For some reason, despite not being able to see the man called Ah Nan’s face, Xiao Xia felt he was exceptionally familiar. She wanted to get a better look, but the image in her mind started becoming blurry. As footsteps came down the stairs, the vision completely faded.
Ruan Zhan had returned.
Xiao Xia was able to make out who the footsteps belonged to right away. She wasn’t frightened but there was a trace of panic as she hurriedly took off the shoe and stuffed everything back under the shrine. She had just gotten up when Ruan Zhan quickly came down the stairs.
“Is something wrong?” He asked, looking concerned.
“Er…nothing.” Xiao Xia hesitated for a moment but ultimately decide not to tell him about the person in the water. The warning that person gave still echoed in her mind, “Don’t tell the man surnamed Ruan about this matter! He will mess things up! Remember this, remember this by all means!”
“Then why did you come down here? It’s also a mess upstairs.” Ruan Zhan looked doubtfully at Xiao Xia. He knew she didn’t want to cause trouble for him, but he didn’t want her to hide things from him.
“I heard noises downstairs and came to take a look. See….” Xiao Xia raised her hand, “I brought the bloodwood sword! I also have the talisman you left me in my pocket. Everything’s fine.”
Ruan Zhan nodded. Although he felt something wasn’t right, he didn’t wish to keep questioning her. “Alright then. Let’s go back up first. I want you to tell me what happened earlier.”
He knew her leg was injured so he carried her up the stairs. Xiao Xia cuddled into his arms, thanking her own injured leg. If she wasn’t hurt, she probably wouldn’t get such treatment, right?
“I think it’s best to avoid warping space for such short distances unless it’s especially urgent, right?” Since they were close enough to feel each other’s breathing, Xiao Xia could clearly see Ruan Zhan’s face was a little pale. She couldn’t help but offer the suggestion.
“It violates the laws of nature after all. Wan Li once said it’s a type of sorcery, and you would be injured if you used it too frequently.”
“Alright. Once this matter is over, I won’t use it in the future if I don’t have to. Now, tell me what happened tonight.” Ruan Zhan promised and lightly put her on the bed. He went and sat on one of the chairs. After listening to Xiao Xia’s account, he let out a silent breath and fell into thought.
He was too tired!
There were two other villages apart from Naman village on this side of the valley in the mountains. After investigating without rest for two days and a night, he had essentially eliminated one of those villages from the list. This meant that it was unrelated to the matter at hand. That village was further away from Naman. The other village called Najin on the other hand was intricately linked with Naman.
They were both constructed after the liberation. They weren’t separated by tribe, and was instead a mishmash of difference tribes living together. There was the Zhuang tribe, the Miao tribe, the Bai tribe, the Pumi tribe, the Yi tribe and so on. Although there were slight differences in their religious practices, they got along rather well since they respected each other. Furthermore, there was a lot of intermarriage between tribes.
What drew his attention first was that raincoat ghost. Although she seemed to be a minor character, the pair of beautiful embroidered shoes made her the first clue within this jumbled mess. Therefore, the first thing he investigated was her origin.
According to the elders in the village, one of the nearby villages had a bride die during the Cultural Revolution. She had fallen in love with an educated youth, but her parents forced her to marry a local youngster from their tribe. Therefore, that beautiful girl threw herself into the river and committed suicide on the day of her wedding.
This sounded like an ordinary and tragic love story, but after Ah Zhan ran over to Najin village to get the details, he discovered the heartbroken groom back than was actually from Naman!
The trail once again led to Naman!
Naman! Naman! Guan Zheng had left the same message before he died. It was also Huang Bo Heng’s birthplace. It was also the place the real Yang Mu You crossed over from Myanmar, and most likely where the dead spirit “Yang Mu You” possessed the human and started causing havoc. Based on the other things he learned these past few days, he was extremely sure the answers to everything could be found here!
After finding out the groom was from Naman, he returned and asked around some more. Yet he discovered that the honest and open villagers were very secretive about this matter. They refused to say anything about the groom’s family. After being pressed for answers, they merely said the groom’s family had ended up moving elsewhere.
This made him recall two other things. Firstly, when he had been chatting happily with one of the village elders in the beginning, that elder had mentioned the matter of the bride jumping into the river. The other elders had immediately pulled him away, seeming to rebuke him for saying too much. Secondly, the parents of the deceased bride had also died of mysterious causes shortly after the tragedy.
What strange reason made the villagers unwilling to talk about the groom’s family? Ruan Zhan didn’t question any further. He was posing as a traveler interested in local stories, which was why he was asking questions. He couldn’t act too excessively. Besides, he also wasn’t willing to force others for his own sake.
The people here were kind and honest, and had their own religious customs. They worshiped their ancestors, but also all living things. Belief in witchcraft was also rather prevalent. Therefore, the fear they felt regarding this matter was difficult to express. They believed anyone who said anything would suffer retribution. How could he force them to speak the truth? This would make things very difficult for them. If he managed to resolve things, he would wipe his hands of the matter and leave, but the people who told him about the matter might live uneasily for the rest of their lives.
It was better to try and figure it out himself. He would definitely come up with something. He was never willing to bother others with his own matters. Even if it was hard, even if he suffered, it was his business. He ultimately had to rely on himself to resolve it!
As for their current situation, he decided to focus on that wedding long ago. His objective was that groom. Everything that happened to them in the wilderness inn was related to the raincoat ghost and the master behind her. The weird woman he and Xiao Xia had pursued also mentioned a very powerful person, before repeatedly saying something about a bride.
If this was all due to the groom back then, why did he wish them harm?
There were only three possibilities. One was that he was evil to begin with and enjoyed harming innocents. The second was that he had been employed by Huang Bo Heng or Yang Mu You, and it was only a “job”. Or perhaps that groom was either Huang Bo Heng or Yang Mu You!
Of the three possibilities, he was leaning towards the third.
But Huang Bo Heng’s age didn’t align with that of the groom. Huang Bo Heng was only thirty-five. He had arrived in their city ten years ago before undergoing his rapid rise. The tragedy back then had occurred near the end of the sixties. Even if people in the tribes married young, that groom should be at least fifty.
As for Yang Mu You, it was even less likely for him to be the groom. During City A’s Japanese ghost case, evidence suggested he had been present when Japan invaded China. He had been in his forties back then already. Moreover, it wasn’t likely for him to be from an ethnic tribe. Although it wasn’t clear how he was related to these honest mountain tribes, he couldn’t have turned from a sixty year old into a youngster from a tribe, one that was looking to marry young. More importantly, he was a spirit who could only roam because he possessed the real Yang Mu You’s body. Due to mutual distrust between him and the Japanese, he failed to learn the complete art of resurrection. He must have cultivated for a long time just to be able to possess someone. Even if he was better at transforming than an enchantress, he didn’t have the energy to do so.
Unless…the groom was able to use some sort of spell to maintain his youthful appearance. That way, he could falsify his identity and appearance.
If this were the case, it was very likely for Huang Bo Heng to be the groom!
They had come to investigate him and Yang Mu You, but were ambushed halfway. He was interested in Xiao Xia, and Wan Li, who posed as Xiao Xia’s boyfriend, ended up being afflicted by Gu. He was born here, but no one recognized him. The groom and his family from the tragic case back then disappeared, and his own origin was so very odd. Putting together the clues, everything pointed to him.
Furthermore, his senior secretary Bai Jing Jing had died!
Ruan Zhan had gotten the news earlier tonight. He had made a trip to the county office and invisibly snuck into the relevant department to look through documents related to Huang Bo Heng and that groom’s family. In the end, he found nothing. The name Huang Bo Heng didn’t come up at all. It was probably a fake name. As for the groom and his family, there was only one word: missing. However, the family was also surnamed Huang, and the son’s name was Huang Shi Tou.
After wrapping things up, he went to the post office to make a call, asking Liu Tie and Ni Yang if anything strange happened at the bar. They ended up telling him that their regular customer Bai Jing Jing died in a car accident a day earlier. This was the main topic of conversation at the bar.
After getting this news, Ruan Zhan felt unspeakably guilty. He didn’t believe that Bai Jing Jing was in a car accident. She must have suffered Huang Bo Heng’s retribution. Why didn’t he think of this earlier, and take protective measures for her? Although she was the one who came onto him relentlessly, he still temporarily accepted it to get information from her.
Naman was a small village, merely a small speck on the local map which was already zoomed in. On the national map, even the mountain and valley here wouldn’t catch anyone’s eye. Huang Bo Heng’s fake background wouldn’t be noticed since no one knew where he was from. Bai Jing Jing only knew because she was his mistress for many years, and had heard a few things via pillow talk.
Bai Jing Jing was a tightlipped and sensible person. This was why she was able to sleep with the wolves for so many years without any problems. However, because of his “scheme” and his questioning, she had revealed Huang Bo Heng’s secrets while drunk. He had come here due to Guan Zheng’s dying message as well as Bai Jing Jing’s information.
It was naturally easy for Huang Bo Heng to figure out who had leaked the information after people started looking into his old haunts. Based on his ruthless nature, he definitely wouldn’t let off someone who betrayed him. Therefore, Bai Jing Jing ended up being killed! Why did he overlook this? His indifference ended up causing her death!
He kept blaming himself ever since. He wasn’t able to breathe from the guilt. Although he knew there was no fixing things anymore, he still couldn’t get over it!
None of the women in his life had good outcomes. Nana, Gu Yu Fang, Bai Jing Jinag, and now Xiao Xia. However, he definitely wouldn’t let anything happen to Xiao Xia again. Even if he had to sacrifice everything, he would protect her!
Thinking of this, he looked over at her but saw that she was spacing out. She seemed to have a lot on her mind.
“What are you thinking about?” He asked.
“I’m thinking about that water basin.”
“Did it really just try to frighten you?”
“That’s right. It didn’t say anything…it just tried to scare me.” Xiao Xia said evasively.
Ruan Zhan shook his head inwardly.
Xiao Xia really didn’t know how to hide anything. All her thoughts were clear to read on her face. She was innocent, but that also meant she could easily get hurt.
“Don’t be afraid. It was just some witchcraft.” He said gently.
“But it felt very real.” Xiao Xia subconsciously felt her own neck. “I thought it made sense afterwards. I heard that many divination spells rely on water basins to see visions. It’s like those crystal balls used by western witches.”
“En, it’s an illusion. As long as you ignore it and keep the bloodwood sword on you, it won’t harm you.” Ruan Zhan picked up a petal on the table as he spoke. “The spell was activated because this fell into the water. Our opponent is good at controlling plants and animals. His Gu is also refined from this.”
“Did we encounter another boss-level opponent?” Xiao Xia asked worriedly.
“Don’t worry about him. No matter who he is, he won’t be able to take my friends’ lives in front of me! Do you trust me?”
Ruan Zhan’s words made Xiao Xia recall what the person in the water said. Then she recalled the vision she saw by the shrine on the second floor.
“I trust you!” She forcefully nodded to express her determination.
“I won’t let you down.”
“You’re leaving again?” Seeing him stand up, Xiao Xia hurriedly asked.
“I have to keep searching for that weird woman. I think it’s very likely for her to reappear nearby.”
“But you should also rest a little. Sit for ten more minutes!” Xiao Xia looked longingly at Ruan Zhan.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be nearby. I’ll be able to hear you if you shout. Furthermore, I don’t think anything else will show up. Otherwise, they’ll end up like those white hands. If he sends plants over, you can use the hunting rifle. Didn’t I teach you how to use it?” Because Xiao Xia was scared, Ruan Zhan spoke comfortingly.
Xiao Xia didn’t speak but she reached out and felt under the covers. Inside was a hunting rifle Ruan Zhan had borrowed from the village. Before leaving that morning, he had made careful defensive preparations.
If ghosts came, there was the tattered banner and the talismans. If something more corporeal came, there was the hunting rifle.
“Five more minutes then.” She essentially begged.
Ruan Zhan hesitated before finally nodding in agreement. He didn’t expect Xiao Xia to make another request, asking him to sit next to her and hold her hand.
He didn’t refuse her but still felt a little strange. He knew Xiao Xia had feelings for him but she had never been so clingy. This was the first time, but it also felt like it would be the last.
Furthermore, despite saying only five minutes, the two ended up holding hands and sitting there for over two hours!