Book 6 Chapter 19: Paper fish

         A clump of fire shot out from Ruan Zhan’s palm.

  This flaming handprint was fiercer than any he had thrown before. Furthermore, its trajectory wasn’t simply a straight line. Instead, it spun in all directions as it charged forwards.

  The moment the flames appeared, Xiao Xia heard screams from all around. The fog around them retreated like the tide, allowing them to see the entire plaza from their position. They also saw the fireball containing incomparable heat travel until it struck one of the trees by the plaza, which immediately ignited.

  “Ah, the plaza is up ahead! Let’s go quickly!”  Liu Hong cried out in shock and excitement, pushing Reporter Ma forwards at the same time. Reporter Ma was caught off guard and collided against Xiao Xia’s back. Yet the moment Liu Hong cried out, Xiao Xia had been fully prepared against any accidents she might cause. Therefore, she braced against Reporter Ma’s collision, not colliding with Ruan Zhan in turn.

  Others hadn’t noticed, but her hands had been supporting Ruan Zhan’s back. She felt that after he sent out the flaming handprint, his body was trembling slightly. She understood that he had overexerted himself in order to bluff these resentful spirits. If he were struck by an external force at this time, his weakened condition would be revealed.

  “Zuo De, if she screams randomly again, toss her out of the formation.” She said ruthlessly, hating this selfish, snobby woman who had insufficient successes yet a surplus of failures. She finally understood why one troublemaker on the inside was worse than ten enemies on the outside.

  Ruan Zhan didn’t say anything, his thoughts aligned with Xiao Xia’s. He walked towards the plaza at a slighter faster pace than before. However, he was still steady, as if going for a stroll. This would conceal any weakness in his steps while also exuding confidence, scaring those resentful spirits into not acting rashly.

  With his powers sealed, he could only rely on trickery and stalling. Yet the fact he was able to do so meant he had truly destroyed Si Ma Nan’s water scrying technique, preventing him from observing the town’s situation and making him unable to control things or give orders. The spirits here definitely assumed he was very powerful. He was an absolute threat to them, and only lingered because he was temporarily unable to find the way out. That had to be the only reason he waited here for reinforcements. Therefore, they merely surrounded him, not daring to rush in.

  Yet Zhao Jia Yuan’s matter showed that these resentful spirits weren’t simple. They knew to place spies in their midst. Right now, there might still be others around them. Therefore, he had to be cautious. He couldn’t reveal anything about his current condition.

  There was also another disadvantage. Si Ma Nan wouldn’t just leave things as is. He would definitely try other methods to put him on the back foot.

  The resentful spirits that had turned into thick fog followed behind them unresigned. When they arrived at the plaza, the fog didn’t stop and gradually encroached within. This was what Ruan Zhan had expected. Although the fog covered the plaza, it wasn’t as dense as before. The visibility was slightly better than on the streets, allowing their group to see each other as they sat around the tree.

  Perhaps due to the flaming handprint containing spirit power, that tree was still burning like a giant torch. Although the people who had their backs to it didn’t feel any heat, as if the fire was cold, the flames along with the three talismans each person placed around them successfully prevented the spirits from approaching!

  The fog roiled violently like boiling water. Xiao Xia knew they were unresigned, and also knew they would come up with some way to attack in a bit. She took a glance at Ruan Zhan and saw that while his expression was calm, his complexion wasn’t great. She continuously prayed for him to recover quickly in her mind. At the same time, she understood they had avoided another wave of danger. However, it was just temporary. Something worse was yet to come. Si Ma Nan sat calmly on the sofa, looking at Hong Hao Hao who was unpacking her items with an angry expression.

  He knew she wasn’t satisfied with their accommodations. Ever since he brought her back from Burma, he had given her the most luxurious lifestyle. Therefore, even though this inn was already the best one in Hongqing Town, she was still dissatisfied.

  He didn’t really care about stuff like this. He had stayed in the worst places in this world before: tombs. To him, material wealth and comforts weren’t that important. What he wanted was just the sense of superiority, being in control of everything and able to look down on everyone. This included Hong Hao Hao. She was just his most dazzling ornament. He had never placed her in his heart!

  The reason he set his eyes on Ruan Zhan initially was because he was surprised there was still such a person in this world. He wasn’t some huckster acting mysterious, but rather had true innate powers. Therefore, he wanted to mess around with him a little, like how a cat who had eaten its fill just toyed with the mouse.

  In the end, he had lost.

  The first time was due to his carelessness. That carelessness caused his spirit root to be damaged. Therefore, in the next encounters he was forced to remain behind the scenes. Doing this made him feel very contradictory. On one hand, he wanted Ruan Zhan to lose. He had realized that the ice-cold youngster was growing stronger and stronger, making him feel slightly worried. On the other hand, he wanted Ruan Zhan to win. That way he could personally finish him off once his injuries completely recovered.

  All his life he was clear about what he wanted and had never hesitated before. Yet in the end he actually realized he was afraid of Ruan Zhan. He was like a monarch past his prime seeing a young hero pressuring him to give up his throne.

  Furthermore, Ruan Zhan was that person’s child. That person had personally taught him. Therefore, he could tolerate it even less!

  This time however, apart from eliminating Ruan Zhan there was another deeper reason: the secret in Ah Bai’s hands.

  Actually, his powers hadn’t fully recovered. He would have more assurance if he waited a little longer. However, he pretended to be fully recovered because he could no longer wait. After Ah Bai died, he knew she had lingering obsessions that caused her spirit to remain. Therefore, he could only seal her in the dried well and prevent her from coming out. He let her stew in loneliness year after year for the sake of preventing that secret from being exposed.

  He hadn’t been able to obtain it, so he naturally couldn’t let it fall into anyone else’s hands.

  He hadn’t expected Ruan Zhan’s group to encounter Ah Bai’s spirit in the mountain woods. He also didn’t expect them to bring her out. Watching them spend day after day together, he was really afraid Ah Bai would tell them the secret. Therefore, he was forced to act!

  “Is everything prepared?” He was fed up with Hong Hao Hao’s seemingly endless tidying.

  “Not yet. This crappy closet here…”

  “I’m not talking about that.” Si Ma Nan interrupted her. “I’m asking whether the preparations for the plan are in place.”

  Hong Hao Hao saw his face sink and hurriedly swallowed her complaints. Having followed him for so many years, she had long since gotten used to his bipolar personality. When he was happy, he could give you the world without furrowing his brow. Yet in the next moment, he could kill you without blinking an eye.

  “Everything has long since been prepared.”

  “It won’t be like last time when dealing with Wan Li right? Not only was the job incomplete, it gave him the opportunity to dangle himself in front of us while we are now powerless to act.” Si Ma Nan laughed, but it made Hong Hao Hao shiver in fear.

  “That was…my mistake.” Hong Hao Hao had wanted to blame the underlings, but didn’t say it in the end. “But this time you moved in next to Wan Li. Haven’t you completely removed his advantage? If we’re so close to him, isn’t it easy to kill him without anyone noticing?”

  “Easy? But after so many attempts, haven’t we failed to do anything to those two youngsters?” Si Ma Nan said self-mockingly. However, thinking of how Wan Li had turned his disadvantage into an advantage after the last encounter, he couldn’t help but feel some admiration. He truly had some wits about him. His own plan of moving in next to Wan Li, acting as an ordinary person yet constantly making him fear for his life, was even more impressive!

  He looked at the watch on his wrist. It was almost midnight. Wan Li that youngster was probably sleeping soundly next door. However, he wasn’t the target today. The target was Ruan Zhan who was in the new town.

  That youngster looked so elegant, yet his bones were tough enough to choke on. However, he was still young after all. Did he really think it was sufficient to break the water scrying technique and set up an impenetrable boundary outside the new town?

  The boundary completely sealed the city. Even getting through underground was impossible. However, if there were waterways leading to the outside, then it wouldn’t be so easy to seal the space. Water is formless and flowing. To even seal off water would require special powers. No matter gifted Ruan Zhan was, it wasn’t possible for him to accomplish this at the moment.

  When Ruan Zhan broke through his boundary and set up his own self-destructive one, Si Ma Nan hadn’t realized this point due to his anger at having the tables turned on him again. However, after calming down he finally realized this tiny loophole. Coincidentally, Hongqing Town was lacking in water before finding an underground spring. That spring was something that flowed into the town from the outside.

  This made it possible for him to cast spells. Although the flowing water might reduce their effectiveness, it was still sufficient to give the youngster surnamed Ruan a hard time. Although he couldn’t see Ruan Zhan’s situation, he could easily guess that he was relying on the power of talismans to protect himself and the survivors while stalling for time to recover his sealed powers.

  No one knew better than Si Ma Nan what sort of talismans Ruan Zhan used. As for the youngster’s thoughts to recover his powers in such a sort time, they were essentially wishful thinking. Recovering his powers required spirit power. Without any of it on hand, how was he to recover? Magic power, spirit power and exorcism power had all been sealed by him. How powerful could Ruan Zhan still be?

  He couldn’t help but feel a little smug at this point. Therefore, he no longer delayed and took Hong Hao Hao to the place where the underground spring connected into the new town.

  He looked towards the sky. A cloud happened to cover the moon, making the sky match this hour of extreme yin very well. He immediately seized the opportunity, standing in the location he had calculated in advance. From the black-painted wooden plate in Hong Hao Hao’s hands, he took a strange fish-shaped object made of paper, covered in spellscript. Then he murmured a spell and the moment before the cloud passed over the moon, he bit the tip of his tongue and spat some blood onto the paper fish in his hand. He threw the fish into the mouth of the well!

  Inside the pitch black well, that paper fish fell onto the water surface like a bright lamp. It flopped a couple of times like an actual fish before its body turned black and it plunged into the water. It streaked through the water like an arrow, vanishing in an instant.

  “Go! Go! Go corrupt all talismans. Let resentful spirits be unobstructed, and let those who rely on talismans for protection be without shield!”   He spoke towards the well, his face looking pale in contrast with the dark water!

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