“So this is the extent of his abilities.” Yang Mu You let out a breath.
“I told you he wasn’t that powerful, but you insisted on being so careful.” Hong Hao Hao was curled up on Yang Mu You, the two still watching the water basin. “What is he doing now?” She pointed at Ruan Zhan’s image in the basin and asked.
“He wants to fetch Yue Xiao Xia’s soul back, but since I’ve captured it, how can I let him do so?” Yang Mu You laughed coldly.
“He still hasn’t eradicated Gu Yu Fang? Would this allow her to reveal our secrets?”
“This is the weakness of “good people”. For the sake of emotions, they are unable to completely eliminate potential threats. It’s in fact just the way of the weak. The strong don’t hesitate to use any means necessary.” Yang Mu You wrapped his arm around her. “However, Gu Yu Fang won’t be able to reveal anything about us. She is completely in the thrall of resentment and jealousy. As long as Yue Xiao Xia doesn’t die and Ruan Zhan doesn’t love her, she will never quit.”
“But she really was dumb. She failed to trick those two stinking men even with Yue Xiao Xia’s appearance. Couldn’t even act properly!” Hong Hao Hao said disdainfully.
“Those being controlled by emotions, whether human or ghost, would all lose their basic reasoning skills. Especially since those two men are both very astute. Of course there would be flaws.” He spoke and lowered his head to look at the basin again.
The water basin’s reflection showed that Ruan Zhan didn’t cut Gu Yu Fang down with the bloodwood sword in the end. Instead, he captured her within the tattered banner before sitting down dejectedly, his face filled with worry. Then, the water turned dark and nothing else could be seen.
“Another flying crane gone.” Hong Hao Hao said.
“No matter. Gu Yu Fang was useful in that regard. If it weren’t for her almost strangling Yue Xiao Xia and making her spend the night at the hospital, we wouldn’t have been able to buy her blood from the nurse. Then, we would no longer be able to follow her movements. The world is like this. Success only comes by knowing how to use people and ghosts, to use everything that can be used.”
“That’s why I love only you!” Hong Hao Hao took the opportunity to act coquettishly. “However, she didn’t do a good job this time.”
“She was too impatient. I expected her to fail. She’s merely something expendable, used to test out Ruan Zhan’s abilities.” Yang Mu You lightly shook his head. “This youngster isn’t simple. Although his powers are lacking at the moment, he is quick-witted, patient, discerning and perceptive. These are the essential qualities of my path. See how he had realized Yue Xiao Xia had been possessed right away, but hid his intentions because he was not assured of victory at the time. He could even act so convincingly. Truly impressive. Furthermore, I can tell that his abilities have been sealed. I don’t know the reason, but this means he has to be eliminated. Otherwise, who knows if he’ll pop out someday and become our enemy.”
Once his abilities grew, the situation would become uncertain. Ruan Zhan was like a thorn in his side. Although he wasn’t currently a threat, it still stung and made him uneasy. This feeling was strong enough to make him interested in Ruan Zhan above all else.
“How do we get rid of him?” Hong Hao Hao asked, feeling a little reluctant in her heart.
It was already a shame such a good man wasn’t hers, but now they were going to kill him. Furthermore, they would definitely not let his soul off either. What a pity.
“It won’t be easy. However, it’s not like there aren’t any ways to do so.” Yang Mu You said gloomily. “Those without weaknesses and desires are hard to deal with. As the saying goes, those without desires are like steel. However, he has a weakness. It’s Yue Xiao Xia. He wants to protect her. She is his desire. This means he will always be at a disadvantage.”
“Do we really have to keep Yue Xiao Xia alive?”
“We’ve discussed this question before. I don’t care why you hate her, but you should know who’s in charge here. She’s the thirteenth one. I don’t have time to find anyone else. You should be clear on this point.”
Hong Hao Hao saw Yang Mu You’s expression turn stern and hurriedly nodded. However, she didn’t agree with his words in her heart. Wouldn’t it be easy to find another person? She knew he just wanted to harm Ruan Zhan’s most important person. Only then would he be happy. He always struck at people’s most painful spots.
“Where did you put her soul?” Yang Mu You interrupted her thoughts.
“Oh, I put it…in the hungry ghost path.” Hong Hao Hao snuck a glance at him. “Should I bring her back?”
Yang Mu You started laughing. “You hate her that much? To be able to do something so vicious. Fine, I’ll let you have your way this one time. Torment her properly. Although that lass is weak, she’s especially tenacious. She shouldn’t die so easily. However, don’t overdo it. Otherwise, you should know what consequences you’ll suffer.”
“Got it.” Hong Hao Hao muttered. “I don’t know why she’s still so useful.”
“Even though Ruan Zhan has already returned, she isn’t without any use. She’s still useful as bait. If you had seen Ruan Zhan’s expression as Gu Yu Fang was strangling her that day, you would understand how valuable she is.”
Was this the hospital or an apartment? Xiao Xia wasn’t certain.
She didn’t understand why she would always dream about large, empty buildings. Did she have some childhood trauma? However, she immediately realized she wasn’t dreaming. Ever since the leather jacket wrapped around her, she had felt herself getting sucked into the ground. There wasn’t any sense of suffocation or pressure. She just felt it was dark, endlessly dark. Only a small area was grey.
Since the very beginning, she had been standing outside this indescribably quiet building. She didn’t know how she got here. This tall building looked bizarre. It was like a subway had gone off the rails and burst out of the ground, winding around an old tree. The hole inside the twisted tree was the elevator entrance.
She stood at the elevator entrance and hesitated. She suddenly felt a splitting pain, as though her skin was being peeled off by someone. The pain was indescribable, as though thousands of arrows were piercing her. She opened her mouth and screamed, but realized no noise came out. By the time the pain gradually faded, she realized what terrified her was the lack of direction. The surroundings all looked the same, to the extent she didn’t even know if she was vertical or horizontal.
The only thing different was this weird building. She could only walk inside hesitantly.
The elevator was rather wide and covered with dust. It was a bit like a warehouse. She hadn’t found the buttons yet when the doors suddenly closed and the elevator started ascending by itself. The sudden movement made Xiao Xia lose her balance and fall over backwards.
Crack. The sound of something shattering under pressure came from behind her, shocking Xiao Xia into immediately standing up. The feeling against her back told her that she had pressed against something solid with the scent of incense. However, she had been alone in the elevator a moment ago. She didn’t dare turn her head, but after her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she saw many flashing eyes blinking at her.
“Waited so long for her!” A voice complained. Then came the sounds of whispering, telling her she wasn’t alone after all.
Cold sweat trickled and she didn’t dare move a muscle. She could only stand there rigidly. She felt something pulling curiously at her clothes and hair, the pairs of eyes still looking at her. She could only pray the elevator would come to a stop at some point. Then, after enduring for a very long time, the elevator chimed and came to a stop.
A piercing light came from the open doors, temporarily disorienting her. However, before she could adjust, a pair of hands shoved her from behind. She fell out of the elevator.
“You’ve arrived at the hungry ghost path.” A monotone voice announced.
Hungry ghost path? What kind of place was that? Could she have already died? Would Ruan Zhan have let her die just like that? She climbed up and looked around. The surroundings were that of a hospital.
However, it was the weirdly unsanitary kind of hospital. The smell of medicine and rotting flesh was everywhere. The lights were dim and there was no sound. There was also no one walking around, but it also seemed strangely busy.
The busy feeling stemmed from the fact that the hallway was filled with seated, strange figures on both sides. They were all men, with only one woman dressed in white. She seemed to be a nurse. These people all had their heads lowered, not speaking to one another. They also didn’t notice Xiao Xia’s arrival. The nurse stood with her back towards Xiao Xia, making her feel she was an intruder that didn’t belong.
She stood for a long while with no one paying her any mind. This made her feel that if she didn’t move, the situation would remain forever unchanged. Therefore, she made up her mind to ask the nurse what was going on. This was because she was the only one who still looked normal. However, the moment she took a step, her footstep rang out loudly, echoing in the hallway incessantly. It was like walking in an empty space.
This gave Xiao Xia a fright, but the people all remained in their original spots. Xiao Xia could only grit her teeth and walk forwards step by step, each time making an oppressive noise.
She endured the ear-piercing torment and slowly approached the woman in white.
As she was about to reach the nurse, she noticed one of the men had stretched his legs out while sitting, blocking Xiao Xia’s way. She was going to go around when he suddenly moved, and slowly raised his head towards her.
Seeing his appearance, Xiao Xia took a step back in shock, almost tripping over someone else. She watched as the man stretched his neck towards her and sniffed deeply.
He had no eyes or ears, the flesh on his face rotted. Maggots crawled in his eyes sockets and ears, but she watched as he flared his rotted nose towards her with an infatuated expression.
“There’s food!” He yelled loudly in excitement.
Xiao Xia was scared speechless. She watched as the others who had remained unmoving like wax sculptures all get up in succession, sniffing excitedly in her direction.
“There’s fresh food!” Another cried out. Then, several people pounced towards Xiao Xia without caring about anything else, stretching out their pitch-black hands.