Ruan Zhan awoke from a nightmare covered in cold sweat.
Ever since he was brought to his adopted father by a ghost when he was five, he had never had any nightmares.
In this one, Xiao Xia had been wrapped up by a snake. It constricted tighter and tighter until she was crushed, fresh blood dripping. He kept trying to save her but wasn’t able to wade through that river no matter how he tried. He could only watch as she died!
Seeing her die in front of him was a pain that made his heart crumble.
Something must have happened to her! Ruan Zhan trusted his intuition.
He was someone with “spiritual energy”. The more someone was on his mind, the more sensitive he would be regarding that person. Therefore, he was certain she was caught up in something. He had to go see what she had gotten herself into this time!
He ran over to Wan Li’s place in the middle of the night. “Give me Xiao Xia’s number.”
“Did something happen?” Wan Li asked worriedly. He knew something must be up for Ruan Zhan to come in the middle of the night.
“I have go to City A to take a look. I sense something will happen to her.”
“I’ll come with you!”
“No need. You aren’t as unfettered as I am. You still have your job. If I can’t handle it by myself, you’ll have no choice but to come anyway.” Ruan Zhan patted his backpack. “I’ve already made preparations and booked an early flight. I’ll arrive at nine in the morning.”
“She’s not already in trouble, right?” Wan Li had a lot of faith in Ruan Zhan’s intuition and was anxious to know the situation.
Ruan Zhan paused for a moment, seemingly probing his own feelings. In truth he wasn’t certain. Whenever Xiao Xia was involved, his emotions were completely chaotic. “She should be fine, but there’s definitely danger.”
“Alright, then you go ahead. I trust you can bring her back safely.” Wan Li wasn’t a fussy person. He no longer bickered after hearing the situation. “I can be the base of operations back here. If you need anything researched, just come bother me.”
“That is my intention as well.” He looked at the watch on his wrist. “Go ask which company she’s helping when you go in to work later. If I can’t find her right away, I’ll at least have a starting point.”
“Alright, leave it to me.” Wan Li responded.
After saying goodbye to Wan Li, Ruan Zhan made straight for the airport. Although he had booked the earliest flight possible and arrived at City A around the expected time, his heart was still burning with anxiety. This was because he had tried Xiao Xia’s phone several times but hadn’t been able to get through.
He could only call Wan Li and find out where she worked. Then, he posed as her boyfriend and went straight there to find her. He only found out then that she had asked off today because there had been a murder at the place she stayed in. She was currently at the police station providing a witness account.
Hearing that there had been a murder, he understood why he had been so uneasy. He didn’t feel any better hearing that she was at the police station. Therefore, he spared no effort in going to find her. When he was around ten meters from the police station’s doors, he happened to see her walking out.
However, there was a man by her side. He wasn’t tall but looked refined and shrewd. He had one hand around her shoulder and the other supporting her arm, appearing very concerned about her. Strangely, Xiao Xia didn’t reject it and was partly leaning against him.
“Xiao Xia!” He walked over, calling out subconsciously. He felt rather upset seeing her so intimate with another man. He didn’t know if this was jealousy. He wasn’t familiar with this emotion. He just knew he wanted to pull her out of that man’s arms.
Xiao Xia heard someone calling her and jumped. She looked up and saw Ruan Zhan standing there and thought she was dreaming. Because his appearance was so unexpected, she didn’t have time to control her emotions and tears welled up in her eyes.
“Ruan Zhan!” She called happily, taking a step towards him. However, the piercing pain coming from her foot made her fall forward with a cry. Ruan Zhan caught her in his arms.
In his arms, she let out a sigh of comfort. The constant panic she had felt suddenly disappeared.
“Careful!” He held her and was reluctant to let go. “So, what was it this time?”
This question made Xiao Xia snap awake from her dreamy reunion.
That’s right. She encountered another situation! She didn’t want to get Ruan Zhan involved in her problems again. Therefore, she hurriedly straightened herself but the pain in her foot prevented her from standing steady.
“Stop acting tough.” He went over, holding her waist and letting her lean against him. He also seamlessly crowded the unfamiliar man away to the side.
“Tell me, what happened to your foot?” He asked.
Her foot was clearly injured. This was clear not just from her expression, but also her appearance. She wore men’s shoes on both feet and one of them didn’t touch the ground. She kept it suspended in the air the whole time, and whenever it touched the ground she would cry out in pain.
But did these shoes belong to that man? What was his relationship with Xiao Xia?
“Your face as well.” He didn’t wait for a response and continued asking.
At such a close distance, he could clearly see a scratch mark on her face stretching from her temples to her chin. The red mark was a startling contrast to her fair skin. This made his heart ache and he subconsciously stroked it, not considering the intimacy of the gesture.
Xiao Xia felt sweetness yet also panic at his closeness. Her face let her down by turning red. “It’s nothing. Last night…the place I was staying in had a murder case.” She said quietly, as though it were her fault. “However, the police already dealt with it. No need for concern.”
“I was asking about your injuries.”
“Oh. Those were from when Miss Xiao Xia stepped on broken glass after leaving the room.” Kenji Ganmura responded. “The scratch on her face was an accident.”
“This is my neighbor, Mister Kenji Ganmura.” Xiao Xia saw Ruan Zhan’s confusion and explained. “He helped me a lot.”
“No, it’s not to that extent.” Kenji Ganmura hurriedly said. “We just united against a common enemy. Furthermore, Miss Xiao Xia is the bravest girl I’ve ever seen.”
Hearing this, Ruan Zhan knew Xiao Xia must have played the hero again. Otherwise, the talismans he gave her should have kept her safe.
“Let’s find somewhere to rest before speaking. It’s best if we splinted your foot.” Ruan Zhan frowned and hailed a taxi, helping Xiao Xia get in. He completely shut that Japanese person off from getting any closer.
Kenji Ganmura watched from the side knowingly but he didn’t argue.
After everything was sorted out, Xiao Xia finally explained the entire matter to Ruan Zhan once they were by themselves, including the events in the morning.
That early morning, the police graced the love motel with their presence a third time. However, this time the deceased was the owner, Lan San.
He had been cut in half at the waist. His upper body hung in the small window, supported by a segment that still hung over the windowsill. He stuck out horizontally in a weird manner, as though inserted into the wall. His arms drooped and they swayed in the cold winter wind as though waving to the people below.
His face was pale grey in an indescribable way. His eyes were tightly shut but there was no lingering resentment. His lower half lay on the floor of the attic, surrounded by his organs that had fallen out.
Before the police could close the scene off, every passerby had seen it and suffered enormous shock. This included the three “survivors” of the building.
Actually they had suffered an even greater shock. This was because the moment they stepped outside Kenji Ganmura’s door, they had seen the floor covered in blood. It was seeping through the attic floor, dripping downwards. Sis Wang was the first to notice and started crying and screaming on the spot.
Xiao Xia had failed to notice that despite having put on all her clothes properly, she hadn’t worn her shoes in the chaos. Consequently, she was injured when she stepped with her bare feet onto the broken beer bottle Lan San had thrown.
After the police arrived, they were busy with investigating the scene. She had been escorted to the hospital by one of them to treat her wound. Then, after going to the police station to provide her witness testimony, she had run into Kenji Ganmura doing the same. The men’s shoes on her feet had been provided by the police. She had been barefoot the entire time, and after her foot was bandaged she had even more trouble putting on her own shoes.
As for their claims, the police definitely didn’t believe them. They at most assumed someone pretended to be a ghost to carry out this murder. She naturally understood this and the Japanese person seemed to understand as well. Only Sis Wang refused to let it rest, doing her utmost to prove her words.
However, Xiao Xia was truly extremely curious and angry at this case. This sort of killing method wasn’t just savage, it was even perverse! No matter whether the culprit was human or ghost, they couldn’t be let off lightly!
Despite this, she had already decided not to get Ruan Zhan involved. Therefore, she merely gave him a rough account and didn’t tell him her true thoughts. She wanted to wait for her foot to heal up more before questioning Sis Wang, and see if there were any similarities between this latest case and the previous two. Then, she would use her own experiences to put everything together and hand it to the police. Hopefully someone capable could swiftly seek justice for the dead!
Ruan Zhan listened silently and didn’t express any opinions. When that Japanese person was mentioned, he asked about him in particular detail, including his actions, speech and habits.
“In any case, he could be said to have helped me. However, I don’t like him.” Xiao Xia said. She was dense enough that she didn’t notice Ruan Zhan seeming to let out a breath of relief. “I’ve heard Japanese guys are all polite and shy on the surface, but he’s a little too shy. He’s always sneaking glances instead of looking at people directly. It’s like he’s planning something.”
“It’s fine if you keep your distance.” Ruan Zhan said, downplaying it.
He was actually very suspicious of Kenji Ganmura. It wasn’t just his manner and air. It was mainly Ruan Zhan’s senses. When they returned to the hotel, he knew Xiao Xia had been very scared. Although there were police officers roaming the place, she still randomly stuffed her things in her suitcase and wished nothing more than to leave quickly. Furthermore, she wildly shook everything out, as though deeply afraid of bringing something foul along.
Ruan Zhan had pretended to be observing the surroundings and secretly watched the Japanese person for a bit. He noticed that although there was no obvious reaction, his movements had sped up as though he sensed someone observing him. Obviously the observer was not one of the policemen.
Ruan Zhan knew that based on his ability to hide his presence, ordinary people without spiritual energy or the art of Dao wouldn’t have been able to notice him. However, that Japanese person had noticed, yet still pretended to be oblivious. This was strange.
Most importantly, despite his actions having sped up, Ruan Zhan still noticed him carefully put a red painted wooden box into his suitcase.
That lacquered box was rather exquisite, covered with complicated carved flowers. It was a perfect piece of art. However, it was locked with an equally exquisite lock, making it seem especially mysterious.
Furthermore, despite having only seen it for a brief moment, Ruan Zhan had still noticed hidden words behind those flowers. They seemed to be some sort of spell. He didn’t understand Japanese and didn’t know for sure. It was just that sort of feeling.
The police’s questioning didn’t absolve him of anything. If he had Daoist arts, he could easily have used some concealment spell to avoid suspicion. But what was that lacquerware for? What was inside? Who was this Japanese person? Why would he appear here?
Why did that fiend attack the hotel? Why was there no ghostly aura left behind?
The various unresolved questions occupied Ruan Zhan’s mind.
At the same time, within this lodging they had checked into at the last minute, Kenji Ganmura was fiddling with that red painted box lovingly.
“I will accomplish your wish! Patience, patience! However, you must also accomplish mine.” He crooned lightly as though singing.
From within the box came the sound of knocking as the response.