There was a slight humming. It was the sound of a computer starting up. It was very quiet and could normally be ignored. However, it was very clear this late at night.
Xiao Xia huddled in bed not daring to move, staring towards the computer in alarm.
Her room was very small. The computer desk was at the foot of the bed next to her window. The light was coming from that direction. Yet why would the computer turn on for no reason!? Or…did something in her room turn it on!?
The startup tone and the various flickering colors of her mouse indicated the computer was now completely on. She also felt there was a clump of illusory black mist swirling around it, but she wasn’t sure if there was something wrong with her eyes.
Tap tap tap tap….
A burst of light and rapid clicks rang out, as though someone were typing. However, the monitor still displayed the desktop. Her background was a headshot of her idol Brad Pitt. Xiao Xia loved how his eyes narrowed in an expression that seemed like he was smiling yet not smiling. At this moment however, it looked more meaningful, his eyes staring at her weirdly. It tightly attracted Xiao Xia’s gaze.
Suddenly, his appearance changed and his expression turned angry. His features and the background gradually turned blurry, but also more three-dimensional. It made the flat monitor appear like an empty black box containing a man’s head!
“Xiao Xia!” The head shouted sternly, making Xiao Xia jump.
“Avenge me! Avenge me!” He ordered loudly.
“Guan Zheng, is that you?” Xiao Xia braced herself and asked, her voice trembling.
She couldn’t tell by the voice and the head couldn’t be seen clearly. However, Xiao Xia could sense something had happened to Guan Zheng.
Silence. Even the computer became unusually silent. She waited another while but there still wasn’t any movement. The monitor still resembled a box with a person’s head, but it no longer spoke!
Xiao Xia swallowed and tried to get out of bed. Yet her feet had just touched the ground when the monitor started shaking and flickering violently!
“Avenge me!” The head inside started shouting again, but this time the voice was more mournful. The monitor started shaking even more, making the entire table started vibrating.
It repeated the same words, the tone gradually becoming mechanical as though it were truly coming from a machine. “Avenge me….avenge…me…me….”
There was a burning smell as the monitor shook one last time, as though in the throes of death, before finally screeching to a halt!
Xiao Xia held her breath and sat on the edge of the bed. She stared with wide eyes into the unfathomable darkness. The transition from light to darkness made it impossible for her to see anything. Her feet were still on the cold floor, but there was sweat on her palms and feet. She sat frozen in terror, enduring the oppressive feeling of the night and the burning smell. She was afraid something would happen again the moment she moved.
Time ticked by and it wasn’t clear how many minutes had passed before she finally adjusted to the darkness. She could see her room clearly now so she slowly stood up. Seeing nothing unusual happening, she suddenly ran out of her room as fast as she could. She didn’t care that her feet were bare and that she only wore pajamas. She hurriedly opened her front door as though being chased by an evil spirit. She had to escape no matter what!
The lights in the hallway had been broken for a very long time. It was pitch black and she couldn’t see anything. Xiao Xia relied on her familiarity with the place to charge out blindly, but ended up bumping unexpectedly into something.
It happened too suddenly and she was sent stumbling back several steps, almost falling on her rear. However, a pair of arms wrapped around her. She instinctively struggled fiercely but the other party was much stronger. She wanted to scream but her mouth was covered up. She could only twist and squirm futilely.
“Shhhhh….it’s me, it’s me!” A familiar voice sounded by her ear. It contained tenderness within the urgency, and also had the ability to calm her. She didn’t have to look to know it was the person she had been thinking about day and night.
“Don’t scream, unless you want the entire floor to see you dressed in pajamas hugging a man in the dark hallway!” Ruan Zhan loosened his grip.
However, Xiao Xia hugged him instead, choking up.
“Let’s go back inside first!” He subconsciously stroked her back to comfort her. He didn’t know whether it was the smooth silk or her supple nape that made his hand linger.
“I’m here!” Ruan Zhan gently pulled Xiao Xia away, doing his best to put some distance between them. “Grab hold of my hand and you won’t be scared!”
He gripped her cold and slightly clammy hand and slowly walked back into her apartment.
He couldn’t keep hugging her. A man hugging an undeniably shapely woman wearing small silk pajamas in a dark hallway was ambiguous no matter how one looked at it. If that woman was someone he tenderly kept in his heart and longed for, and hasn’t seen in three months, the allure would be even more deadly. Merely holding her hand at this moment made him restless and unable to focus.
Yet he had no choice but to resist. Therefore, it was extremely, extremely hard for him to maintain his usual calm demeanor. This was his first time hating his ability to see in the dark as it engraved her inadvertent charm deep into his heart.
He kept Xiao Xia behind him as they entered her apartment, closing the door in passing. Then, he walked towards the bedroom. He remained alert as he sensed the aura inside. Although there was some yin energy, it had already dissipated.
“Everything’s fine now.” He was reluctant to let go of her hand.
Xiao Xia ran over and turned on her desk lamp. Only then did she realize she was wearing a more revealing set of pajamas. She instinctively covered her chest.
“I’ll go wait in the living room for you to change.” Ruan Zhan lowered his eyes and suppressed his pounding heart.
“Don’t go!” Xiao Xia blurted out. Realizing how ambiguous her words sounded, she hurriedly explained, “That….it appeared here, I’m scared it will…”
Ruan Zhan swiftly turned around, unable to endure looking at her so directly. “Is this ok?”
Xiao Xia awkwardly agreed and scrambled for some clothes. She then told him the entire series of events. Ruan Zhan forced himself to shift his attention away from her onto the matter at hand, but realized he was extremely unsuccessful. Xiao Xia repeated herself three times before he understood.
“Why are you here?” Xiao Xia seemed to suddenly recall to ask.
“Did you forget I’m able to divine things?” Ruan Zhan spoke evasively.
He didn’t know any divination at all. He had just been thinking about her too much, resulting in a strong telepathic connection between them. The moment night fell, he started feeling a sense of unease, as though she was in danger. However, the feeling swiftly passed, making him step back.
He missed her a lot, but endured it since he felt he shouldn’t take the initiative to seek her out. He had endured this way for three months. Although he felt relief that she hadn’t come looking for him, he felt some unreasonable expectation within his heart.
This expectation was exceptionally strong tonight. Therefore, the moment he felt uneasy a second time, he unhesitatingly ran out and drove over, just in time to run into the escaping Xiao Xia. Seeing her current state, he was also blaming himself. Why did he allow his confused emotions to put her in danger?
“If I’m not mistaken, your colleague is already dead.” Ruan Zhan got back on topic. “Furthermore, he most likely died near a computer, resulting in this phenomenon.”
“But the computer burnt up.” Xiao Xia said. She wasn’t upset at losing the computer. She just wanted to know the root cause.
“The scientific explanation would be that the soul is a form of energy. Since it was transmitted through your computer, the incompatible energies caused it to burn up. The supernatural explanation would be that he died in front of his computer, and his lingering obsession was to tell you something through it. However, something stopped him before he could do so. The soul cannot leave the body for long, so his appearance and disappearance happened very quickly. Therefore, your computer mysteriously broke. Don’t worry though, I’ll give you another one.”
“That’s right, I did hear typing.”
“Then come with me.” Ruan Zhan stood up. “Although your computer is broken, I’ll use mine to check your email for clues.”
“Guan Zheng….” Xiao Xia looked sorrowfully at the computer as though it was Guan Zheng sitting there. Although she didn’t particularly have a good impression of him, and even hated him for killing that cat, she still couldn’t bear to see him dead. “Shouldn’t we call the police?”
“It’s better to pretend not to know. Otherwise, we might end up becoming suspects. The first person to discover the body is always suspicious.” Ruan Zhan saw her dejected appearance and couldn’t help but cup her face. The tender feeling transmitted to his palm caused it to linger a while. “Besides, how are you going to explain how you knew he was dead? Just based on a nightmare?”
“That wasn’t a nightmare!”
“I know, I know! Therefore, we should go see what he left behind for you!”
Xiao Xia nodded and followed Ruan Zhan back to the Nocturnal Revenant.
When they arrived, the bar was very lively. Xiao Xia once again went up the stairs with Ruan Zhan under the jealous and ambiguous stares of the crowd. However, she didn’t feel any awkwardness this time. Instead, she felt kind of smug.
This was because she knew she had a special place in his heart. No other woman had gone up the stairs of his bar before.
Under Ruan Zhan’s warm gaze, she forcibly suppressed the urge to immediately enact her “villages surrounding the city” plan. She felt that it would be too unjust to arrange her relationship matters on the night of Guan Zheng’s death. She decided to deal with that first.
She opened her mailbox and saw a new email as expected. It was from Guan Zheng.
“Xiao Xia, I frightened you. I’m sorry. I have my own reasons, but I don’t wish to get you involved. This matter is complicated. I can’t understand it. Forget about this matter, it’s too weird! Don’t tell anyone about it either, or you’ll also suffer misfortune! Those people deserve death! I’m very happy they died. They’re scum, worse than beasts! But believe me, I want them to die following due process, though I know such a judgment is impossible! You don’t understand. When you have to deal with such people day after day…”
Xiao Xia was completely confused. She felt the normally organized and strict Guan Zheng was rambling in his email. Yet what ended up making her stop and turn to Ruan Zhan was the final part of the email.
There were three rows of apostrophes typed onto the page, before the following intermittent words: I’m about to die, Xiao Xia, take care, avenge, don’t get close to the truth.
Then, there was some more jumbled nonsense and the name of a place.
The impression Xiao Xia got from this email was that Guan Zheng had typed this while in extreme danger or pain. He didn’t have time to finish writing, and his thoughts had been muddled and hesitant. However, these were his last words.
“Where is this?” She pointed at the location.
“The Yunnan Province.” Ruan Zhan said. “Near the border of mid-Burma.”