No ghost or fiend leapt out. There was only a black liquid inside the vase that looked like crude oil. As the vase shattered, the black liquid quickly drained away. Due to the surrounding sacks and the darkness, it wasn’t clear whether it had seeped through the floor.
When nothing happened after a moment, Wan Li let out a breath and turned around with a smile. “You two gave me a fright. I thought there would be something scary!”
Xiao Xia was still in a startled state. Seeing him smile childishly with his head tilted, she suddenly felt her heart soften. She was about to speak, but as she lowered her head she saw a strand of black liquid flowing out from beneath the sack. It was the stuff from the jug. It hadn’t seeped into the bamboo floorboards. Instead, it was flowing towards them!
It meandered towards them like a black snake. It silently arrived next to Wan Li’s foot, which was still bare!
“Look out!” Xiao Xia essentially screamed. She subconsciously felt an inexplicable, incomparable fear, as though she were about to lose something important.
She still held the bloodwood sword but was several steps away from Wan Li. She didn’t have time to pull him away, and could only instinctively throw the bloodwood sword towards the black liquid that was approaching his foot.
Right as the black liquid touched Wan Li’s toe, the bloodwood sword landed with a thud. Due to the sacks strewn about the floor, only the tip of the sword landed on the floor. The majority rested on a sack.
However, that sword tip happened to land in front of the black liquid. Not only did it block its ambush, it also caused Wan Li to leap backwards instinctively with a cry, temporarily avoiding it.
There was a hiss as if the black liquid were alive. It split into two and squirmed as if heavily injured. It scattered, turning from one thick black snake into two thin streams. Although its flow rate had abruptly decreased, it still stubbornly slithered towards Wan Li’s feet. It was still extremely fast. Before Wan Li knew what was going on, one part had already made its way underneath his foot. The other shot over towards Xiao Xia.
Xiao Xia had been completely focused on Wan Li, staring in shock at his foot. She didn’t even notice the other stream was attacking her. By the time she realized it, she was too late to dodge.
Am I going to die?
The thought flashed through her mind, but something tightened around her waist and she was thrown on top of the pile of sacks. A firebrand shot onto the black liquid, making it coil and twist like a tiny snake. Then, it turned into a foul gas and vanished!
“Are you alright?” Ruan Zhan supported Wan Li who was swaying slightly.
Wan Li was still holding the lighter up, but his face alternated between clear and pale under the light. He smiled weakly. “Looks like I’ve fallen into a trap again. I’m never going to hear the end of it!”
“What do you mean?”
“It means that I might have to rest for a while!” After speaking, the lighter suddenly fell to the floor.
Before the light vanished, Xiao Xia saw Wan Li tip over backwards, though Ruan Zhan was there to catch him.
“Wan Li!” Xiao Xia cried out. She wanted to jump off the sack but Ruan Zhan hurriedly stopped her. “Stay there and don’t move! Wait for me!”
He carried Wan Li to the dining room and gently put him on the floor. He came back and carried Xiao Xia out, not letting her feet touch the floor. Then, he swiftly formed a few seals with his hand and burned the remaining black liquid. Only then did he urgently return to the others.
In the dining room, Xiao Xia was at a loss, stroking Wan Li’s face and trying to wake him up. However, he wasn’t moving at all. Even his breathing was extremely weak, as though he could die at any moment.
“Listen, Xiao Xia.” Ruan Zhan cupped her chin with his hand and directed her attention to his words. “Wan Li probably got afflicted by Gu poison. The person who cast it must be found. I need you to stay here and guard him, by yourself!”
Xiao Xia felt a wave of terror upon hearing he was going to leave. However, she knew this wasn’t the time to make a fuss and immediately firmed her timid heart.
“I can depend on you, right?”
“You should know this place won’t remain peaceful. Therefore, be careful. You must remain safe.”
“I’ll wait for you to return!” Xiao Xia said with gritted teeth.
Seeing her weak yet determined expression, Ruan Zhan felt a hint of reluctance. However, he had to leave. He had no choice but to let her face the unknown in the night.
He had heard Xiao Xia’s startled cry and the cat while he was in the kitchen. He felt something wasn’t right and was about to go check it out, but some weeds by his feet had wrapped themselves around him. He had thought they were just fuel for the furnace, but the grass actually seemed to be alive, holding his legs fast and preventing him from leaving.
The grass was being controlled. Although it wasn’t strong, it was extremely hard to get free. This led to him being a step too late to stop Wan Li.
He didn’t know Gu techniques and could only judge based on his intuition. He also didn’t know whether the firebrand he learned would be effective against that strange black liquid. At the time he just desperately gave it a try. He had also glanced out the window and saw a blurry figure in the bushes behind the inn. He felt that person had been there for a long while before running up the left path in a panic after being spotted.
Someone sneaking around at this time was either the person who cast the Gu, or perhaps someone who was assigned to witness the deed. There were many methods of dispelling Gu, but that black liquid was too fierce and strange. It was used to deal with them. To take out someone as sturdy as Wan Li, it definitely wasn’t a simple Gu technique. Therefore, he needed to capture that person. Otherwise, things didn’t bode well for Wan Li!
Or rather, there wasn’t any other chance for him!
He couldn’t waste any time. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be able to catch up to that person!
Anxiously, he looked around for a moment and swiftly pulled aside a bamboo table by the door. He cut open his finger and drew the most powerful protective talisman. He put Wan Li in place before blocking him in with two tables.
He called Xiao Xia over and lightly drew on her eyelids with his bloodied finger.
“This will allow you to see what you shouldn’t be able to see. You might be very scared, but you’ll at least be able to see clearly!” He drew again on her forehead. “This will prevent you from being spotted. There’s also one on Wan Li’s forehead.”
“I’m not afraid. I’m not a burden. I’m also one of your companions!”
“I know, I know.” At that moment, he really wanted to embrace her but he didn’t have time. “If you aren’t able to remain hidden, touch this talisman with the bloodwood sword. It’ll break a hole through the wall. I’m afraid Wan Li won’t be able to help you. You have to do your best to protect him! If….”
He was extremely worried. Although there was no harmful aura within the inn at the moment, who knows what would happen once he left!? This was an extremely difficult choice either way.
“There are no ifs. I will wait here until you return. Don’t say anything else, hurry and go!”
Xiao Xia also ducked under the table. She wrapped an arm around Wan Li’s neck and put his head on her shoulder, allowing him to rest a little more comfortably. She no longer looked towards Ruan Zhan, her actions expressing her determination.
She really did want to look at him, but she was afraid she would grow weak if she did. She wasn’t a child anymore. She knew the seriousness of the situation! Wan Li’s life probably depended on these precious few seconds.
Ruan Zhan gritted his teeth. He drew something in the air and stepped out without turning around. By the time his foot fell, he was already on that branching road.
He had to hurry. Not only did he have to seize back Wan Li’s life, Xiao Xia’s life might also hang in the balance!
The sky started rumbling with thunder. Muted lightning arced across the forest sky. It seemed to be swirling around him, pursuing him, pressuring him, telling him a single word: quick.
He ran forward, focusing on the surroundings. He tried to sense for any auras nearby but there was nothing! After running for a stretch, it started raining. He was about to go mad from anxiety!
Wan Li! Xiao Xia! They had to hold on, they had to wait for him! The thoughts ran through his mind as he looked around the area!
Suddenly, a bolt of bright lightning cut through the air. Ten seconds later, an earthshattering roar of thunder rang above his head. An old tree had suffered an unfortunate calamity.
With the splitting of the tree, a startled cry rang out from behind it. Then, the bushes started to rustle as a figure ran through them.
Ruan Zhan immediately set off in pursuit. He stumbled over something behind the tree. He looked down and saw a pair of shoes. They were very old, very worn and were covered with embroidered flowers.
It was a pair of flower shoes.
He didn’t hesitate and ran off into the woods!
At the same time, Xiao Xia was feeling restless and afraid.
Although she had prepared herself mentally and was determined, the expected fear didn’t lessen at all.
Luckily Wan Li was next to her. Although he was unconscious, she still felt he was accompanying her so she wasn’t alone.
The rain started falling again and gusts of mountain wind struck against the bamboo door. It sounded like something was trying to get inside. The surroundings were pitch black but she could see very clearly due to the blood talisman Ruan Zhan had drawn on her eyelids.
Footsteps sounded on the stairs. From underneath the table, Xiao Xia could only see a pair of feet drifting down without touching the floor. It also didn’t take any steps. However, the sound of footsteps still rang out, one step at a time. Then, there was another pair of legs, and then a third. The legs were bare and they wore ordinary black cloth shoes.
“Ah Bo, Ah Mi, why haven’t the guests arrived yet!?” A girl’s voice rang out.
Xiao Xia immediately recognized the ethnic girl that didn’t want her to sleep on the bed! But hadn’t it all been a dream? If she really existed, then the other two were definitely her parents. Then wasn’t this inn owned by a family of ghosts?
So they had actually entered a ghostly inn! But Ruan Zhan was so powerful. What had prevented him from realizing it all along?
She held Wan Li and was terrified of being discovered. Although Ruan Zhan had drawn invisibility talismans on both of them, Wan Li was too tall and large. His legs were stretched out. If the three ghosts noticed the table had been moved and floated over to move it back, they would definitely run into his legs! They would get discovered!
The bloodwood sword wasn’t quite right either. It was clearly next to her hand, but for some reason it didn’t reveal the beautiful red light it usually did when encountering evil!
“Raincoat is busy herding ghosts!” It was the woman who hadn’t spoken previously.
At these words, the three ghosts suddenly fell silent. They stood in a neat row less than two feet away from Xiao Xia, as though waiting for some guest to arrive!
Raincoat? Wasn’t that the weird person in her dream whose face she couldn’t see?