Xiao Xia held Ruan Zhan’s prone body, her heart alarmed and shaken.
He had never appeared like this in front of her before. He was either smiling gently while distant, aloof and reserved with a little bit of haughtiness, or cold as a blade when facing an enemy. This was the first time he had such an appearance of weakness.
Did she still end up dragging him down? But she had done everything she could.
When she was sealed in that strange ice, unable to move or speak, she remained alive despite being unable to breathe. It was truly an indescribable state. However, she knew that she was bait, and that she had already been placed on the hook. If she wasn’t able to escape by herself, Ruan Zhan was going get hooked.
She didn’t know how much willpower a human could exert. She only knew she didn’t want Ruan Zhan to fall into danger. Therefore, she desperately focused her will on her palm where the talisman Ruan Zhan had drawn and her Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva amulet lay. She anxiously, determinedly focused all her mind. Gradually, she could actually feel her palm giving off heat. Finally, the two objects radiated red and yellow light that she could see despite being unable to move her head!
Once she could see the light, the ice around her suddenly shattered. She fell to the ground with a thud. It hurt a lot, but she was very happy. It felt extremely good to escape confinement. Then, she saw Elder Yan, whom she had been chasing after, trapped in another large block of ice. He had been parallel to her position so she hadn’t seen him all this time. At this moment, he was also in a conscious state.
She used the same method to free him. Only then did she find out he had always been there, but the illusion prevented her from seeing him. The elder had watched her take step after step into the blood river. He had been extremely anxious but unfortunately unable to stop her.
He was in relatively good condition apart from some scrapes and bruises. The two of them hurried back towards the outskirts of the mountain. Luckily Elder Yan knew this mountain like the palm of his hand. Otherwise, she would have gotten lost. However, one was old and the other a woman. No matter how robust the elder was and how determined the woman, it still took them a long time. Luckily, they managed to make it in time.
Xiao Xia had seen the two enchantresses entangling Ruan Zhan from far away. Ruan Zhan seemed powerless to struggle, and merely walked determinedly into the forest. It was like he had lost his sense of direction. Therefore, she had run over to help him without a second thought.
She no longer had suitable rocks to throw and the enemies weren’t behind her either. She could only use her amulet as a weapon and throw it out, randomly chanting the spell. Normally, chanting the spell wrongly would render it ineffective. In her haste, she didn’t consider this at all, and the gods actually helped her out!
Now she felt that he was cold as ice. She could only hug him in alarm, trying to warm him up a little.
“That won’t do.” The old man interjected, equally worried. “Rub snow over his body. Otherwise, he will be beyond saving by the time we get back.”
“No, he won’t! He’s definitely going to be fine!” Xiao Xia wasn’t willing to let him go as tears trickled down her face.
He definitely couldn’t die. He still owed her! She didn’t even understand whether or not he held her in his heart. One moment he was so gentle towards her yet so distant the next.
“Come, hurry and rub snow over him. Then we’ll take him back to the mountain villa!”
Xiao Xia hesitated. She sensed Ruan Zhan wasn’t like this due to being frozen. The chill around his body seemed to be coming from the inside.
“Hurry!” The elder urged.
“Will that really work?”
“The people in the mountain all treat frostbite this way!”
Before Xiao Xia finished speaking, the wind carried over fragmented sounds. She was first startled, but after listening carefully she realized there were voices calling her name.
“Who is coming to make trouble this time?” Xiao Xia grew angry in her grief. If she had a knife, she might have cut someone down at that moment. The person in her heart was currently unconscious, and some fiends have decided to come bully them?!
“That’s not it. Let me take a look! I think I see fire!” The old man looked towards the sound. Although he was almost three times her age, he was much more experienced in the mountains. As the flickering light approached, the old man realized it was a human voice calling her. Furthermore, five or six figures were heading their direction.
“People are coming!!! I think it’s that smiley youngster and…those brats from the villa!” The old man squinted in that direction and said excitedly. “It’s really them! Look, they’re coming closer!”
Xiao Xia didn’t let go of Ruan Zhan but stared with wide eyes in that direction. The light from a fire truly appeared in the darkness. She stared without blinking and finally saw that familiar figure. She couldn’t help but burst out crying.
“Wan Li, hurry and take a look at Ruan Zhan. He’s about to die!”
Wan Li was shocked. He hurried over and shone the burning torch onto Ruan Zhan’s face.
“Rub snow over him!” One of the people next to Elder Yan said.
He was one of the remaining staff in the villa. There were three men and four women in total. Apart from the girl who was unconscious and one of the male staff guarding her, Wan Li had brought over everyone else to search for them.
“No, he doesn’t seem to have been frozen!” Wan Li felt Ruan Zhan’s forehead and gave the same judgment as Xiao Xia. “He was struck by some sort of spell!”
“What should we do?” Xiao Xia asked anxiously.
Wan Li thought for a moment and handed Xiao Xia the torch. “Hopefully this thing will help.” He put the bloodwood sword against Ruan Zhan’s chest.
After gathering the people in the villa as instructed, he had found Xiao Xia and Ruan Zhan gone. He felt something wasn’t right the more he thought about it and decided to come find them.
He left behind a brave male staff in Xiao Xia’s room to watch over the traumatized girl. He was certain the tattered banner was sufficient to protect them. If a human had ill intent, that youngster was enough to put up some resistance. The other people would come with him. As long as they didn’t split up, the bloodwood sword should be able to handle things. It was thanks to the heavens, as well as one of them who was familiar with the place, that they successfully found the people they were looking for.
The bloodwood sword let out a faint glow when it encountered the fiendish aura left in Ruan Zhan’s body. The onlookers were extremely astonished but Wan Li wasn’t in the mood to hide things. He just stared at Ruan Zhan’s face. Seeing that he remained unconscious after a while, Xiao Xia suddenly stretched her left hand out and stuck it into Ruan Zhan’s clothes.
“Copping a feel at this time?!”
“Making jokes at this time?!”
The two of them seemed to be bickering but they both knew the other didn’t mean it.
“He drew a talisman on my left hand. It was effective against those monsters earlier.” Xiao Xia spoke as she placed her hand against Ruan Zhan’s chest. She felt the chill wasn’t something that belonged on a human. She shivered from the cold but determinedly kept her hand in place. She felt her palm warming up. Along with the bloodwood sword’s light, Ruan Zhan finally stirred after a long while and opened his eyes.
“Don’t look at me!” Wan Li let out a breath and became his usual self. “You’re being sexually harassed by a woman.”
“Enough nonsense, get off this mountain first!” Ruan Zhan struggled to respond.
The group spent the night rushing down the mountain. They were planning to leave this place by noon the next day and everyone was frozen stiff. Therefore, Elder Yan instructed them to burn the heat properly and they all gathered in Ruan Zhan’s suite. Ruan Zhan’s group of three stayed in the inner room while the rest stayed in the outer room, taking care of the traumatized girl and the old man.
Although the elder was robust, he was still old after all. Having suffered for half the night in the mountain, he finally couldn’t hold on and fell into deep slumber.
Of the three in the inner room, Wan Li was exhausted. Ruan Zhan had just suffered from fiendish aura, and after being awakened by the bloodwood sword’s purifying abilities and the talisman on Xiao Xia’s palm, he used his innate spirit power to recuperate. He recovered before long but his face was still a little pale. Xiao Xia was different. She had suffered a lot of scrapes and there was a knife wound deep enough to leave a scar on her arm. The cold and worry had also resulted in a high fever.
Luckily the villa had sufficient medical supplies. Wan Li and Ruan Zhan also knew basic medical treatment so they didn’t need to rush and send the injured people off the mountain. Although the snow had stopped, it was still cold and the roads were slippery. Furthermore, the enemy was still hidden. It was better to leave around noon.
When Ruan Zhan saw the mark on Xiao Xia’s arm, which had stopped bleeding but still showed peeled skin, her haggard face and frostbitten feet, his heart twisted in pain.
“I’m sorry.” She had told him before falling asleep. “I’ve brought you trouble again.”
“No, I was the one who implicated you. If you didn’t go get Elder Yan back, I would have felt even guiltier.” Ruan Zhan spoke as he stroked her feverish forehead. At the same time, he added a seal that made her drift off into sleep so she could recover faster.
“She also saved you from being raped by those two enchantresses!” Wan Li put his long legs on the coffee table. They had already exchanged accounts of what had happened.
Ruan Zhan recalled Xiao Xia shouting “I had my eye on this man first!” while he was semi-conscious and couldn’t help but smile.
“Why are you smiling so lewdly!?”
“None of your business. Tell me what you think of this matter.”
“We went from having no clues to having too many. It feels a little chaotic.” Wan Li shrugged. “We need to organize everything.”
“Based on the seemingly overt yet actually sneaky actions, there’s no doubt Yang Mu You is the one behind the scenes. It’s also certain that he actually got a Yinyang Master from Japan involved this time.”
“Were those enchantresses that Japanese person’s shikigami? Is this person hard to deal with?”
“He’s pretty good. At least he’s much stronger than Kenji Ganmura. He was able to plot against me!” Ruan Zhan took another glance at Xiao Xia as he spoke.
“That’s right. It seems we’re taking a beating passively again.” Wan Li curled up, making himself comfortable. “Luckily it’s already daytime. Do you think they had already prepared long in advance?”
“They definitely planned something, but I get the feeling it was a little rushed. Only the three of us knew we would come here. It’s not too far from here to the town. How could someone get here ahead of us? The person who set this up must have arrived before us.”
“Your analysis is spot on. I was just about to tell you. Guess who was missing when I gathered the people in the villa?”
“The other family staying here.” Ruan Zhan replied without having to think.
Wan Li let out a sigh. “Your mind is really quite something. You were able to notice that family despite being schemed against and almost getting eaten up by enchantresses. But guess where those people are from?”
“Isn’t it obvious? It’s those Japanese tourists that arrived a day before us!” Ruan Zhan sneered coldly. “That’s why they never showed themselves after we appeared. We didn’t even see them during mealtimes. Theoretically, no matter how powerful they are, they shouldn’t be able to summon shikigami so easily in a foreign place without acclimatizing themselves first. However, their shikigami are Yuki-Onna, and there happened to be such a large blizzard.”
“The situation always favors the bad guys. Well, think of it as increasing the difficulty of this level and it’ll be more exciting.”
“I guess.” Wan Li nodded. “I also pondered why the victims refuse to wear clothing. From what you said, that little ghost transforms into black smoke and wraps itself around them. Perhaps it feels a little like clothing? What a fucking pervert. He must have been a midget in his previous life who wasn’t able to copulate.”
“That’s not necessarily the case!” Ruan Zhan didn’t finish his thought. He had some suspicions, but wasn’t certain yet. “I’m guessing he must be a good sapling for a top tier shikigami. Therefore, those Japanese people weren’t here for us originally. But since we showed up, they naturally wouldn’t let us off.”
“So they came for the ghost?” Wan Li asked.
“It’s just a theory.” Ruan Zhan said. “Things are a mess right now and I can only make conjectures. This little ghost didn’t just come out randomly. It has to be related to that house, and the one who built it. Furthermore, it also has to be related to Yang Mu You. Otherwise, he wouldn’t always be a step ahead of us. He must have released it, lured Xiao Xia away and then lured me after her. He had the Japanese form a grudge against me and then sat back and watched.”
“You mean that Japanese person is here for revenge?”
“Maybe not!” Ruan Zhan thought for a moment. “I feel like he wasn’t overly hostile. It seems he just wanted to defeat me and did his best to protect that little ghost. He probably wants to capture it. As for why he came here, it must be related to the little ghost’s origin. It’s an earthbound spirit and its resentment is very deep. It must have come to complete its wish. The Japanese must have come to help it so he can successfully tame it.”
“So sending those enchantresses after you was just an afterthought, or perhaps a probe? Of course, it would have been best if you were dealt with or if you were forced to reveal all your cards. However, they lost the rice used to lure the chicken this time. Although we suffered a little, I heard you say that if a shikigami gets injured, its master gets injured too, right?”
“That’s right. However, I don’t know if those three enchantresses belong to those three Japanese people, or if they all belong to one person!” Ruan Zhan frowned. Not knowing the enemy’s situation was his biggest concern.
“Who cares? Things will all work out in the end.” Wan Li was innately optimistic so he wasn’t as cautious as Ruan Zhan. “Didn’t our little white shirt also injure a Yuki-Onna? They clearly weren’t too powerful.”
“It isn’t like that. Xiao Xia is innately lucky.” Ruan Zhan shook his head. “The two times she struck just happened to be when the Yuki-Onna were distracted. Moreover, she had my talisman and the precious amulet. It was a successful ambush, but it won’t work a second time. It’s too dangerous.”
“True. Aren’t we heading down the mountain around noon? Are you planning to check out the town?”
“There’s no point in staying here any longer. Let’s go investigate the town and see what we can connect the little ghost with. I want to know what happened between it and those craftsmen. It’s been so many years but its resentment hasn’t faded.”
“We also have to prevent it from teaming up with the Japanese to harm people.” Wan Li slapped his leg. “This is unacceptable. In this day and age, they are welcome to spend their Japanese yen here, but we won’t tolerate them rampaging around!”
“The answer is definitely in the town. We can’t disappoint the hidden Yang Mu You!”
“That’s right. But what about the people outside who can hear what we’re saying and know what we’re doing?” Wan Li pointed to the door. “Your secret can’t be revealed to too many people.”
“It’s fine. We’ll just wipe their memories and replace them with something else according to our needs.” Ruan Zhan said unfeelingly.
“Idiot, that’s called deep hypnosis! You heartless fellow, don’t you even understand this?!”