The person in black robe who was leading the group made a stop gesture to them so they stopped walking.
As Jiang Dong leaned over with a serious expression, he saw Lou Fan's expression and asked, "You found out too?"
Wen Lang and Chen Shuyang heard that but they looked confused, even Nie Feng turned to look at them. Lou Fan nodded.
"What's the matter? Don't talk in riddles."
Jiang Dong's voice sounded dry as he whispered, "I think they are the villagers, but they were skinned..." He couldn't help shaking when he spoke the last few words.
A few of them exclaimed in a low voice, and immediately covered their mouths. Then they turned to see the people who exposed their hands while working.
The people wore black robes, and most of them also wore a pair of black gloves. Only the two of them did not wear them. The exposed hands are light red as if the flesh and blood had been exposed to the air for a long time. It felt like it has been air-dried and there are very obvious texture lines. It really looked like the kind of model that hospitals use to show the skeleton of the human body. There is no skin, only flesh, and blood.
This truth is a bit cruel. Lou Fan’s team only thought the villagers are forced to leave the village and enter the forest because the ghosts in the lake came ashore. But it would be absolutely tragic if they got driven into the forest after being skinned by the ghosts.
"This also explains why they wear black robes and gloves all the time. Black robes block direct sunlight, while gloves reduce the friction between flesh and objects. Human skin is inherently delicate, let alone flesh and blood. Even wearing black robes, I think the friction of the fabric on them will make them feel very uncomfortable."
Just thinking about that feeling makes the team feel sore in their teeth.
When the black-robed man came back, everyone returned to their normal expressions without showing any extra emotions. The man in black robe took them to a hole in a wall next to them, and there are the same 5 people who were leading them earlier.
"Have you seen those things in the village?" One of the men in black robes asked.
The man’s voice came from under the black robe, with an indistinguishable mechanical sound and the ‘bzzt’ sound of electric current. It should be some kind of voice changer, and maybe it has been too long so it sounded a little damp.
Qin Tan walked forward and answered, "Yes, we have seen them. At night, they will enter the ghost lake and comes back at dawn. They will resume wearing the human skin and living in the village, but they don't walk around the village during the day."
Hearing that, the black-robed man is silent.
Lou Fan asked, "Those things invaded the village and drove you away?"
The black-robed man shook his head without explaining.
Lou Fan thought about it and said, "Actually, we still have something to ask, but before that, we can give you a helping hand. What do you need us to help with?"
At the side, Chen Man looked anxious. He tried to open his mouth to speak several times but managed to suppress it. After Lou Fan finished speaking, he couldn't help but cut into the conversation, "2 of our companions are still with you, what did you do to them? Hurry up and hand them over."
Lou Fan’s eyes bulged, he almost felt like knocking Chen Man’s head out. Wen Lang swiftly pulled the man back roughly and he staggered.
"What are you doing?!" Chen Man roared lowly in dissatisfaction.
Wen Lang: "You asked what am I doing? Aren’t we asking for clues here? Are you stupid?"
Chen Man gritted his teeth, "But you can't ignore about team leader!"
"Who says we are going to ignore him? But is saving Gao Yi out the most important thing here? Do we not need clues? Are we not leaving this world anymore?"
Wen Lang continued mocking Chen Man, "Plus, Brother Lou said we will save him, so we will definitely save him. If you don't believe us, then how about you come here by yourself? But can you even reach this place? I don't know how many times you will fall into a trap already."
Those words made Chen Man angry but he didn't dare to speak. Everything Wen Lang said is correct so he couldn't say anything to refute it. Without this team, he wouldn't be able to protect himself, let alone save his team leader. After being criticized by Wen Lang, Chen Man closed his mouth and shrank to the back of the group.
The man in black robe heard the argument and asked, "Are those two your companions?" After he finished speaking, he went out and came back shortly after. Then he said to Qin Tan and the others, "We don’t need your help with anything. When your companions come out, you should leave."
Qin Tan stopped the man and asked, "You should be the village chief, right? We want to know if there is a passage between the holy lake and the ghost lake, and how can we get through it?"
The black-robed men fell into silence. Though they didn't speak, and their expressions couldn’t be seen, Qin Tan and his team members knew that the men are staring at them.
"You want to know about the passage between the holy lake and the ghost lake? What is your purpose?" The hoarse old voice seemed to be squeezed out of his throat, and every word is laborious.
Qin Tan explained calmly, "Our purpose is to help you. I think that the reason why you lost your skin and couldn’t be in the sunlight is because of the ghost lake. If the ghost lake can be turned into a holy lake, it will be a good thing for you."
"Team leader Qin!"
Gao Yi's voice drifted over, and he entered the cave in a blink of an eye. Seeing that everyone is there, Gao Yi breathed a sigh of relief, followed by Fan Dayong. The two appear normal, uninjured, and in good spirits. Seeing Chen Man, Gao Yi walked over and patted him on the shoulder.
"I didn't expect you to come, Team leader Qin. Thank you so much." Gao Yi thanked, full of gratitude.
Qin Tan smiled and said, "It's been 2 days since you went into the forest. We don't have any clues outside. So we have to come in and see either way. It's all a matter of convenience. Don't be so polite."
Wen Lang snickered behind and whispered to Chen Shuyang, "Brother Qin is also a slippery guy now."
What Qin Tan actually meant was, ‘We have a mission to do anyway, and it is just along the way to save you. If it’s not along the way, we will not necessarily take the initiative to save you, so there is no need to thank us.’
Chen Shuyang also laughed softly.
Jiang Dong and Nie Feng's eyes met, and there is a hint of helplessness and doting in their eyes.
Gao Yi remained smiling as if he didn't understand the meaning of Qin Tan’s words.
The old voice sounded again, "You guys take a rest first. Let me discuss this with the villagers, and I will come to you again."
Qin Tan made a gentlemanly gesture and said, "Please (Go ahead)."
Seeing the 5 black-robed men leave, Lou Fan said, "It seems that that old man is the village chief."
Qin Tan nodded, "The old man should be using his own voice."
Jiang Dong: "They haven't spoken for too long, which has caused their vocal cords to degenerate. I think they haven't spoken for many years."
Lou Fan looked out and saw that there are dozens of people in the cave. Most of them are engrossed in their work and hardly communicated, so it makes sense that they don’t speak much.
Since it took some effort to find this place, everyone sat down to eat to replenish their strength. The villagers have returned the bags to Gao Yi and he sat with his 2 teammates with a serious face. On the other side, Lou Fan’s group sat together with a relaxed and happy expression.
Not making them wait too long, the man in black who had spoken to them with a voice changer came in and stood in front of Qin Tan and the others. Then, he stayed silent for a moment.
Qin Tan and the others stood up immediately. The man in black robe turned to look at Gao Yi, who is still sitting. Next, he raised his hand and pressed down on Qin Tan and the rest.
"Just sit down and listen to me."
The man paused and sat next to them. Then he said slowly, "After we discussed it, we decided to tell you about the legend of the 2 lakes. A long time ago, it was said that the holy lake and the ghost lake were originally connected, but they were destroyed by a curse and got divided into two. The water of the holy lake is clear, refreshing, and sweet, while the water of the ghost lake is black and unconsumable. Whoever drinks the water of the ghost lake, whether humans or livestock will die."
"Our ancestors were expelled to live in the ghost lake because of their crimes. It is difficult to survive, but not impossible to live. However, 3 generations ago, I didn't know what happened, and evil ghosts rose from the ghost lake and went ashore at night. After that…"
The man stopped and fell into silence.
No one bothered the man, patiently and quietly waiting for him to speak again.
"In the legend, as long as the holy lake and the ghost lake are connected, the water of the holy lake flows into the ghost lake. The golden fish and blue fish will swim into the ghost lake together, and the ghost lake will become like the holy lake. The black water becomes sweet and clear holy water, and we'll go back to where we were..."
The man turned his head and said to the group of people, "This is all the information we know, the passage is said to be at the holy lake’s side."
Lou Fan listened quietly and thought about it. Then he asked, "Are the golden fish and blue fish also in the holy lake?"
The man in black robe said, "We have never seen these two kinds of fish."
As if the man is accustomed to speaking again, his speaking frequency increased, and became more proficient. Although the sound quality is still unpleasant, the sentences are coherent now.
Lou Fan tapped his fingers and pondered, "Then we need to go to the Holy Lake to investigate first.
"I wonder how long it takes to get to the holy lake from here? Have you been there before?"
The man in black robe replied, "I went there once when I was a child. You need to follow the 'village chief' in the village. He will ring the bell as he walked. You must follow him closely and don't get lost. After passing the checkpoint, you can move freely. However, If you want to return, be sure to follow him too. I remember on the night of the full moon every month, he will go there once."
Qin Tan asked, "Then when will he returns?"
"He will return in 3 days." The man in black robe calculated the time and said, "Tomorrow will be the night of the full moon."
The time left is too tight. Lou Fan looked at Qin Tan, "We have to hurry back to the village to meet Tong Fei."
Qin Tan nodded and asked the man in black robe, "Is there any other important information?"
The black-robed man shook his head.
Qin Tan stopped asking, and said, "Then, we will have to bother you to tell us how to get out from here."
The woods only appeared at night and they lost their way as soon as they entered. The fact that they found the villagers' settlement is purely by accident.
The black-robed man nodded, turned, and left. The group of people followed immediately, and Gao Yi’s team also stood up to follow.
Chen Man whispered in dissatisfaction from behind, "Team leader, in my opinion, these people from the intermediate team are ignorant. You don't know but that time I was trying to look for you but they only knew to ask for clues right away. I don't see them trying to save us at all."
Gao Yi is not a fool, having been in Lazuli for so long, he is not a naive person either. When people lend a helping hand while trying to find clues, they are very kind enough. There are too many people out there who will ignore to help or throw stones at you when you are down. If you are saved but still wanted to complain about your savior, then that is you thinking too much (of yourself). After all, no one is a Holy Mother, who must selflessly dedicate themself to save all sentient beings.
Gao Yi said lightly, "They have already done a great deed, but you still want them to put our safety above the danger? Is that realistic?"
Raw word count: 3048