The wind came too abnormally. Xiao Xia hid behind Ruan Zhan.
“What are you doing? You should at least give me a warning so I can prepare myself mentally.”
“They haven’t gone far yet. I’m going to capture them.”
“I can only try.” Ruan Zhan looked at the tattered banners. They didn’t turn big, which signified his abilities were insufficient. If he hadn’t sealed his abilities when he was very young, and had trained them instead, he should be able to turn the banners a foot wide and three feet long. No matter where the spirits where, they would be captured and pulled back. They wouldn’t have to hurry to do this while they were still nearby. Despite this, he still wasn’t confident. He wasn’t even able to completely wield the bloodwood sword. Using the tattered banners was too much of a stretch.
“What are you capturing them for?”
“You were the one who chose to resolve their grudges.”
“That’s right. They’re here.” Ruan Zhan stepped forwards, pulling open the suddenly still curtains. Xiao Xia followed behind him and saw a clump of darkness struggling inside an invisible cage in the air.
“There’s only one?” She asked anxiously.
“You forget, my RPG level isn’t high.” Ruan Zhan mocked himself.
“Don’t joke around at such a time.”
“Fine, let’s have a discussion.” Ruan Zhan recovered the cold and proud attitude he had when capturing ghosts. He seemed like a different person. He raised his head and looked up. “Stop scaring others. Otherwise, it won’t end well for you.”
“It’s her.” The female ghost pointed at Xiao Xia who was peeking out from behind him. “She wants to save my enemy. Don’t blame me.”
“That…I feel I need to explain things.” Xiao Xia wasn’t that scared because Ruan Zhan was present. “Tao Xiao Chun’s despicable actions caused you guys tragic harm, and she’s certainly guilty of terrible crimes. However, she has already died and suffered punishment. We aren’t trying to help her. We just want to find her body…”
“No.” The dark shadow interrupted Xiao Xia. “I want her to remain without a corpse, her soul doomed and never to reincarnate.”
The female ghost’s ferocity made Xiao Xia tremble. However, her nature as a lawyer allowed her to continue the debate.
“But her body will sooner or later be discovered by someone. You clearly know Bloody Mary cannot leave the school grounds, so she isn’t able to hide Tao Xiao Chun that well. It’s just a matter of time. As for her trapped soul, I believe…it should be retrieved for punishment. I’m not familiar with your world, but I believe there has to be rules, and those are probably even more just. Don’t you want to denounce her yourself, and have her go through a fair trial?”
Ruan Zhan frowned as he listened. This wouldn’t have been convincing even in court, let alone resolve any grudges.
As he expected, the female ghost completely ignored Xiao Xia’s lengthy speech. It remained floating in midair as though trapped in quicksand. It couldn’t get out or get in. There was no escape, and it could only let out malicious and sinister curses.
In her daze, Xiao Xia noticed its eyes rolling around. She suddenly recalled Qian Li was the only one who didn’t get her eyes dug out. She felt a deep sense of sympathy at its resentful despair.
“You are Qian Li?” She asked. “Don’t be like this, ok? What do you think Liu Tie would think if he saw you like this? He once told me you were the kindest, cutest and most gentle girl in the world.”
Hmm, well said. Ruan Zhan silently approved.
“What benefits can you hope to gain with such actions?” Xiao Xia continued speaking to the suddenly quiet female ghost. “I know you feel wronged, resentful, unwilling. If it happened to me, I’d probably have an even harder time enduring. However, what’s done is done. You can’t go back no matter how you struggle. Why not put down your grudge and happily reincarnate? If you’re quick, perhaps in nineteen, twenty years, you can once again meet Liu Tie while he’s in his prime. You can rekindle your feelings. Even if your luck is bad and this opportunity passes you by, you will still have a new life, and meet many, many other people. You might find life’s greatest happiness. Staying here for the sake of unnecessary and useless vengeance, immersing yourself in resentment, is both tragic and lonely. What could you hope to gain? A spirit without home and continuous suffering? If you’re unwilling to forgive, and commit other sins of murder without leaving any kindness, perhaps your next life will be filled with misfortune. Is that what you want? Would your parents and friends want that? Would Liu Tie? You think you’re taking revenge on Tao Xiao Chun, but you’re really just hurting yourself and rejecting a second chance. She did such a heinous thing to you, but you’re punishing yourself afterwards. You’re clearly dooming yourself never to reincarnate!”
The female ghost remained still, clearly struggling internally. Ruan Zhan was about to burst into applause.
“The heavens are merely three feet above your head. I believe you’ve heard this saying before.” Ruan Zhan struck while the iron was hot. “This world is governed by the laws of heaven. Don’t be anxious and wait patiently. Perhaps humans are unable to understand, but you do. Punishment cannot be avoided by dying.”
“That’s right, that’s right. Perhaps Tao Xiao Chun will be a pig in her next life. You can eat its meat. Wouldn’t that be very satisfying and comforting?”
“Next life?” The female ghost asked in a stifled voice. It looked suspiciously at the two of them.
Xiao Xia endured her chills and nodded furiously. However, the quiet female ghost suddenly went berserk. It started desperately straining against the invisible restraints, its malevolent appearance scaring Xiao Xia into taking a huge step back. She bumped into Ruan Zhan’s chest, and only felt at ease after sensing his strong heartbeat.
Finally, a gust of wind blew and the female ghost vanished.
“What…what’s going on?” Xiao Xia saw the results of their discussion not looking good and was extremely vexed. “What part of what I said provoked it? Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned pigs? Is her zodiac animal a pig or what? I didn’t do it on purpose!”
“It’s fine.” Ruan Zhan patted her shoulder. He closed the window and pulled the curtains. “My ability was insufficient to keep it trapped any longer.”
“Then has its grudge been resolved?”
“How can it be that easy? Let’s wait and see.” At least it had been moved. He could tell the female ghost had been hesitating, and the towering grudge had weakened.
“What did you mean earlier?”
“You said earlier…you said punishment cannot be avoided by dying. What does that mean?”
“It means…death is just the beginning.”
Death is just the beginning. This was the coldest thing Xiao Xia had ever heard.
Around noon the next day, they arrived at the school as appointed. Liu Tie was already waiting by the flowerbeds near the gates. Looking at his nervous expression, Xiao Xia teased: “Your acting isn’t good today. You should look a little eager when showing off your treasure to the beautiful older sister you have a crush on. Your appearance looks like you’re about to do battle. You should at least smile a little.”
Liu Tie forced a smile.
He couldn’t be blamed. Last time when they tricked Tao Xiao Chun, there was still a sense of fun. Later, he started wondering if there was more to it. Today, although he didn’t really understand what was going on, the boss had been very stern when talking to him about it. Therefore, he sensed it was something huge. Something huge and bad.
“Stop bothering him. Let’s go.” Ruan Zhan said.
He sensed they were being watched and looked around. Apart from a few students here and there, there were no suspicious people. Could he have been mistaken? He wasn’t in the mood to wonder about it. This was because the moment he followed Liu Tie to the remote garage, he immediately sensed the abnormality.
Yin energy, death energy, evil energy all intertwined into a cold and eerie aura that shrouded the small dilapidated garage. Even the sun in the sky above seemed cold without a trace of warmth.
With a creaking sound, the door was pulled open with difficulty. A smell of damp mold rushed over, as though it were a cave that no one had entered in years. The open door seemed like a wide mouth, mocking the people who had come.
Xiao Xia walked forward rashly but Ruan Zhan pulled her behind him before taking the lead.
The garage was as Liu Tie had described. It had two small secondhand vans parked neatly in the corner. Only the one in front was clearly visible. It was covered in a thick layer of dust as though it hadn’t been moved in a century. Near the garage doors was an incredibly cool motorbike that gave off the smell of gasoline and paint. On the floor next to it was a small gift box.
The sunlight happened to shine onto the bike’s rearview mirrors and reflected glaringly, temporarily blinding the three who had entered the dim space. Only when they moved out of the reflected glare did they see that in the approximately ten meter long space between the bike and the car, there was a trail of dark purple footprints. It led from the bike, winding like a sinister snake, enticing, taking a weird curve around the van before vanishing.
“What’s that?” Liu Tie pointed at the footprints and asked. “This wasn’t there last time I came!”
His voice echoed in the enclosed space, the alarming and unsettling information causing Xiao Xia to shiver and pull at Ruan Zhan’s sleeve.
Ruan Zhan didn’t respond but he knew what those footprints signified. He knew Bloody Mary purposefully made it clear that was blood. The blood of one who broke the contract.
“Xiao Xia, go outside first.” He looked at the bloody prints and was sure of what they would find. He didn’t want her to get scared.
Xiao Xia shook her head.
“Listen to me, or I won’t help you anymore in the future. I keep my word.”
Xiao Xia hesitated, and ultimately didn’t dare challenge Ruan Zhan’s determination. She obediently went outside the garage.
Ruan Zhan slowly walked between the first car and the second car and saw the bloody prints abruptly stop there. The second car was also covered in a thick layer of dust, upon which was an extremely beautiful handprint. The hand was gesturing towards the car door, a circular patch having been wiped clean ahead of time on the window.
His lip curled slightly as he revealed a faint, cold smile. He paid no mind to its attempts at scaring people and looked into the car without hesitation. As expected, there was a human shaped figure in the backseat covered by a large piece of cloth.
As he opened the door, the corpse suddenly sat up. Its eyeless sockets glared over and its rotted, lipless mouth cracked as though in a malicious smile!
Maggots crawled in and out and a thick stench of decay wafted over!