When Xiao Xia’s whole body turned rigid and the image of a young woman facing away from her appeared in her mind, Xiao Xia knew she was having another vision. She didn’t understand what triggered them. Was that woman trying to tell her something?
From what she remembered, that woman’s name was Ah Bai.
At this moment, Ah Bai sat in a bamboo bed. The light was murky, and within the dim light Xiao Xia felt as if their thoughts were connected. She deeply sensed the girl’s emotions: happiness, longing with a hint of sorrow and bitterness.
Why were her emotions so complicated? Xiao Xia didn’t understand. She saw a man walking over. It was Ah Nan, who had voluntarily taken Ah Bai’s “love drug”.
“Embroidering the wedding dress?” Ah Nan asked. A tender expression appeared on his face that was handsome but not young.
“That’s right.” Ah Bai raised her head and smiled.
This was Xiao Xia’s third vision, but it was her first time seeing Ah Bai’s face from the front. This glance completely overturned her previous notions. She had thought there was no such thing as a peerless beauty in this world. Even those movie stars beloved by tens of thousands were merely the product of makeup artists and stylists, along with some lighting and angles. However, the moment she saw Ah Bai she understood what a true beauty was.
Calling her a beauty even seemed tacky. Her eyes were like smoky, limpid autumn waters. It made her entire face look pure and unblemished, along with some gentleness and sweetness. Even without adornments, her beauty was enough to make even Xiao Xia feel fond of her.
“How’s the embroidery going?” Ah Nan sat next to Ah Bai, pulling out a corner of the clothes for a look.
“It’s not done yet. The fact is, we aren’t husband and wife in the traditional sense. All I need is your sincere love. It’s just…I really want to be a real bride once, wear a wedding dress once. If you don’t like it….”
“I like it very much.” Ah Nan interrupted her. “I know I’m just your ghost husband, and cannot be exposed to light. However, I also want to take you as my wife like a real man. Unless you shun me.”
“No, no. I’m just afraid you…” Ah Bai hurriedly explained. “You know that I’m a witch. I’m not able to marry a man of this world to begin with. If I had to marry, it can only be with a “drug spirit”.
“So, you only chose me because you had no other choice?”
“No, I had decided not to marry in case the “drug spirit” ends up harming others. But you appeared before me. I truly love you, it’s just…”
“Just what? You keep trailing off halfway.”
“Just that…I cannot have children. You should know that my abilities are bestowed by the heavens. Therefore, I cannot have children.”
“So what?” Seeing her tears about to fall, Ah Nan’s voice turned gentle. “I’m a ghost after all. Although you can give me form via magic, I also can’t have any descendants. Isn’t it fine this way? Besides, didn’t you discover two talented children recently? You took them as apprentices, so aren’t they like your own children? Just like how your master treated you.”
“That’s right.” Ah Bai’s face revealed excitement at the mention of her apprentices. “It’s not easy to find people blessed by the heavens. I didn’t expect to encounter two at once. That little girl’s abilities are still unconfirmed but that boy definitely has immense power. I just don’t know if his parents would be willing to part with him.”
“Their family has always been shunned by the tribespeople. Now that their only son has caught the eye of the famous witch, they must be beside themselves with joy. But let’s not talk about this. I want to talk about formally marrying you.”
Ah Bai smiled, but Xiao Xia still felt her happiness was mixed with sorrow. She didn’t understand why someone about to become a bride would have such emotions. Shouldn’t it be a sweet matter?
“I’ve embroidered your name beneath the flower.” She took out the beautiful wedding dress as if displaying a treasure and pointed at the chest area. A beautiful camellia was embroidered there.
Xiao Xia didn’t know embroidery could have two layers. It probably required an extremely high level of skill. She felt that the wedding dress was very familiar. Upon closer examination, she realized it was the one she was wearing.
“I used a little witchcraft when embroidering the flower.” Ah Bai continued speaking. “No matter how many years pass, this wedding dress will still look brand new unless my heart dies. This happens to match those words of yours.”
“I will accompany you forever, in life and in death!” Ah Nan repeated his vow.
Turns out the wedding dress was imbued with mysterious witchcraft. No wonder it still looked new after such a long time. No wonder she had visions after putting it on! What was Ah Bai trying tell the inheritor of this dress?
The wedding dress was still new. This meant Ah Bai’s heart hadn’t died. What was she expecting?
Furthermore, why did Huang Bo Heng insist on having her wear this dress and hold a wedding?
“Xiao Xia!” A man’s voice suddenly rang out, dispersing the vision and Xiao Xia’s thoughts, bringing her back to reality.
Looking up, she saw Ruan Zhan’s concerned face.
“I can move again?” Although she was no longer in the vision, Ah Bai’s sorrow and bitterness still lingered.
“You couldn’t move earlier because your spirit had just returned.” Ruan Zhan smiled and pulled her up.
Xiao Xia took the opportunity to grip his hand, yet felt his arm tighten. Looking down, she saw a shocking wound that was deep and long on his palm. She immediately let go in shock.
“Just a flesh wound. I made it to dispel the Gu.” Ruan Zhan tried to gloss over it and pull his hand back, but his wrist was grabbed by Xiao Xia.
“This needs to be wrapped up!” Xiao Xia’s heart was aching. She used her finger to lightly trace around the edges of the wound while she blew cold air onto it. “It must hurt a lot, right?”
Looking at her lowered head which was almost against his chest, and seeing her so considerate over his wound, Ruan Zhan seemed to hear his false icy exterior melt once again. No one had ever cared about him so much. No one had sympathized over his pain before. No one had cherished him so much before. He seemed to have been alone all his life, without feeling any warmth. His several failed relationships were the same way. Only Xiao Xia treated him like this, treated him like someone who could get hurt. How was he supposed to let her go?
If he really died during this case, or if he couldn’t overcome his “calamity of threes”, he still couldn’t let his spirit leave. He had to protect her eternally, until another man could replace him.
He stretched his hand out and touched her hair, making her look up in confusion. He hurriedly said: “You should go check on that no-good psychiatrist. He won’t be able to walk for a few days with that wound on his foot.”
“Psychiatrist? What psych…” Xiao Xia didn’t quite get it right away. Only after blanking for a bit did she understand his meaning. Her expression immediately became surprised and joyful. “Wan Li is cured? You cured Wan Li? That’s wonderful!”
She forgot herself and leapt up, wrapping her arms around his neck. She hung onto him and gave him a light peck on his face. She didn’t seem to realize what she was doing. “I knew you could do it. You said you wouldn’t let him die, so nothing would happen to him!”
Wan Li’s peril had been like a huge rock over her heart, making it hard for her to breathe. She had truly experienced what it meant for time to be dragging on, and had hoped for the torment to be over quickly. Yet at the same time, she had wanted time to stop to give Wan Li a chance to survive. Now, this contradiction was finally over due to Ruan Zhan’s efforts. This made her feel as if the sky had brightened despite it being midnight.
“Want to go see him?”
“Of course. However, the wound on your hand needs to be treated too. The first aid kit we brought along is also upstairs! Quick, quick, quick!”
Xiao Xia hurried him along. As they reached the third floor, they saw Wan Li sitting there holding his head, seeming to be suffering.
“Where are you feeling uncomfortable?” Xiao Xia asked, her face pale. She was afraid some other problem had popped up.
Wan Li raised his head and opened his arms with a smile. “How about a hug first? After all, I made a trip to the gates of hell.” He didn’t want to give Xiao Xia bad news, so he recovered his usual sloppy demeanor.
“Are you sure you’re ok?” Xiao Xia didn’t feel at ease.
“I’m sure. I’m just struggling to remember something, and my head hurts a little.” Wan Li said while glancing at Ruan Zhan.
“That Gu was very tyrannical. It controlled all your bodily functions. It’s normal to have some trouble recalling things. Don’t worry, you’ll slowly recover.”
Wan Li didn’t speak. He knew that his lost memory was extremely important and they couldn’t wait for it to slowly recover. Yet he truly couldn’t remember it. He might recall it with the proper stimulus, but what could stimulate him to recall this sealed memory?
“If what you’re trying to recall is related to this matter, we can discuss the details first. That might jog your memory. It’s useless to rack your brains like this.” Ruan Zhan suggested after seeing that Wan Li’s brows were furrowed despite his smile.
“Good idea!” Wan Li stood up, but sat down again due to the pain in his foot.
“You should do as you’re told!” Xiao Xia said while fetching the first aid kit under the pillow.
She hurriedly treated their wounds and then the three started discussing the matter inside a restriction Ruan Zhan set up. This included all the minor details they knew, every doubt they had, all their thoughts and also Xiao Xia’s three sudden visions.
“Speaking of this, I recalled something!” Xiao Xia stood up. “You guys turn around. I need to change.”
“Why change? You look rather good in that!” Wan Li stopped her. “You look quite elegant, not so wild anymore.”
“You don’t understand.” Xiao Xia rolled her eyes at him. “Didn’t I just tell you? In the vision, Ah Bai said she embroidered the man’s name on the chest. I want to remove the camellia and take a look.”
“Isn’t his name Ah Nan? What’s the point of looking?”
“I want to see his full name.” Xiao Xia said. “I get the feeling that man is the key to this whole situation. That weird woman called Ah Wu is just a witness. This Ah Nan might be the party involved. Besides, I want to confirm whether this wedding dress is the one Ah Bai embroidered. What if I’m mistaken?”
“That makes sense. Turn around.” Ruan Zhan said concisely before turning around with Wan Li to let her change. Then she slowly took off the beautiful flower on the lapel.
“Look.” Xiao Xia raised the dress.
Under the candlelight, on the wedding dress’s lapel, hidden beneath the flower were three Chinese characters: Si Ma Nan.
It turns out the man’s full name was Si Ma Nan. This also proved Xiao Xia’s wedding dress was truly the same as Ah Bai’s back then. But what did this have to do with the secret in the woods, and what they had encountered?