Stranger Danger

Chapter 18: Attack of the Human Skins



Chapter 18: Attack of the Human Skins

“Wooooooo…” RE𝒂ad updated st𝒐ries at n/𝒐/vel/bin(.)com

It was midnight. The moon and the stars were nowhere to be seen. The sky was an oppressive, heavy blanket that seemed intent on choking everyone in their sleep. Even the air felt particularly inauspicious tonight.

Suddenly, a bleak howl pierced through the air. The villagers weren’t sleeping well in the first place, but the howl had woken up absolutely everyone in the August Hill Village. Thousands of candles were lit across just as many houses in the span of minutes, but it still wasn’t enough to dispel the coldness of the dark.

“Is this it?”

A steely glint appeared in Ye Qing’s eye as he jumped to his feet. After folding the Annon Sutra and tucking it under his shirt, he grabbed his saber, got out of the house, and raced into the night.

When he reached the village entrance, he saw that the gates and the walls were crawling with people already. Every watchman was holding a bow and looking nervously out of the village.

“Do we know what the threat is?” Ye Qing walked up to Ma Shiyuan and asked in a hushed tone.

Ma Shiyuan gulped audibly before answering, “It’s the human skin Strangers. A lot of human skin Strangers.”

Ye Qing looked. He immediately noticed that the fields were crawling with them. There had to be thousands at the very least.

For some reason, human skin Strangers weren’t attacking yet. They were simply standing there in complete stillness as if they were waiting for some sort of signal. When the wind billowed across the fields, the way they swayed reminded Ye Qing of scarecrows, but a hundred times scarier. There was clearly something dark and unspeakable going on here.

“Wooooooooo…”

A dark wind blew, and the human skin Strangers shuddered as if they just received an order. Then, they all started running toward August Hill Village like a black tide.

“OIL, READY!” A grim-faced Lin Hu roared as soon as he saw movement. When the human skin Strangers reached the bottom of the walls, he waved his hand and roared again, “POUR!”

When black oil spilled down the stones, the human skin Strangers who were already scaling the walls at unbelievable speed immediately slipped and crashed into their unholy brethren at the bottom. For a short time, they were unable to make any headway.

“FIRE ARROWS, READY… RELEASE!”

Countless flaming arrows shot into the human sea Strangers and ignited the oil. A sea of fire whooshed into existence in just the blink of an eye.

The human skin Strangers continued to charge despite the fact that they were burning alive.? The good news was that they only managed a few steps before they were burned to ashes. The bad news was that their numbers were endless. It took only a few breaths before the entire swathe of inferno was put out under the sea of human skins, and they began scaling the walls once more.

“ROCKS, READY… DROP!”

Lin Hu remained calm as he ordered the archers to stand down temporarily, and the other defenders to pick up the boulders, logs and other deadly objects they had prepared beforehand. They were then dropped on top of the human skin Strangers to crush them.

Again, they were able to throw back the attackers, but again it didn’t last long. August Hill Village wasn’t a city, so their walls were only six to seven meters tall. Although the human skin Strangers might be frail, they were so strong and light that they could easily clear a few meters with a single jump. Every time there was a lull in between the defenders’ attacks, a couple human skin Strangers would successfully surge up the walls and brain a few unsuspecting watchmen. Worse, black qi would slip into the dead bodies, strip them of their skin, and transform them into new human skin Strangers. Some of the defenders weren’t paying attention and were killed by these new enemies as a result. For a time, the screams would not stop, and the people were on the verge of a full-blown panic.

“Calm down! I want everyone to fight in three-man squads!” Lin Hu was still barking orders as he cut down two human skin Strangers in one strike, “Also, watch out for the dead men on your feet! They will turn into new human skin Strangers!”

The watchmen quickly split into squads just like they usually did when patrolling the village outskirts. They did their best to cut down any human skin Stranger that had surged up the walls.

Ye Qing did not group up with anyone though. He was used to operating alone by this point, and with his strength he didn’t need to group up with the others. Last night, he had refined two silver dragon-serpent runes and entered the middle-stage of the Qi Invocation stage, which drastically increased his strength and true qi. It was why his killing speed was no slower than the other squads. If anything, he had to restrain himself so as not to draw any suspicion. He could’ve mowed down the human skin Strangers even faster otherwise.

Ye Qing went to town with the human skin Strangers like the rain. Every time he took a step, a group of human skin Strangers would drop dead. Every time he took a swing, multiple heads would tumble across the air. There was no human skin Stranger who was a match for him no matter where he went. For as long as he was wielding his saber, no mere skin was going to make him submit!

Suddenly, Ye Qing noticed a group of human skin Strangers threatening to overwhelm three of his fellow watchmen. He crossed the distance in a single step before killing all the enemies with a Five Tigers Door Breaking Saber technique.

“Thank you!” The squad leader thanked him.

“You’re welcome. Be careful.”

Ye Qing did not even look at them as he rushed to rescue another losing squad.

“Wait a second. Isn’t he the son of the Yes? When did he become so strong?” A squad member asked suddenly.

“I know right?”

“We’re literally facing an invasion here and you guys are gossiping? Get your head in the game! Here comes the Strangers again!” “Kill!”

Ye Qing did not know about their conversation, and he didn’t care. Right now, he was wholly focused on cutting down the human skin Strangers and saving his fellow villagers and comrades.

Despite this, his effort was utterly inadequate in changing the tides of the battle. Watchmen kept dying, and those watchmen transformed into new human skin Strangers who killed even more watchmen. The number of humans kept decreasing, while the Strangers’ increased.

There’s just too many human skin Strangers out there! We can’t kill all of them! Lin Hu thought desperately while wiping away the blood on his face. He had taken a blow that cracked his skull and bled him like a pig a minute ago. The rest of his body wasn’t doing so hot either. Unfortunately, there was just no time to heal his wounds. If only the Heavens’ Eye is still usable!

The Heavens’ Eye could have killed every human skin Stranger assaulting the village in one strike, but since it hadn’t regained its energy yet, it was as useful as an ordinary mirror right now!

Granny Xia said heavily while shattering a few human skin Strangers with her sleeve, “We will die long before we take out every human skin Stranger on this earth!”

“What should we do then?” Lin Hu asked while shaking his head to get rid of some of his dizziness.

“It’s not ideal, but we must find the Stranger behind the human skin Strangers and kill it. Only then may we stand a chance to survive this,” Granny Xia replied with a steely glint in her eye. “You will join me, Huhu. It’s either this, or die.”

“Understood!” Lin Hu accepted without hesitation. Although he knew full well that his chances of survival in the sea of human skin Strangers was next to nothing, and even if they somehow broke through there was no guarantee they might find the hidden Stranger, he was willing to give everything he had including his life if it meant giving the tens of thousands of helpless villagers behind him a chance to see tomorrow’s sun!

Granny Xia then turned to Chen Zheng and instructed in a heavy and sorrowful voice, “Chen Zheng, I trust you to protect the village while Huhu and I are gone. If… if it is not possible, then take as many villagers with you and escape through the passage. Many of us may not survive this disaster, but some survivors are still better than no survivors at all!”

It sounded like she was giving her last will. In fact, she was.

She knew better than anyone their desperate plan was folly. It was highly unlikely they were going to find the hidden Stranger that was controlling the human skin Strangers, and it was even less likely they were going to live to see another day. It was, frankly, a suicide charge. Even so, she must try if only because a sliver of a chance at success was still better than no chance at all!

“Let’s go, Huhu!” Granny Xia beckoned before leaping off the walls. While she was still in the air, countless yellow talismans poured out of her sleeves and burst into flames on their own. It formed a massive curtain of flames that cleared out most of the human skin Strangers in an instant.

Not done yet, Granny Xia waved her walking stick and caused some sort of ripple to appear from the handle. The next moment, a sea of flames washed over the area, and a shrill phoenix cry pierced through the air. Incredibly, an actual phoenix emerged from the sea of flames and flew to the distance, burning each and every human skin Stranger that crossed its path into ashes.

Granny Xia followed right behind the phoenix as she raced toward the village outskirts. Lin Hu was right beside her and killed every human skin Stranger who dared to get close to them.

Lin Hu was also using the “Five Tigers Door Breaking Saber”, but the basic saber art looked particularly formidable in his hands. Wherever his saber flew, the tiger roared, and a river of silver flowed. Any human skin Stranger who dared to get within one meter of him were crushed without a sound.

The two Qi Invokers made slow but steady progress as they pushed through the black tide. Each step was hard fought and not without a dear cost, but their determination was unbreakable no matter how hard the human skin Strangers threw themselves at them. It wasn’t long before the duo completely vanished from the defenders’ view. The only way they knew that the duo were still alive were the occasional explosions and roars.

At that moment, everyone on the walls were silent. They could only stare at the direction the duo had disappeared to with respect, sorrow and silence.

Suddenly, Chen Zheng let out a roar, “The fuck you guys blanking out for? The enemies are attacking again! Kill them all!”

He then commanded the watchmen to attack the human skin Strangers who had scaled the walls again.

“You must live,” Ye Qing sighed as he stared at the disappeared duo. He had nothing but respect for the two martial artists who had decided to risk it all for the people. Personally, he would never have taken such a risk because he ultimately wasn’t a true member of August Hill Village. He was a soul from a different world with no particular attachment for his fellow villagers. At best, they were familiar strangers to him. He wasn’t so noble that he would sacrifice himself for others either.

That was why he couldn’t do it. He respected people like them, but he could not and would not emulate their example. Not now at least.

It was at this moment a desperate watchman ran up the walls and snapped him out of his daydream with a desperate cry, “Captain Chen, Captain Chen! The gates are soon to be breached! We can’t hold on much longer!”

Although the gates of August Hill Village were carved from tough ironwood, it was still wood in the end. Naturally, it was covered in cracks and ready to break after all the batterings it had endured.

“Dammit! We’ve almost run out of men already!” Chen Zheng took a quick look and realized in horror that the number of defenders on the walls had dwindled to less than twenty. The gates would take a significant amount of men to hold, but if he did that then the walls would be practically defenseless. He himself would be in mortal danger. “What should I do?”

Suddenly, Chen Zheng saw Ye Qing killing a human skin Stranger out of the corner of his eyes. A ruthless plan took form in his mind then. He ordered, “Ye Qing, Ma Shiyuan, Zhang Yuan, your squads will hold the gates! The blood will be on your hands if you allow even a single enemy to enter the village!”

“Captain Chen, you can’t be serious! How can we possibly hold the gates with so few people?” Ma Shiyuan pleaded desperately. While they were technically three squads, Ye Qing was a one-man squad, and Ma Shiyuan had lost all of his men a while ago. Zhang Yuan still had one watchman left, but even then they were only four. How could they possibly hold the gates with just four people?

He might as well be ordering them to die!

“You are the only ones I can spare! The rest of us are needed on the walls! The villagers will be in danger if the Strangers breach through the gates, so you’ll just have to do it one way or another!” Chen Zheng declared sanctimoniously.

“But…” Ma Shiyuan and Zhang Yuan exchanged glances with each other.

“Go now! You’re not thinking of disobeying a direct order, are you?” Chen Zheng yelled harshly.

“At once!” Left with no choice, Ma Shiyuan and Zhang Yuan took off to the gates. They looked like they were ready to die for their people.

Ye Qing smirked but said nothing. He simply jumped down the walls and walked toward the gates.


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