What should she do?
Some weird things were coming in, but she seemed to be the only one in the world who knew about them. The ethnic girl was still blocking the door, not moving or saying anything. She merely stared at Xiao Xia and refused to let her leave!
“Ruan Zhan! Wan Li!” She mustered up her courage and shouted again, but there was still no reaction.
Jumbled yet regular hopping could be heard, indicating the strange group of people was entering the inn.
She could only rely on herself!
This fact bolstered Xiao Xia’s courage. She lowly edged towards the side of the bed, looking timidly towards the door. She wanted to find a chance to barge past that ethnic girl. She really couldn’t think of any other ideas!
She clutched her amulet as she felt around with her feet for her shoes.
She made contact with them but ended up kicking them aside. She tried to hook them over with her foot while keeping an eye on the ethnic girl. Once, twice, three times. How were they getting further and further away? She couldn’t even reach them anymore!
“Guest, are you looking for these?” A voice suddenly rang out by her feet.
Xiao Xia sucked in a cold breath and saw a dark figure crouched on either side of her. Each one held a shoe in their hands! It wasn’t clear when they appeared.
“Ah Mi, Ah Bo, she slept in my bed!” The motionless ethnic girl suddenly shrieked before drifting over angrily.
Xiao Xia swiftly shrank into the corner of the bed, watching the three unexpected visitors in terror.
The two crouching figures got up under her gaze as though digging themselves out from the ground. They slowly moved in front of her and stood with that ethnic girl, looking down upon Xiao Xia.
The other two also wore ethnic clothing. They were a middle-aged couple, dark, skinny, old and ugly. At this time though, they smiled at Xiao Xia, their expressions weirdly rigid. They were looking at Xiao Xia but their gaze then drifted behind her, making her back turn numb.
Was there something behind her?
“Ah Hua, don’t speak to guests like that!” The man said. “We must serve the guest. Ah Mi…”
Without waiting for him to finish, the woman next to him brought out a platter and offered it towards Xiao Xia. There was something black upon it. It seemed like a rice cake, but was already rotting and foul. The large black ants native to the woods in the mountain were crawling in and out of the rice cake!
“Eat!” She said. The platter almost reached Xiao Xia’s nose.
Instinctively, Xiao Xia swung her hand and knocked it away. It crashed against the wall, making an earth-shattering sound! It was actually corporeal, just like the hands Xiao Xia had inadvertently touched earlier!
Following the noise, everyone suddenly fell silent. Xiao Xiao was silent from fear but the three ethnic ghosts seemed to have been offended. They all glared at Xiao Xia!
“Wasting food! Sinner! Sinner!” The three cried as one, lowering their heads.
Xiao Xia felt a bone-chilling cold rushing over along with the dampness of mud, preventing her from breathing steadily. She could only lean against the bamboo wall and clutch her amulet. She was about to invoke the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva’s name when she heard two sounds at the same time.
Then came the footsteps, steady and oppressive. It was the strange person with the bamboo hat, leading that strange group in tow up the stairs! Furthermore, they were gradually approaching Xiao Xia’s room.
The door to the room opened silently. Those strange people stood outside the door. The three ethnic ghosts automatically moved aside, allowing that person to see Xiao Xia.
The bright moon shone upon that person. Xiao Xia noticed that the clothes weren’t made of white cloth. It was a woven straw raincoat. It was covered in drops of rain but they didn’t trickle downwards. They seemed to turn silver-white under the moon’s reflection.
The conical bamboo hat was pulled low. Xiao Xia opened her eyes wide and desperately tried to see the face underneath. However, she felt that there wasn’t anything there, only impenetrable darkness.
The person walked over, not forgetting to ring the bell in his hand. The row of “people” behind also hopped inside the room. At this moment, Xiao Xia’s room was crowded, but there was only the sound of Xiao Xia’s panicked breathing!
“She slept in my bed!” The ethnic girl cried out again. It was always the same words, but this time it felt like she was tattling.
The person walked over and leaned down to look at Xiao Xia. Despite the close proximity, she still couldn’t see the face!
The person made no sound and merely remained face to face with her. Suddenly, the person reached out and grabbed her neck. Before Xiao Xia could struggle, she was thrown out of the window!
Xiao Xia landed heavily on the floor but didn’t feel that much pain. There was only a jolt and the surroundings didn’t seem quite right. In her daze, the sound of footsteps rang out and a pair of legs appeared in front of her. The man lifted her up and put her back in bed.
“What nightmare were you having? You even fell off the bed?” Ruan Zhan’s gentle voice sounded out.
What? It was a dream? No wonder Ruan Zhan didn’t come save her. Turns out it was all a dream! But was it really?!
Xiao Xia choked back a sob and described what had just happened.
Ruan Zhan frowned as he listened.
This dream was too weird. If it was really a dream, Xiao Xia needed some therapy. Having nightmares constantly must mean there was something wrong with her mentally. However, it was also possible that someone was secretly doing something sinister, pulling Xiao Xia into an illusion. He had seen the Dreamkill technique before after all.
They were in the open while their opponent was hidden. It was hard for them to turn the tables each time, but they had no other choice. This time they knew they would become targets as they got close to the truth, but they still had to proceed. They didn’t care about Guan Zheng’s death, but it caused Yang Mu You and Huang Bo Heng to get involved. They needed to figure out where “Yang Mu You” came from. He strongly felt it had something to do with Naman, and with this mountain.
“Did you get any information about this inn?” Xiao Xia was completely awake by now, but still pretended to be afraid, remaining within Ruan Zhan’s arms and leaning on him. “Was there a couple with a daughter?”
She had heard at the foot of the mountain that the words for daddy and mommy were “Ah Bo and Ah Mi” according to the traditional dialect.
“No, there’s only supposed to be an elderly person.” Ruan Zhan blurted out a lie.
This inn was truly run by a couple along with their sixteen-year-old daughter.
“That’s good then. In my dream, that young girl kept saying I was sleeping in her bed! She was so angry, constantly telling me to leave!” Xiao Xia couldn’t help but shiver. “I thought maybe the innkeepers got murdered and wanted my life in return!”
Ruan Zhan stroked Xiao Xia’s soft hair. Before he could respond, the sound of footsteps brought Wan Li.
“Is something happening?” He walked inside as he spoke. Xiao Xia hurriedly sat up straight.
“Great Fortuneteller Ruan, why didn’t you wake me up? Aren’t you afraid a female ghost will steal me away as her groom?” Wan Li’s feet were still bare. He had clearly hurried over, but he actually held the bloodwood sword in hand.
Ruan Zhan had hurriedly left it next to him for the sake of protecting the deeply sleeping someone.
“You can scram further away. I miss my peace.”
“If I really left, you would miss me. If I died….”
He sat down on the bed as he spoke. Xiao Xia hurriedly leapt up and covered his mouth. “It’s the middle of the night. Don’t speak nonsense!”
“Are you afraid of me dying?” Wan Li asked with shining eyes.
“If you say that word again, I swear I won’t speak to you for three days.” Xiao Xia was a little angry. She felt it was very inauspicious to say such things in this strange wilderness.
“Fine, fine, fine, I’m afraid of you. I won’t say it. However…”
Before he finished speaking, a knocking sounded from downstairs.
This unexpected noise interrupted their conversation, causing the three immediately to fall silent.
Xiao Xia’s heart tensed and she looked at Ruan Zhan. He stood up with a serious expression and walked swiftly to the door. His steps were very light.
She then looked at Wan Li who smiled comfortingly and said quietly: “It’s not an illusion. We all heard it.”
Xiao Xia didn’t say anything and put on her shoes. She thought of her earlier dream and felt a little creeped out.
“Should we go check it out? It’s so annoying!” Wan Li asked in an extremely quiet voice.
“Staying put is better than making a move.” Ruan Zhan muttered.
“But if it’s some sinister plot, they might end up succeeding after repeated attempts. Shouldn’t we be more proactive instead of taking a beating all the time?!”
His words struck at Ruan Zhan’s discomfort. Ever since they started going against “Yang Mu You”, he had always been on the defensive. Even though he reminded himself not to act blindly, he still ended up unwittingly becoming fidgety.
“You two stay here and don’t move!” He decided to go check it out.
“No, wait, listen to me.” Wan Li once again expressed dissent. “The situation is uncertain so we cannot split up. It’s safer to remain together. What do you think?”
Ruan Zhan muttered to himself for a while, unable to make up his mind. However, the knocking sounded once again, seeming to urge him into a decision. He finally nodded.
“Alright. You take the bloodwood sword. Xiao Xia will be in the middle! Come!”
Ruan Zhan took the lead and walked out of the room. Xiao Xia and Wan Li followed silently.
The sky grew dark once again as the moon was covered up. The inn was dark with only the faintest light.
The sound came once again. It was sometimes rapid, sometimes slow, without any regularity. Furthermore, the source of the sound drifted, making it impossible to determine where it came from.
Ruan Zhan got to the stairs and seemed to purposefully make it creak. He walked downstairs impulsively. He was normally a steady person and his current actions seemed to be a demonstration of strength. He felt that since the opponent wanted to lure them out, it was no use no matter how careful they were. They might as well be more confident. Clang, clang, clang….when they reached the dining area, they finally felt the sound was getting closer. It sounded like someone knocking against something porcelain, not a knock against the door. Yet as they tried to listen carefully, trying to determine the direction, the sound suddenly vanished. The silence seemed malicious. Who was causing mischief? What was the goal? Should they go back upstairs or thoroughly investigate? Ruan Zhan had another decision to make. He had thoroughly inspected this inn when they first arrived. On the left of the dining room was the kitchen and on the right was the storage. There were more utensils inside the kitchen so it was more likely the knocking was coming from there.
He quickly made up his mind to investigate the kitchen himself. He waved his hand at the other two, motioning for them to remain in place.
He could see in the dark clearly, but he had forgotten the other two could not. Xiao Xia and Wan Li only saw him waving a hand in the dark, and assumed he wanted them to check out the storage room on the other side. Therefore, after Ruan Zhan left, they walked towards that pitch black room.
There was a snap and a flame appeared. Xiao Xia shut her eyes at the sudden light. She turned to look and saw Wan Li had flicked on his lighter.
Under the swaying flame, Wan Li’s face seemed a little sinister. He didn’t look like himself!
“Take this.” Wan Li stuffed the bloodwood sword into Xiao Xia’s hand. He stood sideways, one hand holding hers and the other holding the lighter, illuminating the storage room with faint light.
Only Ruan Zhan had come here during the day. They didn’t know this place was rather large. Wan Li’s lighter wasn’t enough to let them see the wall on the opposite side.
Xiao Xia stumbled but was pulled forward by Wan Li before she could react. She felt something was hiding in the dark behind the various objects. It would grow still when the light swept past, but the moment it was dark it would bare its fangs. The further in they went, the more it felt like sheep entering the tiger’s den.
She shuffled forward slowly, repeatedly looking around in the dark, afraid of something following behind them. Suddenly, she stepped on something soft. That thing was alive, startling her into crying out and jumping.
A shrill meow sounded out. The thing by Xiao Xia’s foot leapt on the pile of stuff beside her. In the dark, deep green eyes glared at her. Its back was arched and it hissed threateningly. Although she couldn’t see it clearly, Xiao Xia sensed that cat’s hairs were standing on end, looking like it was about to commit murder!
“The cat Guan Zheng was trying to capture!” Xiao Xia immediately recognized the cat with overly large eyes and blurted out.
When Wan Li heard her, he immediately moved the lighter over. At the same time, he grabbed an empty sack next to him and threw it over the cat’s head! The black cat dodged nimbly and the sack fell to one side. It leapt out the half-open bamboo window and vanished into the darkness.
“Cats aren’t as easy to catch as dogs!” Wan Li grumbled.
At this time, they had already walked to the end of the room. There weren’t any porcelain things at all. It was filled with various sacks full of some sort of large leaves.
“Let’s go back!” Xiao Xia hugged herself and felt it was strangely cold.
They had only taken a few steps when something clattered behind them. They turned around. One of the sacks the black cat had stepped on had fallen over. Beneath the sack, a small porcelain vase was revealed.
The porcelain was black and uneven. There seemed to be words carved upon it. It was a few inches tall, crowded within a bunch of sacks.
The sudden noise startled both of them.
The sound was very close, making them feel it was right in front of them. Upon listening carefully, they realized it was coming from that porcelain vase!
Clang, clang, clang.
Another wave of sounds. It seemed something was urgently trying to get out. The knocking became more and more pressing, and the jug seemed to be shaking!
Wan Li looked around and picked up a bamboo rod. He was about to take a look but was stopped by Xiao Xia.
“No, wait for Ruan Zhan!” She was extremely anxious and felt something wasn’t right.
What could be inside? Why was it making knocking sounds? Ghost? Fiend? What else could it be?
“It’s fine, I won’t break it. I’m just taking a look!” Wan Li comforted Xiao Xia.
He was also nervous but couldn’t help his curiosity.
He slowly walked over, the lighter held high.
The black porcelain vase had fallen silent. However, this silence had an indescribable allure. It seemed to be saying “Come, open me! Come! Come!”
Wan Li stretched out the bamboo rod and looked to be about to rap it against the vase…
Xiao Xia and Ruan Zhan who had suddenly run inside called out at the same time!
Wan Li froze and the bamboo rod in his hand lightly landed on the porcelain vase. The amount of force wasn’t even enough to break a piece of paper, but the porcelain suddenly shattered!