Xiao Xia mentally prepared herself outside the Nocturnal Revenant before going inside. Wan Li had something come up last minute and wasn’t able to come. Therefore, she had no one to rely on and could only harden her scalp and do it herself.
She had figured Ruan Zhan would be facing inwards busy with work. However, she had just pushed open the door when he happened to turn around. The two of them abruptly locked eyes.
“Hey, long time no see.” She hurriedly greeted him. She felt her face was a little flushed and it was extremely awkward.
“Looks like you’re very busy towards the end of the year. You’ve almost forgotten the way here, haven’t you?” Ruan Zhan smiled gently at her, his expression extremely natural. It was completely the attitude one would have towards a good friend, and was no different from before.
Xiao Xia cursed herself for being useless and not knowing what to say. Luckily Ni Yang and Liu Tie ran over and greeted her warmly, saving her from her predicament. Otherwise she’d be standing there foolishly.
It seemed that Ruan Zhan didn’t remember the matter that day, as though it had never happened. She was the one keeping it in mind and being awkward about it. In reality, nothing would change. Men wouldn’t pay particular attention to a woman they weren’t interested in. Good, good. Otherwise she really didn’t know how to face him!
Xiao Xia thought this and snuck a few more glances at Ruan Zhan. Seeing his calm and gentle attitude towards her, which was cordial yet not too intimate, reserved yet not too distant, she relaxed a little. She cursed herself again for being hung up over things by herself and being worried for nothing all this time!
She chatted with Liu Tie and Ni Yang while also chatting with some of the regular customers. Gradually, she finally became more natural.
Ruan Zhan who had been secretly observing from the side also relaxed after seeing her slowly become at ease.
He knew Xiao Xia was an extremely shy woman when it came to romance. Her question on Christmas Eve was probably a confession of sorts for her, but for certain reasons, he hadn’t been able to accept it.
It wasn’t that he didn’t like her. In truth, she meant a lot to him. She filled his world, melting the ice in his heart and brightening his hazy life.
She hadn’t appeared in two months due to the awkwardness. His longing for her cracked his heart, allowing cold wind to blow in and erasing the final thread of warmth.
When he heard Liu Tie and Ni Yang pestering her to come, he had been restless the entire day. Yet since he was afraid she would be uneasy, he still had to put on an unperturbed appearance.
However, when she appeared before him, his heart was beating like a drum. He had to put all his effort into making her think he didn’t remember that matter at all.
This absolutely wasn’t as simple as liking her!
He figured he had fallen in love with her, but unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be. Therefore, it was better to act oblivious. This way he won’t end up harming her and they would get along more naturally as well. At the least he could remain by her side as her friend and protect her. This was also the only thing he could do for her.
“I’m going to City A on a business trip for a month.” Xiao Xia saw the number of customers gradually increasing and no longer kept the two guys busy chatting, letting them get to work. Instead, she walked over to the bar to say her farewells.
Ruan Zhan was in the middle of cutting something and practically cut himself.
“I’m leaving tomorrow morning.” Xiao Xia continued. She glanced at his hand. She was relieved at the lack of blood.
“I’ll go see you off.” Ruan Zhan said, feeling a wave of reluctance to part. He wouldn’t see her for another month again.
“No need. Wan Li will be there. He lives closer to me anyway.” Xiao Xia stretched out her hand. “I have to head back to pack now. You know, it’s a lot of hassle when women travel. I’ll say goodbye in advance, then.”
Ruan Zhan hesitated for a moment but didn’t say goodbye. Instead, he grabbed her outstretched hand. “Don’t busy yourself with goodbyes just yet. Come with me.”
He pulled her towards the stairs, making her very bewildered. However, she liked the feeling of his large hand wrapped around hers so she followed without a word.
Inside Ruan Zhan’s room, he pulled out several talismans hidden inside a book from his drawer. “This is for you. Of course, it’s not that valuable. However, since Wan Li keeps calling me a fortune-teller, I should give you some relevant gifts. You probably need to find a place to live while you’re away.”
“The company there will arrange my housing.”
“That’s great. However, the environment will still be different. You’ve got a weak constitution so putting these up will help.”
For the sake of dealing with that century-old spirit’s threat, he had been cultivating the whole time recently. He also put a lot of effort into breaking the seal on his powers. These talismans were the result of his recent efforts and were rather powerful. Hopefully they could protect Xiao Xia.
His current attitude towards her was that as long as she wasn’t by his side, he wouldn’t feel at ease. This is probably what was meant by care causes chaos.
“Great.” Xiao Xia received the talismans and was very happy for his concern. “Thank you. You can call me when you’re free. Liu Tie and Ni Yang both have my number. Ah…I forget you don’t like using cellphones.”
“It’s fine. I will call.” Ruan Zhan promised.
The company arranged the driver to bring Xiao Xia to her arranged residence. She was very surprised to see it was actually a three-storied white little western building.
She had never stayed in such a place before, so despite having only rented out a single room on the third floor, she still felt it was very novel.
“Miss, is this room to your liking?” The owner asked. “Although it isn’t this hotel’s best room, it’s very quiet. The biggest room is already booked by another customer.”
“This room is very good already. Thank you.” Xiao Xia wasn’t a picky person. She smiled and nodded at the owner.
This owner introduced himself as Lan San, but she had heard the neighbors calling him Lazy Three.
“Is this the off season for this hotel? There don’t seem to be many guests.” She asked casually. The owner’s expression unexpectedly changed. “Miss, don’t listen to the people speaking nonsense outside. This place is very good.”
Xiao Xia felt his hurried declaration was a little strange. She had come here straight after getting off the plane. They had given her today to rest so she would only need to go into the office the next day. How could she have heard any rumors or gossip?
“What is it?” She asked curiously.
“It’s nothing. It’s just…I usually rent out rooms just for the day. Normally we get a lot of couples from the university.”
“Oh, so that’s what it is.” Xiao Xia assumed his hemming and hawing was due to his unwillingness to admit this place was being used by couples for their trysts and didn’t ask further. “Well then. Thank you for showing me to the room. I’ve got it from here. I need to tidy up my things first since I’m going to be staying here for a month!”
“I wish you a pleasant stay, miss.” Lazy Three answered before leaving the room.
He wasn’t planning on telling this young lady the truth. In reality, ever since the second murder case, this place had been closed for two months. After the New Year, he had been granted permission to reopen, but despite reducing the rates, not a single customer had come. After all, those aware of the situation definitely wouldn’t come to such a scary place again. Those couples would rather go somewhere distant than risk getting drawn and quartered by some unknown killer.
Right as he was at wits end, fortune suddenly smiled upon him. First was an international student who liked this western building’s style and signed a long-term stay contract, paying several months’ of rent in one go. Then, a company booked a room for a new incoming worker and also paid for a month’s rent.
He figured that not only did this alleviate his financial difficulties, it would also improve his hotel’s reputation if they managed to leave safely.
As his old ancestor used to say, third time’s the charm. He believed that nothing would happen this time.
While Lazy Three rejoiced over the turn of luck, Xiao Xia was busy unpacking her stuff. Someone knocked on her room.
Outside the door was a young man around twenty. He was neat and tidy, not too tall, and wore a pair of glasses. He looked refined but gave off a shrewd and calculating feeling.
“I’m your neighbor so I stopped by to say hi. Miss, I hear you’re going to stay here for a while. Perhaps I’ll have to inconvenience you moving forward!”
He nodded politely. His speech was fluent but his tone was a little stiff. He didn’t seem to be Chinese. Along with his East-Asian features, Xiao Xia guessed he was either Korean or Japanese.
“I’m from Japan. My name is Kenji Ganmura. I came here to study abroad.” He seemed to have noticed Xiao Xia’s musing and took the initiative to respond.
Xiao Xia wasn’t good at small talk so she only responded with a few random phrases.
“Miss doesn’t like Japanese people?” Kenji Ganmura asked.
“I don’t have any particular opinions on Japanese people.” Xiao Xia didn’t like his inquisitive attitude and answered frankly. “However, since we’re going to be neighbors, I’m sure we will get along very well. I have to unpack my things now. Can we chat some other time?”
“Of course.” Kenji Ganmura said evenly. “Sorry for bothering you. Hopefully we can become friends.”
Xiao Xia nodded at him before shutting the door to her room.
Kenji Ganmura stood in the hallway for a while, muttering to himself. “What a cute and beautiful young lady. Looks like he’s going to be lured out. Ai, shame, shame. Well, it can’t be helped.”
However, nothing happened the entire night because Xiao Xia didn’t stay in the hotel. She had a college classmate who was from City A. She had planned on just meeting up but her friend ended up passionately urging her to stay. In the end, she stayed over at her friend’s place and they gossiped the entire night. The next day, she went back to the hotel to change and went to work. She only returned around dinner time.
Meals were included in her stay and the work during the day wasn’t too heavy. This made her extremely cheerful. She started touring the hotel after dinner.
She first strolled around the five rooms of the third floor. Apart from her and that Japanese person called Kenji Ganmura or whatever, there were two empty rooms. The owner lived in the attic but he actually let the cleaning lady, who was also the cook, stay in the fifth room. Was the owner being generous? But he had such a stingy appearance. Was Sis Wang special to him? But he kept ordering her about. It was truly puzzling.
There wasn’t much to see on the second floor. It was similar to the third floor. But when she reached the first floor, she felt a hint of a chill and the sensation of being watched.
This made her shiver and hug herself. She looked around to see if maybe a door or window had been left open but everything looked fine. The wind was coming from a hallway on the left side of the lobby.
That hallway was dark and seemed to lead to the basement. But wasn’t the basement enclosed? Why would there be wind?
She thought this and subconsciously headed in that direction. When she reached the corner, she suddenly heard quiet voices up ahead. The voices weren’t clear but she could tell it was a male and a female voice.
“Who’s there?” She asked. She suddenly felt a strong wave of terror and involuntarily took a few steps back. She knocked into something soft behind her. At the same time, a hand patted her on the shoulder and a vile stench was carried along by the wind.