They waited in the bamboo building until dawn. They were about to leave in the morning when they saw a group of mountain people crowding around a strangely dressed person heading their way. After asking, they found out they had come from Naman. Because the innkeeper was also from their village and hauntings had been reported in the past few days, the innkeeper family had gone to ask a Daoist Lord for an exorcism.
Xiao Xia almost cried out in fear upon seeing the innkeeper family. Didn’t they look exactly the same as the three from last night? However, the little girl was gentle and delicate and her parents were honest and amiable. They were completely different from the ferocious apparitions last night. Only then did she recall Ruan Zhan saying those three last night were transformed ghosts.
Ruan Zhan told the people they were ecological travelers wanting to check out the village. He also said they didn’t encounter anything the night before, merely a few stray cats that made a mess of the place. As for Wan Li, he said he was unconscious due to catching a chill.
The mountain people were hospitable and honest. Hearing about their difficulties, they warmly invited them up the mountain. Furthermore, after the Daoist Lord struggled about inside the inn with a lot of effort, Wan Li actually woke up.
On the way to the village, Xiao Xia kept sneaking glances at Wan Li’s expression. He seemed not to remember anything, as though he had just woken up from a nightmare he couldn’t recall.
Instead, she was the one who involuntarily felt quite uneasy and uncertain. Ruan Zhan hadn’t told her whether he managed to catch up to the suspected Gu caster last night. Wan Li’s recovery was also too baffling.
After arriving at the village, they were arranged a place to live in the village chief’s house. In the afternoon while Xiao Xia had run off somewhere, Wan Li took the opportunity to discuss what had happened with Ruan Zhan.
“Don’t try to tell me this haunting of the inn was just an unexpected event!” Wan Li lay prone on the large wooden bedframe and admired the mountain scenery across from the chief’s wooden house.
Ruan Zhan didn’t speak.
That much was obvious. The person they were investigating must have made a move. However, the village people had said the inn had turned foul several days ago already. Either the opponent was so skilled he could work remotely, or he had rushed over once he found out about their plans and set things up in advance. Based on their arduous journey, the only possible way would have been the space-warping technique.
To be able to perform this technique, the destination cannot be an unknown place. This meant the caster must have been there before. From this point, it can be inferred Yang Mu You had come to this place in the past and lived here, even to the extent of having a deep connection!
“And what was up with that black liquid?” Wan Li asked again.
“That was Gu. You were inflicted with Gu!”
“What do you mean ‘good thing’?” Ruan Zhan was a little irritated. He had been so anxious about Wan Li yet here he was saying it was a good thing?
“They were targeting us to begin with. Who knows what else they would have tried if they didn’t succeed? Good thing it was me that got hit. If it were Xiao Xia my heart would ache. If it were you, who would protect me in the future?” Wan Li blinked naughtily at him.
“Stop being sappy!”
“Seems that Gu was very impressive. I’ve never seen you so vexed in my life.” Wan Li laughed lightly. “Wanna tell me how powerful it was?”
Ruan Zhan gave his habitual frown. “I’m not well versed in Gu techniques, so I have no idea!”
“Wow, no need to be so honest. Can’t you give the patient a little more confidence? You should know such basic psychology, right? I thought you guessed this place had a lot of Gu techniques and brushed up on your knowledge before coming?”
“Gu techniques are a type of secret arts that has almost gone extinct in the past few years. I know extremely little. Furthermore, the opponent this time wasn’t simple. I haven’t even heard of the technique he used. I did ask that Daoist Lord about it on the way here earlier.”
“I was wondering why you chatted with him the whole time. I thought it was an exchange of swindling techniques between the north and south fortunetellers!” Wan Li always liked to make a dig at Ruan Zhan. This was something he had grown accustomed to since their childhood and it was almost subconscious now.
“Can’t you talk a little less nonsense?”
“Haha, I saw you giving him some money. Hopefully you have enough left to get us back home.”
“I also found out a few things. That raincoat ghost is supposedly a sort of water ghost. Those embroidered shoes are only worn by newly-married brides.”
“This means the ghost was still a bride when she died! How pitiful.” Wan Li sighed, then smiled once again. “I heard from Xiao Xia how you dominated the battle without breaking a sweat. How unfortunate that I missed it. Whenever I’m watching, you’re always running away from a beating. This discrepancy is a little too big!”
“But since he was able to control plants and pretend they were zombies, it was no ordinary Gu technique. I had already thought it impressive he could use ghost Gu.”
“Who is he? Huang Bo Heng or Yang Mu You? Or is there someone else?”
“I don’t know.”
“Why can you only say those three words? Then what about that ghost Gu or whatever? Where did you find out about that?”
Ruan Zhan muttered to himself but still recounted his experience chasing the strange person last night.
After finding those worn out embroidered shoes behind the tree, he had followed the extremely faint aura in pursuit through the rain. In the end, he had caught a bedraggled-looking weirdo. Even now he still wasn’t sure if that person was male or female. He just sensed a very strange aura about them.
Right as he was about to interrogate them and ask how to dispel the Gu, that person kept yelling, “He can inflict Gu upon ghosts. He can inflict Gu upon ghosts! A Gu technique that one cannot escape even in death!” Then, the person said if Ruan Zhan didn’t go back, the two in the inn would die.
For some reason, Ruan Zhan trusted those words. He hadn’t sensed any ill intent. Besides, as he was hesitating, that weird person suddenly struggled free and quickly escaped!
At that time, Ruan Zhan sensed Xiao Xia was in danger and returned with a single step.
He had asked that Daoist Lord later and found out that ghost Gu was a secret technique which only existed in legends. It was cast on the newly deceased and prevented the spirit from reincarnating. The spirit would be bound to the caster’s will. Of course, the details were only known to those who could use the technique. As for the Gu technique which gave control over plants, even the Daoist Lord hadn’t heard of it before.
Apart from the information on Gu, none of the information he provided under the persuasion of money was any more valuable than what Ruan Zhan had investigated for himself!
“This is what’s meant by everything happens for a reason. Every time you encounter such difficult situations, it forces you to release your sealed abilities more, and also to cultivate a little.”
“Aren’t you worried about the Gu you’re afflicted with? No one knows what it is, and I cannot dispel it. I also failed to catch the person who cast it. Even the witness got away!”
“There’s no use in worrying. It’s the worst type of emotion. Just leave a spot for me on the battlefield. That bastard controlled me and made me hurt Xiao Xia. I want revenge.” Although Ruan Zhan sounded calm, Wan Li could hear the worry in his voice. As friends who grew up together, there was nothing they could hide from each other. He saw Ruan Zhan’s tightly furrowed brow. He was also more taciturn than usual, so Wan Li knew his own situation wasn’t looking too good. “I just don’t understand why I lost consciousness. I heard getting afflicted with Gu should be symptomless.”
“You weren’t the target for that Gu. I’m guessing he just figured he’d take whoever he can get. Besides, I’ve inspected your body’s aura. That Gu wasn’t intended to kill, but rather to control. Despite your amiable appearance, you’re actually quite the tough bastard. You’re hard and foul, like a stone in the latrine. You must have subconsciously resisted. Since you are filled with yang energy, the forces collided which resulted in you thoroughly playing dead!”
Wan Li thought back. He remembered feeling a cold and hot aura trying to burrow into his mind. He had forcibly suppressed it which resulted in a fierce pain. Then, he had lost consciousness!
“This Gu is very hard to dispel, right? Or perhaps there isn’t a way to dispel it?” Wan Li suddenly asked. “Tell me the truth. I can tell how weird this Gu is. You should tell me the reality of the situation.”
“I will find that weird person form the woods. There has to be a way.”
“How long will that take? There should be some sort of deadline, right?”
“You don’t need to worry about it!”
“Enough, I’m a grown man. No need to hide the truth. Tell me!” Wan Li’s face was stern for once.
Ruan Zhan hesitated but still told him in the end. They had experienced too many things together and he had faith they would get through this as well.
“Based on your body’s condition…three days. You only have three days to live!”
Three days? Seventy-two hours? Four thousand three hundred and twenty minutes? Two hundred and fifty-nine thousand and two hundred seconds? This was the amount of time he had left before his life withered away?
“My dad once said you were too curious, and will meet with calamity eventually.” Ruan Zhan gritted his teeth. “However, I won’t let you die! You’ve borrowed a lot of money from me and never returned any of it. You drive my car around randomly and never fill up the gas. You don’t even repair it after getting into accidents. You even fought over women with me! There’s no way I’m letting you die without repaying your debts!”
“Women? You mean Xiao Xia?”
“I’m talking about Nana!”
“Oh, you mean Nana!” Wan Li turned around. His expression wasn’t panicked despite his imminent death. There was only some helplessness and grief. “That was a gentlemen’s duel!”
“It was robbery!”
“Enough, it wasn’t as if you liked her that much. She was the one who pursued you, and you were unable to resist the temptation in your youth. Nana was so beautiful it satisfied your own vanity too.”
Ruan Zhan was silent, lost in memories. He couldn’t help but smile. “That’s true. It was her own choice.”
“However, you don’t need to worry. I won’t fight over Xiao Xia with you.” Wan Li turned away once again. “I considered it in the past you know. Not anymore, since I only have three days to live.” He shrugged and acted nonchalant. “I’m not like those who feel they need to confess their feelings because they’re about to die. Isn’t that just leaving them with a burden? How vicious, not letting others live peacefully after one’s death!”
“I won’t let you die!” Ruan Zhan gritted his teeth whenever this was brought up.
“Enough, we both know there’s a type of Gu called death Gu. Unless the person who cast it dies, there’s no way to dispel it. There’s only three days left. It’s not very likely to happen.” Wan Li laughed bitterly. “It’d be a lie to say I wasn’t scared, but being scared won’t do any good. As a man, I have to face the truth. However, I can at least fulfill Xiao Xia’s wish.”
“That’s right. I once asked her what sort of love she wanted. Guess what she said?”
Ruan Zhan lowered his head, not looking at Wan Li. He was afraid his secret would be revealed when she was mentioned, but he still really wanted to know.
“She said….” Wan Li smiled. “Well, she’s really a fool. Women nowadays wouldn’t say something like that, especially since they are all so uppity. She said she wanted a person who loved her extremely, extremely much, but will never let her know about it!”
“That’s the way she is, thinking life is like a beautiful dream!”
“However, it seems her wish is going to be fulfilled. I’ll help her do it. I think…I do love her.”