yanzhi waited for Kou Dong to slow down before asking him, “What did you see?”



Kou Dong described what he saw in the dream with him. Ye Yanzhi listened and thought about it.


Kou Dong asked, “What will happen to this god?”


Ye Yanzhi looked a little colder, hesitantly looked at Kou Dong, and finally said the truth, “Will die.”


Kou Dong was surprised.



“How will!” He said, “The gods-”



“gods never die,” Ye Yanzhi cut him off and said faintly, “Is that what you want to say.”


The youth nodded.


“That’s false.” Ye Yanzhi said, “Since a god is a god, it is all supported by faith. If one day, he is no longer the faith of the faithful, naturally this god is also no longer useful.”



He paused, his expression became sarcastic again, “Those villagers probably didn’t know, they only knew to be jealous.”



Mortals had to go through life and death, but the gods didn’t. They worshiped the immortal god day in and day out, so how could they not be jealous?



So they wanted to beg the gods to grant them the same immortal life.


However, the gods were unable to do so. So they destroyed the idol, thinking it was just a lesson to the gods – but who knew, they actually killed the god.



The true gods who had blessed them left and were replaced by the evil god in front of them. Since then, the village had become his playground, and people and villagers had had to become pawns in his chessboard.


But there was one more thing Kou Dong couldn’t understand.



“If that’s the case,” he whispered, “why did he want me to see this?”


This question, too, Ye Yanzhi couldn’t answer, and thus was silent.



Kou Dong tilted his head to look at the idol, and surprisingly, he could see a little sadness on his face.



His dark eyes dropped as if he was looking straight at Kou Dong, gazing at him long and full of sorrow.



After the villagers guarding the door left, Kou Dong was finally able to open the temple door and sneak out. Eight o’clock was approaching, and there were no Nuo masks on the chairs.



Kou Dong sat down the first. He waited for a while and saw the figure of Erlang emerge from the other side of the road, then she sat next to him.



“There are fewer people today.” Erlang said indifferently, looking to her right, “The others have not yet come?”



Kou Dong opened his mouth to say yes, and suddenly inhaled gently. A few seconds later, he smiled faintly behind his mask and replied, “You’re early today.”



Erlang whispered, “The villagers over there… Alas, they wouldn’t let me in at all.”


Kou Dong remained silent.


“There was a quarrel?”


“Did you see it?” Erlang seemed to be a little shy, “these people are not very good tempered, so I came in to sit down for a while, but they didn’t want to…”



She began to babble on and on about how rude those villagers really were, Kou Dong’s Nuo mask was turned toward her, he seemed to be listening intently.



After a while, the Nuo masks came.



Today there were only nine Nuo masks. There were fewer people, even Erlang was also a little anxious.


Ye Yanzhi said, “This number is wrong.”



Yesterday there were eleven, one person died in the first round of identification, and a ghost died in the second round of identification.



In that case, there must be someone who went wrong on the first day.



Kou Dong: “In that case, it can only be the one in the cemetery.”


After all, they didn’t personally go to verify whether the person was really gone. Looking at the commotion, he would be seriously injured even if he didn’t die – but the Nuo masks on the scene all walked as usual, and didn’t seem to be injured at all.



Ye Yanzhi stretched out his hand, rubbed the young man’s cheek, and slowly guessed, “Could it be that after his death, he did not quit the game, but directly turned into a ghost?”



Made sense.



Kou Dong nodded slightly.


In that case, there was only one way to really make a person or a ghost completely disappear from this identification game.


That was to lose in the night’s identification.



“Gotta be strict -” he narrowed his eyes and whispered, “Let’s see how tonight goes.”

This night, the host of the identification was still the idol. Kou Dong took advantage that time, so white Nuo mask would never come, it seemed to be intended to block the source of the bug.



Kou Dong was a little sorry about this, teasing the white Nuo mask was actually quite interesting.


But the Nuo masks here weren’t interested.


The first round of identification drawn was No. 4 Yang Ren, identified by No. 7 Niu Jing.


He identified the other side was a person, and after lifting the mask, the seventh was indeed a person.


Under the Niu Jing Nuo mask was a middle-aged woman, her face was pale, tears silently flowing down. But there was nothing to help her, and the fourth’s feet moved around her, and even seemed happy.


Kou Dong took a look and saw the problem. If a person identified a human, it was clear that it wouldn’t be this reaction.


There was only one conclusion, number four Yang Ren was a ghost.



This surprised Kou Dong. He refreshed his perception in his mind – in the sign box, ghosts could be drawn.



As if he could see his thoughts, Ye Yanzhi whispered, “So it seems that ghosts are in the same situation as people, they have to point out the right person.”


In order to gain the trust of people, all ghosts were disguised as people. With the fairness of the game in mind, the ghosts obviously didn’t know which of their companions they had and could only identify who the person was based on their daytime contact.



If one accidentally identified a ghost who was too well disguised, he or she would likewise be burned on the spot.



Kou Dong nodded and continued to watch.



In the second round, the lottery was drawn for Zao Nuo mask, and the one to be identified was the judge.


The judge stood up shivering. Kou Dong stared at him closely and found that he kept mumbling something under his breath, like unbelievable.



Rather, Ye Yanzhi looked from the corner of his coat, “He is the laughing monk from yesterday.”


Kou Dong was stunned, “How do you know?”



He had seen the judge today, they met on the road, the other tightly closed his mouth without saying a word, obviously not wanting to reveal his identity.



Ye Yanzhi said, “His clothes was stained with something else.”



Kou Dong listened and looked in his direction. Sure enough, on the back of the judge’s robe, there was a small mud mark – like someone’s finger dipped in mud and pressed on it.



Almost at first sight, Kou Dong remembered the fish spirit identified by the laughing monk yesterday.


He was on the ground for so long, always behind the laughing monk, and could easily leave a mark on the laughing monk who was ecstatic at the time.


Ye Yanzhi said softly: “Nuo mask changed, but the clothes didn’t change.”



The laughing monk exposed his identity at a time when he himself did not know.


Kou Dong shifted his gaze to the standing Zao Nuo mask, not knowing what came to mind, he said, “The Zao Nuo mask did …… not hesitate halfway when he identified him.”


He didn’t hesitate at all between several Nuo masks.



If it was a stranger without entanglements, at least some hesitation should be shown. But Kou Dong looked at the Zao Nuo mask, and felt that there was more pleasure in him – like he couldn’t wait to immediately send the man in front of him to hell.



Ye Yanzhi’s voice was a little cold. He said: “There are two explanations. First, today’s Zao Nuo mask is yesterday’s fish spirit’s best friend, the fish spirit left a mark on the laughing monk so that he could be found even if he changed his Nuo mask, and the Zao Nuo mask wants to avenge his best friend, so he chose to identify him.”


Kou Dong: “There should be no group players.”



With the identity of the game, group cooperation was obviously not conducive to the fairness of the game.



Ye Yanzhi said calmly, “Then it’s the second one.”



He also looked at Zao Nuo mask and said lightly, “He himself – is the fish spirit from yesterday.”



Kou Dong shivered faintly.



The chosen laughing monk walked onto the field and already couldn’t move.


“No, no–” he said, “You can’t choose me–”



The moment this voice came out, Kou Dong confirmed it. This was the laughing monk who had harmed his benefactor yesterday.


He glanced at Erlang next to him, who was sitting blandly, as if he didn’t notice anything at all.



The Zao Nuo mask across didn’t answer. He just took a step and walked up to the laughing monk and held his head firmly.



The laughing monk’s voice took on a frightened sobbing tone.



“Don’t choose me–it’s not me!”



“-it’s you.”


Zao Nuo mask said freely, using more force in his hands, “It’s you!”



This voice made the scene slightly agitated, many people heard that it was the fish spirit.



The fish spirit who was successfully identified yesterday should have died in the middle of the night.



How did he come back to the game?


The laughing monk also heard it. His body shook violently and raised his head incredulously.


“No, it can’t be ……”


Zao, no, the dead fish spirit laughed. He twisted the laughing monk’s head as hard as he could and said to the idol, “He’s a human being! He is a human being!”



The idol looked blandly at the scene in front of him without any reaction.


The fish spirit took down the Nuo mask of the smiling monk, and the man behind the Nuo mask had a pair of small eyes, which made people think of mice. Only this time, he suddenly let out a wail, and tears covered his face.


“Don’t kill me,” he said, shivering, “don’t kill me ……”


No one pitied him, yesterday the fish spirit was identified by him, the Nuo masks still remembered clearly.



Kou Dong suddenly turned his head toward Erlang.


“What do you think,” he asked, “didn’t you, yesterday, also want the fish spirit to fight back?”


Erlang looked at the scene in the field, with a bit of laughter in her voice.


“Yeah,” she whispered, “that’s what makes it interesting.”


After the two rounds of identification were completed, the Nuo masks dispersed. The laughing monk and the identified bull spirit were still sitting on the ground, neither of them feeling lucky to have escaped.



They both heard the wail from last night and knew that the same bad luck would befall them during the night.



The fish spirit and Yang Ren were standing aside. They gazed intently, as if waiting for the late night.


Kou Dong also got up from his seat, but still felt something wrong in his heart.


He whispered and discussed with his cub: “People who died, can still come back to this game. –But how? Looking at the fish spirit’s stance, he seems to have returned as a ghost.”



Ye Yanzhi affirmed his answer, “It must be a ghost.”


Otherwise, the fish spirit wouldn’t stay there. Later, it was a live version of ghost eating people. If he was also a person, he may also be in danger.


Kou Dong: “That’s not right. –The number of people is not right.”



According to this statement, only one of the twelve chairs should be empty, that was, the ghost was really burned clean. But now, there were three empty chairs.


They walked slowly along the path, thinking as they walked. Suddenly, they saw a door open in front of them, and the child inside splashed a basin of water out, and then went back again.


Kou Dong said in passing, “Who’s the kid?”


After saying it, he felt a fierce chill as he remembered.



At the time of the villagers’ first burial, he also saw the child of the deceased’s family. At that time, he only felt that the child looked a little familiar.


But when today’s incident happened again, associated with the identification, Kou Dong remembered where he had seen it.


–The child’s eyebrows, and the ghost that was identified on the first day, was almost identical ……


This idea made Kou Dong stopped dead in his tracks.


Ye Yanzhi asked, “What?”



Kou Dong was silent for a while before saying, “Our idea, may be wrong from the beginning.”



Ye Yanzhi frowned.



“For example?”



“For example,” Kou Dong licked his lips, “I always thought before that these villagers were looking for someone to die for them. — But what if, after the first god died, they had already been killed by the new god?”



Ye Yanichi froze.


“What you’re saying is–”


“So they are all ghosts,” Kou Dong whispered, “Do you know hide-and-seek?”


In hide-and-seek, the only way for the chosen ghost to change back into a human was to desperately find the next person to take over.


In the same way, the ghosts hidden in the twelve Nuo masks could only be villagers if they successfully ate people in the game.


Therefore, those villagers were so happy when they buried people.


Of course they would be happy.



Buried down was nothing more than clothes, and their families, after eating innocent foreigners, would no longer have to wander around with Nuo masks in white robes day after day.



They could be human again.


Kou Dong closed his eyes, took a big step forward and knocked violently on the door of the family who did the funeral the first time.



Inside the door came the sound of a man talking.


“Who is it?”


Kou Dong didn’t make a sound.



After the door creaked open, he clearly saw the face in front of him – the same face that had eaten the player in front of them on the first day.


It was the Qin Tong from the first day.




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