“What do you plan to do?” Xiao Xia asked.
“I’m first going to ask around the nearby villages and find out about the bride who threw herself into the river. Then, I’ll ask if any major events happened in the past or if any strange people had visited.”
“Come back quickly.” Xiao Xia urged.
With her injuries and Wan Li’s illness, they were of no help to Ruan Zhan. They must not become burdens on him instead. Despite thinking this, she still shivered at the thought of Ruan Zhan going so far away.
Ruan Zhan understood Xiao Xia’s feelings.
Even the bravest woman would be afraid of staying in the woods with just an unconscious man. What about someone as timid as Xiao Xia? Yet every time the situation left him no choice but to leave her behind.
“As long as you think hard about me when you’re in danger, I will immediately return.” He promised her. “You said before that you are our companion, not our burden. Therefore, I believe you will protect Wan Li. And I…will protect the both of you.”
Xiao Xia was uneasy the entire day.
During the past few days, she had been attacked at the wilderness inn and then had frightening encounters right before dawn. All this made her extremely weary, but the current situation prevented her from sleeping.
Even if she managed to fall asleep blearily, she would be startled awake a short time later. Sometimes it was due to the wind. Sometimes it was the cries of mountain birds. Sometimes it was Wan Li taking a slightly heavier breath. Even the creaking of the bed as she tossed and turned would startle her awake. The final time was due to the unusual silence of the octagonal building.
During her restless sleep, she suddenly felt something was wrong. It was like she was within a vacuum. Being awakened in this manner usually meant waking up alert and a little alarmed.
She looked at Wan Li. He was still unconscious, though his brows were furrowed tight as though he was enduring enormous suffering. Xiao Xia couldn’t help but wipe his face, though the black aura still refused to budge. It was like a layer of thick, dark clouds covering his face, and covering Xiao Xia’s heart at the same time.
It was completely dark outside. Ruan Zhan had actually been gone the entire day without returning.
He hadn’t slept for two days, and also hadn’t eaten much. At least she had time to recuperate. At this rate, not only would he fail to save Wan Li, he might even collapse himself.
Xiao Xia was worried, but she also knew that the matter he was investigating happened too long ago. He might even need to trace it back to before the Communist Emancipation. They were relying on merely their theories and the slightest trail. There were no clues or historical records, and they couldn’t allow outsiders to figure out their actual goal. It would be very difficult to figure out the truth under such circumstances.
Yet they had no choice but to do so. Wan Li’s life was on the line!
Lack of evidence wasn’t even the main issue. Even if the Gu caster was really Huang Bo Heng, even if they had sufficient evidence and even if the entire nation’s police force came to help arrest him, if he decided to hide in the mountains it would take more than a few days to find him. Wan Li didn’t have that much time. After tonight, he only had twenty-four hours left. He wouldn’t make it!
Therefore, they had to solve the mysteries closest to the truth. That way, the person behind the scene would have to make an appearance to prevent his secrets from being exposed. Only then could they have a proper battle against their opponent and eliminate him.
The Gu caster had used a death Gu. If he didn’t die, Wan Li wouldn’t survive! This was the established rule, and this rule cut off all paths of retreat. Between him and Wan Li, only one of them could live!
Xiao Xia pondered anxiously for a few seconds. In the dark, she suddenly started feeling afraid. Therefore, she slowly sat up, making the bamboo bed creak.
She grabbed Wan Li’s arm and looked at his watch. The glowing display indicated it was already nine thirty. According to the customs in the mountain, everyone should be in bed already. Why wasn’t Ruan Zhan back yet? Could he have encountered danger or did he go searching for that weird woman in the woods? Did she have to spend the night alone with the unconscious Wan Li in this empty building?
Thinking of this, Xiao Xia felt even more frightened. She started feeling a little panicky and her palms were clammy.
“Stop scaring yourself! I, Yue Xiao Xia, have experienced so many things with these two men. What else would I be afraid of!?” She cursed herself, but still decided to get up and light a candle.
She had been half-reclined on the outside of the bed while Wan Li lay unconscious on the inside. Although she had sat up, she was still on the bed. Therefore, the slightest movement would cause the bed to make weird creaking noises. It was especially piercing in the dark. As her feet touched the floor, a stab of pain immediately assaulted her, reminding her that her right foot was injured. Luckily, the moon was bright which allowed her to see the layout of the room. She limped over to the desk to find a source of light.
The octagonal building had a total of three floors. Every floor was a large room without any partitions. The first floor seemed to be the living area. There were many old daily-use items placed neatly on the furniture. There were chairs and a table in the middle. The second floor seemed to be a simple place of worship. There was an emptied shrine on one side and many empty jugs on the other. This reminded Xiao Xia of when Wan Li was afflicted by the Gu. The third floor was the top floor, which was the bedroom where Xiao Xia and Wan Li rested.
The room felt emptier because there were fewer furniture. There was only a large bamboo bed, several bamboo chairs, a closet, a water basin and a makeup counter. On the counter was a large copper mirror and a few items for grooming. It seemed a woman had lived here in the past.
Xiao Xia walked over to the counter with difficulty. She fished out a lighter and lit the candle Ruan Zhan had found from the village. A warm glow immediately appeared before her. Although the room was large and the candle was small, which meant the light didn’t reach the corners, it still made her feel better.
Yet she had just turned around when a gust of cold wind suddenly blew in from the window. The candle sputtered out.
Xiao Xia’s heart thudded. She stood frozen in the dark, not daring to move.
Previously without the candle, the moonlight allowed her to vaguely see the outlines of the things in the room. After it went from bright to dark, everything became pitch black for a moment. It took a while for her eyes to adjust.
Nothing was missing from the room. Luckily, there was nothing additional in the room either!
Probably just the mountain wind! She told herself.
This octagonal building was very beautifully designed. There were windows on every side apart from the one with the door. The windows were just a few thick bamboos erected vertically in the window frames like they were metal bars. The weather was like spring year round here and the roof of the building had wide awnings so it shouldn’t get cold and the rain couldn’t get inside. However, they weren’t able to block the wind at all.
Xiao Xia stood foolishly for a while. Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, she lit the candle once again.
She used her hand to cover the fire. She held her breath, moving extremely slowly in case the air currents she caused while moving extinguished the weak fire. She had finally inched back to the bed when she realized she had forgotten to grab the candleholder!
She could only shuffle back, enduring the pain in her ankle. She walked extremely carefully. Even when the hot wax dripped onto her hand, she didn’t dare move in the slightest.
The candleholder was next to the makeup counter. The moment she put the candle in place, she saw a strange figure in the mirror!
She was startled and almost dropped the candleholder. After looking closer, she realized it was just her own reflection.
Her expression was unsettled and panicked. There was an eye-catching red scar across her face and the hair around her temples were a mess, blocking her brows and half-covering her eyes. It made her seem shadowy. Even she felt she looked horrifying, and didn’t wish to look again.
Therefore, she planned to place the mirror face down on the table. However, it was a little heavy, and didn’t budge at first. When she used a bit more strength, the mirror suddenly tipped over by itself.
At the same time, the candle went out again!
In the sudden darkness, Xiao Xia didn’t know what to do.
What happened this time? Was it the wind again? But she hadn’t felt the wind when the candle went out. Was it the wind caused by the mirror tipping over?
Although the explanation seemed a bit of a stretch, Xiao Xia still chose to believe it. She forcibly controlled her trembling hands and lit the candle a third time.
She used the candle to illuminate the surroundings. She didn’t see anything and sighed in relief. She felt she was just scaring herself, which made all these weird things happen. As long as she didn’t let her mind wander, nothing would happen. Wan Li had once said that from a scientific perspective, the soul was a form of energy, just like brainwaves. If you kept thinking about supernatural things, especially at night, it was essentially using brainwaves to summon spirits. Something foul might really end up coming over.
Therefore…don’t think about it, don’t think about it, don’t think about it!
She repeated this in her mind as she endured the pain and walked quickly back to the bed. Then, she tucked herself into the bed, pulling the silk curtains that seemed to be like mosquito netting in place. Luckily the candle didn’t go out. Wan Li was also lying peacefully in place. She felt a lot safer.
Although Wan Li was unconscious and wouldn’t be able to help her, she felt she didn’t have to face the unknown night alone with him by her side. While the silk curtains couldn’t block the wind, it still felt like a form of shelter. With the bloodwood sword resting under the pillow, it seemed as if Ruan Zhan was also present.
The selfless heart knows no bounds! And those with a clear conscience won’t be startled when there’s a knock on the door at night!
Xiao Xia recited to herself, trying to adjust her mentality. Before she finished her thought, she heard a thud at the bamboo door downstairs. It was as if someone was knocking.
Xiao Xia almost fell out of bed. At the same time, it suddenly became bright inside the curtains. Turning to look, she saw the candle’s fire had suddenly doubled in size. It was also burning upright, without swaying at all!
Creak….the building’s doors opened.
She could sense that it wasn’t Ruan Zhan. He didn’t walk like that, with a pause after each step, oppressively, as if stepping on her heart.
The footsteps got to the second floor, then the third. After a silence, the bedroom door suddenly burst open with a crash.
She didn’t see anyone but Xiao Xia could feel something had entered the room. She didn’t dare to breathe and the candle flame suddenly weakened, gradually becoming a turquoise bead that gave off a faint light.
The curtains moved a little and started drifting inwards. Xiao Xia felt a gust of cold air that made all her hairs stand on end. The candle went out completely and everything turned black again.
Xiao Xia couldn’t see anything clearly. The moon seemed to have been covered by clouds. She only saw in the extreme darkness a pair of dazzling white hands moving around!
The hands gestured in the air, unclear what they were up to. Then, they slowly stretched towards the curtains.
Xiao Xia shrank towards the inside of the bed. Her heart was thundering in the silence. The sound of nails running along the curtains could be heard.
“Bride! Bride!” A raspy voice said faintly.
Xiao Xia gritted her teeth and didn’t make a sound. The white hands seemed to have noticed they were being blocked by the curtain and made a parting gesture. Then, they reached for Xiao Xia unobstructed!
“Bride! Bride!” They called out in an eerie tone.
Xiao Xia didn’t know what they meant. As the hands were about to reach her, she suddenly stuck the talisman she held onto the hands.
An inhuman scream rang out. Xiao Xia covered her ears in discomfort and sprawled onto Wan Li’s chest. The pair of hands shuddered and gripped the bedframe tightly, making the bamboo bed creak and shake violently.
The suction coming from near the door was too strong. No matter how the hands struggled, they ultimately melted like hot wax. Then, they turned into a white trail that was sucked into the closet which had opened at some point.
Inside the closet, the little metal banner glowed faintly red as it shuddered a little before falling quiet again.
That was Ruan Zhan’s tattered banner. He had hidden it in the closet by the door. He knew Xiao Xia wasn’t able to wield it, so he had given her a talisman. As long as she calmed down, she could throw the talisman or stick it onto supernatural things and the tattered banner would automatically sense it and suck it in!
He wouldn’t just leave the sheep unguarded outside the wolf’s den!
“Impressive!” A voice rang out from one of the windows. This made the anxious Xiao Xia’s heart almost stop beating. She looked over all the windows but didn’t see anything.
She felt cold sweat well up. They were on the third floor. No “human” could be speaking outside the windows here.
“Who on earth are you?” She asked interrogatively. At the same time, she stared at the windows. “Why are you trying to kill Wan Li?”
“Those who want to obtain you will all die!”
Xiao Xia looked over quickly. This time, the speaking thing didn’t hide, allowing her to see it clearly.
The reason she labeled it as a thing was because floating outside the window was actually a flower. It was a very large flower, though Xiao Xia wasn’t able to tell exactly what type at the moment due to her lack of knowledge and also the darkness. She could only see that the petals were all blooming outwards, revealing the flower’s heart which was the size of a human face. The heart also had features just like a human face.
The features had been drawn on, but they moved when it spoke. It looked like a head that was peeping in from the window.
Xiao Xia should have been frightened, but when the flowery face swore Wan Li would die, she became enraged. Her anger once again overcame her fear. She lifted the pillow and took out the bloodwood sword. Leaping off the bed, she endured the pain in her ankle and stabbed out the window!
She was so angry she actually managed to unleash a portion of the bloodwood sword’s might. Before the blade arrived, the red glow had already sliced the flowery face. It immediately split into two, but it actually laughed as it dropped.
“I won’t let him die!” She yelled towards the woods downstairs.
“I shall grant your wish!” That voice came from another window. Xiao Xia slashed over without thinking.
But before this flower fell, the voice came from the last window, the one by the bed. “Look into the water basin. I will tell you how you can save his life!”
The flowery face disappeared. The water in the water basin started roiling out of the blue!