The endless wait was torture for everyone. Some who couldn’t endure this stifling atmosphere started banging on the formless foggy gates while crying and shouting!
Their words weren’t discernible and it wasn’t clear who was crying. The scene was filled with fear and despair, as if they had given up all hopes of survival.
“Everyone, shut up!”
Before Xiao Xia’s fear turned to anger, Zuo De started yelling first. He took a large step towards the center of the plaza and yelled at the lake, “What are you trying to do? Seek justice for injustice, take revenge for grudges. All this hocus pocus is making even the dead look down on you! Go ahead and throw whatever tricks you have left at us. This daddy’s waiting for you!”
There was silence at first, and then came the sound of sobbing. It didn’t come from the surrounded people. Instead, it came from everywhere within the impenetrable fog. It started off quietly, but grew gradually louder. It sounded as if many people were crying at once, becoming a sort of sinister humming that seemed to come from the ground. It stabbed into their ears and soul, making them shiver!
“Ah!” Liu Hong screamed after being stunned for a moment. She swiftly ran from the edge of the plaza to Zuo De’s side. “There are many, many…ghosts. There are many, many, in the fog…” She was out of breath from her crying.
Before she finished speaking, everyone else had come to the same realization and swiftly ran to the center of the plaza.
Yet as they ran, the fog seemed to have been dragged along as it also gradually shrunk towards the center. In the blink of an eye, the space remaining in the plaza grew smaller and smaller. As the nine people crowded together back to back, the white fog drew up to them like a white wall.
Heavy, nervous breathing came from the nine of them. They all knew the slaughter was about to begin.
Zuo De angrily rammed against the wall of fog but was bounced back. His sturdy body happened to bump into Xiao Xia’s injured shoulder and she cried out in pain.
At the same time, there was another cry. The tightly packed space suddenly loosened as three people were pulled out by invisible hands and thrown out to the ground. The moment they fell, the fog parted irregularly, allowing the rest of them to clearly see the state of those three.
One of them was the middle-aged man surnamed Song who was responsible for propaganda. There was another who worked in the education and culture department while the last one was the head of the town’s secretary department. They kept desperately trying to stand up, but seemed to be firmly pressed down by something.
Zuo De and Xiao Xia wanted to charge out and grab them, but weren’t able to break the wall of fog no matter what. They could only watch helplessly!
They watched as the three gasped for air, both hands clutching at their neck. The writhed painfully on the ground, their veins and eyes popping. They were clearly suffocating, as if they were in a vacuum!
“Kill them if you must, no need to use such cruel methods!” Xiao Xia couldn’t bear to keep watching. Especially since their muffled moans were being maliciously amplified. This made Xiao Xia feel sympathetic to the extent that her own breathing became irregular.
She was ignored and the torment continued. It lasted until the despairing struggle for life ceased and the three victims had all suffocated to death. The sobbing sounds gradually started up again. At the same time, the fog withdrew to the plaza’s edge like the tide.
“What should we do? What should we do? We can’t get out. Zuo De, I don’t want to die. Take me out of here! I don’t want to die!” Liu Hong started crying again.
“Let’s keep running. We’ll see what tricks they have left to play.” Zuo De said. Although his attitude was tough, his tone was filled with helplessness and despair. Under such circumstances, there was no way for them to survive. Twelve of them had entered and now half of them were dead. They didn’t even know what their opponent looked like or where they came from. They could only passively take the beating.
Only Xiao Xia, Zuo De, Liu Hong, one of the town’s journalists surnamed Ma, Zhao Jia Yuan and the insane Mao Fu were left. Apart from the two “officials”, the remaining people were all young, not yet thirty. If these were really vengeful ghosts looking for justice, the four young people were very likely innocent. However, this lost city didn’t seem like it was going to let anyone off. Instead, they were left for last.
What cruel method of death had “it” planned for them? Were Zhao Jia Yuan and Mao Fu going to be next?! If these horrifying events were really retaliation, they were the only two who knew the truth!
Xiao Xia looked over at Zhao Jia Yuan. He was completely pale, no better than a corpse. He stood frozen, and if it weren’t for his trembling lips, he could be mistaken for an ugly statue.
Zhao Jia Yuan saw Xiao Xia looking over. His face was filled with extreme terror as if there was a demon standing behind her. He blurted out, “I had nothing to do with it, I don’t know anything. It wasn’t me! Don’t ask me! I don’t know anything! Ah…”
He screamed and fell to the floor. His feet kicked wildly and his fingers scrabbled at the floor. However, it was all in vain. His foot seemed to have been caught by an invisible rope and he was swiftly pulled away into the fog, vanishing once again!
Mao Fu roared with laughter, as if having seen something amusing. “Money for debt, life for life, such is the way of things. Haha, it needs to be repaid, it needs to be repaid! No matter how long ago, it still needs to be repaid!”
His face was covered in snot and tears from laughter. He bent over, and when he straightened again, his eyes suddenly became fixed, glowing with a faint green light.
“Let’s go together!”He turned mechanically and stretched his hand out towards Reporter Ma, who was closest to him. He walked rigidly towards him.
Reporter Ma cried out and ran off into the fog in fear. Having lost his target, Mao Fu turned to pursue Zuo De and Liu Hong. Liu Hong screamed in terror and dodged left and right under Zuo De’s protection.
The plaza wasn’t small and Zuo De stubbornly refused to leave it. Yet Mao Fu was freakishly fast. They were forced further and further back, until they could only run into the fog as well.
“There’s only you left.” Mao Fu said to Xiao Xia, his face cracking a rigid smile.
Xiao Xia glanced at the lake and saw the three water spouts had already turned red. The performance had ended and the “director” was clearing the scene. When the remaining people were “invited” back, the curtains would rise on a new murderous performance. Those three corpses would also vanish like the others. How many fountains of death would appear the next time? What kind of strange killing method would it be? Who would be the victims?
She didn’t wait for Mao Fu who was clearly being controlled to come chase her. She entered the fog by herself. Since everything had been arranged, she might as well save her spend her energy in trying to come up with some ways to resist. Unfortunately, despite intending on learning some Daoist arts from Ruan Zhan, her laziness and being busy with small matters meant she hadn’t learned a thing yet. Otherwise, she wouldn’t be so helpless today!
If she could get out of this place alive, she would definitely become his disciple!
Ruan Zhan’s name made her heart soften. At the same time, she hated herself a little for being so timid. Why hadn’t she told him how she felt while she still had a chance? If she died her, she could never tell him the words in her heart. So what if he could communicate with spirits? The two realms are separate. She would never feel his embrace!
She had never experienced her longing for Ruan Zhan so deeply before. Perhaps from their first meeting, when she saw him through the glass of the bar’s door, when she saw his gentle yet distant smile towards the numerous female customers at the bar, when she realized that beneath his polite and refined appearance was cold indifference, she had already fallen in love with him.
Someone had said that love was like lightning. You never knew when it would strike you!
She once thought her type would be an outstanding man like Wan Li: gentle, entertaining, humorous, steady, intelligent, confident, warm like a clump of fire that would never leave you cold, yet also wouldn’t burn you. Unexpectedly, she had fallen in love with a man who secluded himself in the cold darkness, unwilling to let anyone get close.
But she had fallen in love. She had unwittingly fallen in love. He was so tough and yet so frail. He was so tough that nothing could knock him over, yet so frail he could shatter at a touch. He made her involuntarily and recklessly want to get close, warm him, bring happiness and light into his life. She wanted sweep away the clouds in his heart, to have the frigid ice melt into spring waters for her!
Ruan Zhan! Ruan Zhan!
She fervently whispered his name, and really wanted to fall to her knees and beg the heavens. As long as he could appear before her, she would speak the words hidden in her heart. No matter the outcome, she would tell him!
Screw her villages encroaching the city plan. No one knew how much time they had left. The world was too unpredictable. As long as she got another chance, she would definitely not miss it again!
As if in response to her prayers, she suddenly heard Ruan Zhan calling in her mind again as she wandered blindly in the fog!
Was it him? Had he come to save her, or…
She didn’t dare speak. She looked vigilantly yet expectantly around her, afraid she was hallucinating. Or perhaps that family of wooden people was using Ruan Zhan’s voice to trick her again!
Step, step. The sound of footsteps slowly rang out. It was a little hesitant, not quite the same as Ruan Zhan’s normally firm and steady pace. This made Xiao Xia’s heart tighten, despair slowly rising within.
The footsteps grew closer as if its owner was right in front of her.
In her nervousness, Xiao Xia made a decision: run! It wasn’t whom she was waiting for. He couldn’t have come so quickly. This was a haunted place. The heavens couldn’t have heard her prayers!
She turned to run but a hand suddenly shot out from the fog and wrapped around her waist from behind. It gripped her tightly, and she was sure that Shuan Zhu had returned to bother her. Therefore, she struggled desperately!
“Let go! Let go! Let go of me!” She twisted her body desperately, kicking, punching, and biting. She was like a captured animal, trying everything in her power to escape. However, it was no use. She was forcibly pulled into an embrace.
“Shhhh….it’s me! It’s ok now! It’s me.” The person held her firmly but the tone was extremely gentle. “Shhhh….shhhh…don’t yell, Xiao Xia. I’m glad you’re ok. I was terrified. I thought I might not make it in time! Alright, it’s ok now.”
The familiar voice and the person’s unique scent of sweet alcohol mixed with bitter tobacco made Xiao Xia stand frozen, no longer struggling. Was it him? Was it really Ruan Zhan? Why was he here? How did he know she was here?