The vicious pain made Wan Li suddenly wake from his deep slumber. He instinctively leapt up and shook his hand free, catching Xiao Xia off guard and throwing her to the floor. Her head bumped against the stairs.
“What’s going on?” His head grew clear, but then he immediately froze at the urgent situation in the room.
“Stop staring and run!” Xiao Xia crawled up, unable to mind her bleeding head injury and pulled Wan Li up the stairs.
At this crucial moment, she was still relatively clearheaded. The fire had already blocked the way out and was making its way to the backdoor, potentially igniting the gas canister in the kitchen at any moment. Most frightening were those burned spirits who had broken free of the flames and were chasing after them. Escaping upstairs was their only option.
She pulled Wan Li and ran with all her might. The weird, hand-like flame and twisted black silhouettes followed them closely. She ran into the bedroom and grabbed the bloodwood sword by her pillow. She turned around and swung.
The blackened shades who had caught up scattered and dispersed with a shriek. Wan Li was rather cooperative and shut the door with a bang, keeping the danger at bay temporarily.
“Give me the bloodwood sword!” Wan Li said urgently.
Although he didn’t completely understand what was going on, he knew something terrifying had happened while he was somehow unconscious. Now wasn’t the time for questions. They had to first escape.
“No, you can’t use it.” Xiao Xia refused, hugging the glowing red bloodwood sword to her chest. “Although it’s the bane of evil, it’s still made of wood. It’ll burn up!”
“I won’t let it touch the flames!”
Hearing him say this, she quickly trusted him and handed the bloodwood sword over.
“We can’t get out from here. The windows are barred. Follow me.” He held the bloodwood sword protectively to his chest with one hand, leaving only the naturally formed sword aura emitted from the tip as deterrence. With his other hand, he grabbed Xiao Xia’s hand. “Trust me.”
“I trust you.” Xiao Xia nodded without hesitation and charged out of the room with Wan Li. They went past the blackened shades who were afraid to approach due to the bloodwood sword’s aura and ran into the storage room where Wan Li lived.
Within the room were rows of alcohol and stacked miscellaneous items. In the darkness of the night, they gave Xiao Xia extreme pressure. She stood there anxiously and watched Wan Li place the bloodwood sword in a rack by the door while blocking the things trying to get in from outside. He pulled out a rope from somewhere.
“Come here!” He pulled Xiao Xia over and tied the rope securely onto the steel window divider. The other end was tight around Xiao Xia’s waist. “Climb down from here. Don’t be scared, it’s only the third floor. Even if you jumped off you won’t die. Some broken limbs at most. Especially since you also have this rope.”
“Alright.” Xiao Xia agreed. Although she was still very scared, she understood this wasn’t the time to drag her feet. “What about you?”
“I’ll climb down after throwing the bloodwood sword to you.” Wan Li twisted and looked at the crackling door that was about to be burned down. The thick smoke was already drifting inside through the gaps in the door. Because the sword was still suppressing things over there, nothing immediately charged in. “It’ll be your turn to protect me later. Just pointing the sword upwards will be enough. Understood? The order will be you, then the bloodwood sword, then me.”
“Can’t you just carry the sword on your back?” Xiao Xia was worried if the sword was thrown down, something will jump out and attack Wan Li.
“Although that thing is a treasure, it’s still just a small strip of wood. I might accidentally snap it under my weight. Rather than having that fortune teller kill me, I might as well take a risk.”
“Really, you. This is hardly the time for jokes.”
“Fine, fine, I won’t say anymore!” Wan Li supported Xiao Xia’s waist and helped her sit on the windowsill. “I’m going to lower the rope. Don’t be scared.”
Xiao Xia nodded. She gritted her teeth and waited to be suspended in the air. However, Wan Li didn’t move. He suddenly stretched his hand out and stroked the wound on her forehead. His hand was a little rough, causing a piercing pain.
“Did you hurt yourself?” He asked, the voice sounding a little strange.
Xiao Xia was about to scold him for being fussy at such a moment when a realization made her almost stop breathing. Wan Li’s hands were currently holding her waist. Then what was the hand that was brushing her face?!
She sucked in a breath and wanted to warn Wan Li when she suddenly saw many eyes within the darkness of the wine racks, embedded within the twisted burnt human-shaped husks. They seemed to have been hiding there for a long time. Before she could say anything, the rope loosened and she fell from the window. She came to an abrupt halt in midair, her weight resulting in a lot of pain from the rope around her waist.
They must have already been hiding inside before the two of them ran into the room. Therefore, the bloodwood sword merely kept the spirits outside from coming in, but couldn’t drive off those already hidden.
Thinking of this, she immediately struggled to look up at the window, yelling loudly for Wan Li to be careful. However, she realized she couldn’t make a sound, as though a cold and clammy film had blocked her mouth. Her limbs were also tightly bound. She had an ominous feeling and could only slowly turn her head around.
A woman had climbed onto her back at some point. Her limbs were wrapped tightly around her as though she was being carried.
“Little sis, I’ve come for you!”
It was Gu Yu Fang.
Xiao Xia was covered in cold sweat as she looked up at Wan Li in despair. He was looking towards her, and he seemed unable to see her based on his anxious expression. She could see him however, as well as the other two heads that were looking out from behind him, their faces blurry yet also staring at her!
Wan Li! Look out!
She cried out loudly in her mind, wishing she had some telepathic connection with him similar to the one with Ruan Zhan. However, she could only watch as he tried to pull himself onto the windowsill but wasn’t able to. Then, he tipped backwards and vanished from view.
There was a bang as the gas canister in the kitchen exploded. The shockwave tossed Xiao Xia around in the air like a tattered rag, the female ghost still on her back. As for Wan Li, it wasn’t clear if he was still alive.
“Little sis, give Ah Zhan back to me.”
The cold, rigid fingers crept up to Xiao Xia’s neck and looped the rope around it, slowly pulling it tight.
“Why?” Xiao Xia struggled to ask.
“I want to use your body to be together with Ah Zhan.” She laughed sinisterly. “Someone promised me. As long as you die. As long as you die. As long as you die.”
Resentment slowly bubbled up in Xiao Xia’s mind. At the same time, she was completely cut off from any oxygen, slowly, slowly until she started suffocating and losing consciousness.
The roar of an engine rang out. A man swiftly leapt out from the car, drawing in midair while chanting: “…crystallize the will of the divine, the aura of the Dao exists in perpetuity, pressing, like the rule of law…”
Gu Yu Fang’s ghost screamed loudly and tried to burrow into Xiao Xia’s body. Since Xiao Xia was unconscious, she couldn’t resist at all.
“We’re acquaintances so don’t force my hand!” Ruan Zhan was extremely anxious and pointed his finger.
The female ghost screamed tragically but still wouldn’t give up. Ruan Zhan hated how he couldn’t leap up and rescue Xiao Xia from where she was hanging. He also couldn’t directly cast a spell to stop the female ghost, afraid the unconscious Xiao Xia’s soul would also be harmed.
Gu Yu Fang was entering Xiao Xia’s body when Wan Li suddenly appeared panting at the window. He swung his hand towards Gu Yu Fang and a beam of beautiful red light shot down. Gu Yu Fang immediately shrieked and peeled off Xiao Xia liked a piece of clothing.
“Cut the rope loose!” Ruan Zhan cried.
Wan Li ducked back and reappeared. The rope swiftly caught on fire and Xiao Xia fell into Ruan Zhan’s arms.
“Xiao Xia, Xiao Xia!” The force made Ruan Zhan also fall to the floor, but he carefully made sure not to let her get hurt. He pushed himself up and untied the rope around her neck. “Wake up, don’t scare me! Xiao Xia!”
He urgently stroked her face but her eyes remained shut.
“If you hold her like that it’ll be even harder for her to breathe. Let go!” Wan Li climbed down using another rope. “Panicking will only make you forget basic medical knowledge!”
He pushed Ruan Zhan aside and placed Xiao Xia flat on the floor, starting to perform emergency treatment. After a while, Xiao Xia finally let out a breath. At the same time, sirens blared. The fire department had arrived.
“Luckily the rope was made of nylon. Otherwise, it would have snapped at the slightest burn.” Wan Li let out a breath. “I’ve never been more grateful to the products of chemical engineering.”
Ruan Zhan didn’t respond. He was leaning against the hospital wall, his gaze fixed on the sleeping Xiao Xia. He had felt terror tonight as he saw her suspended in the air like a lifeless puppet. This was the first time he felt fear in many years; fear of losing her.
“Relax, she’s going to be fine. My skill at performing emergency treatment is absolutely perfect. Tell me, how did you make it back in time? If it weren’t for your ‘pressing like the rule of law’ or whatever, I wouldn’t have been able to get free of those burnt ghosts.” He looked at the burns on his hand and recalled the chilling yet burning sensation. He didn’t want to experience that a second time.
“Your dog life is quite tenacious!”
“I have your fortuneteller mumbo jumbo to thank for that. Only Gu Yu Fang, as a person…no a ghost with deep resentment, was able to remain. The others scattered like birds.”
“It’s all my fault for getting lured away.” Ruan Zhan was extremely vexed. “Hong Hao Hao left later than usual today, and then started loitering in the city. I suddenly recalled that the mastermind Yang Mu You was an expert schemer. Furthermore, if he was really targeting Xiao Xia, he must have her under surveillance. I figured since we encountered each other, he could guess we would find his trail using the registration records.”
“This means he predicted you would follow Hong Hao Hao, and purposefully lured you away.” Wan Li followed up. “Then he must have also predicted I would recognize her voice, or at the least be suspicious of it. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have used her as bait.”
“That’s right. Luckily I had the realization. Otherwise…”
“There is no otherwise. Didn’t you figure it out? Although it was a little late.” Wan Li interrupted him. “There’s bound to be mishaps. What matters is how you overcome them. Looks like you studied psychology in vain, or did you get flustered after running into Xiao Xia?”
“Less nonsense. What happened on your end?”
“Nothing!” Wan Li shrugged. “They were much weaker than what we dealt with in the past. However, I didn’t expect them to have hidden in advance. They restrained me temporarily and I wasn’t able to reach the bloodwood sword. After your loud chanting, they let go and gave me an opportunity.”
Ruan Zhan didn’t speak. He thought it was fortunate someone of extreme yang energy and reckless daring like Wan Li had been present. Only such a person could fight off the ghosts, scare off Gu Yu Fang by throwing the bloodwood sword and calmly use alcohol and fire to burn the rope. Otherwise, the consequences would have been unimaginable.
“I even managed to rescue your backpack.” As though guessing what Ruan Zhan was thinking, Wan Li listed some more accomplishments. “Luckily you hadn’t unpacked yet. Otherwise I would have needed to help you pack up your treasures.”
“Shhh.” Seeing Xiao Xia stir, Ruan Zhan stopped Wan Li. But Xiao Xia merely rolled over and continued sleeping.
“This is one of her strengths. She never worries for too long and her mind is extremely optimistic. That’s right, what are your thoughts about the fire? I smelled gas at the scene. It definitely wasn’t done by ghosts. Furthermore, I saw a blackened iron chain around the door earlier. It had been locked from the outside.”
“It was a team effort by humans and ghosts. Apart from Yang Mu You, who else would have the ability and resources?”
“How embarrassing, I was fast asleep. It wouldn’t have been such a close call otherwise.” Wan Li blamed himself a little despite knowing his unconsciousness was a little suspicious.
“It’s not your fault. You must have been caught off guard by some spell to end up that way.”
“Looks like your place isn’t foolproof. In the future, you have to set up some protective measures not only against bad guys, but also against spells. See, they just had someone set a fire first, and once that trigram formation flag was destroyed, the wave of ghosts came. Bro, it seems we’ve really encountered some experts.”
“I’ve also discovered something important.” Ruan Zhan suddenly said.
“Is it those three mysterious brothers?”