Xiao Xia almost blurted out her name, but was afraid of being noticed by Shuan Zhu in the cabinet across from her. She forced herself to keep it in. She didn’t know if her porcelain face would show any expressions. Even if they weren’t discernible to humans, maybe Shuan Zhu would notice something!
She desperately kept her excited emotions in check, not daring to respond.
“Xiao Xia, don’t be afraid. I still have some remnant power, enough to show the one observing you an illusion. Also, only the two of us can hear each other. Therefore, don’t be afraid to speak. It’s fine.” Ah Bai spoke again.
Only then did Xiao Xia let out a breath. “Where did you go? I was so worried, I thought you might be…”
“I’m over here!” Ah Bai once again used her voice to signal her.
Xiao Xia could hear she was on her left and exerted her strength to shift in that direction. She rocked countless times before feeling her angle shift slightly, barely managing to see a similarly turned little porcelain figure. The picturesque face and tribal outfit indicated it was indeed Ah Bai.
Seeing Ah Bai’s condition, Xiao Xia’s despair increased by another layer. She had faintly been worried about this possibility, but then figured with Ah Bai being a capable Witch Doctor previously, she would have some way to keep herself safe. Unexpectedly, she had ended up in the same situation as herself. Then who could go help Ruan Zhan?
“I only have a tiny bit of power left. I’m not able to help you guys, I’m sorry.” Ah Bai seemed to have read Xiao Xia’s mind and said guiltily.
Xiao Xia hurriedly shook her head, despite not being able to move. “Don’t say that, Ah Bai. We’re the ones who brought you out. We should be the ones responsible for your safety. Therefore, I should be the one to apologize for getting you involved. If there’s an opportunity, you should escape. Don’t worry about any of us. It’s just a shame I couldn’t help find that person for you.”
“Oh, he…” Ah Bai hesitated for several seconds. “He’s already here, but hasn’t made an appearance yet. However, I can sense it.”
Xiao Xia didn’t speak, having vividly understood Ah Bai’s expression. Previously, she hadn’t understood why someone pure and beautiful as an angel like Ah Bai would fall in love with someone sinister, malicious, callous and selfish like Si Ma Nan. Yet now she understood. During the extreme danger in this empty city, her feelings for Ruan Zhan had completely burst forth. Therefore, she could understand Ah Bai’s heart.
Women weren’t fools, but when a woman truly loved a man, she would abandon everything for his sake, including reason, dignity and life. Even knowing it was a trap, she would walk into it, willingly getting pierced by thousands of arrows!
For example, if Ruan Zhan turned evil one day, even if the whole world became his enemy, even if she had to accompany him to hell, she was willing to stay with him. All she needed in return was a tiny bit of love. If they were truly in love, how could she abandon him!?
“How did you end up being trapped here?” Xiao Xia snapped out of it and asked Ah Bai.
“When you all were walking along the mountain path, I had already sensed something was off. After you pulled off the patterned rope, I was planning to scout things out but ended up being scared off by that fierce spirit. I’m really useless!”
“Fierce spirit?” Xiao Xia didn’t want Ah Bai to keep blaming herself so she continued asking. “Was it the person with two moles on his face that possessed Zuo De?”
“That’s right. However, he doesn’t seem to be from this city. Instead, he’s working together with the resentful spirits here. You all shouldn’t have ended up here, but the space around this place was warped. Therefore, I saw you all fall in as if you were dropped in from a great height. There was nothing I could do. I couldn’t save you so I could only follow. You were all unconscious from the fall. I came out of the bracelet trying to save you, but was wrapped up by an extremely heavy resentful aura. Then…I ended up being sealed in this vessel.” Ah Bai described these small porcelain dolls as vessels. It seemed rather fitting to Xiao Xia.
“Hopefully Ruan Zhan doesn’t get tricked by my original “vessel”. I’m really worried he’ll get harmed. His abilities have been sealed by Si Ma Nan. Now, he’s pretty much just an ordinary spirit medium. These resentful spirits with such deep grudges are too dangerous for him! What should we do?” The mention of this filled Xiao Xia with worry.
“It has nothing to do with you. Don’t tell me you need to apologize whenever Si Ma Nan does something bad? I know you love him a lot, but you don’t need to be responsible for his actions.” Xiao Xia was a little jittery, not knowing how to comfort Ah Bi.
Ah Bai remained silent for several seconds before letting out a long sigh. “You are all good people, but he…he was once good too.”
“That day, when I saw the technique that sent you all into the city, I knew he was the one responsible.” Ah Bai seemed not to have heard Xiao Xia’s considerate interruption, and spoke faintly, focused on her own thoughts. “From the moment I met him to when we got married, we had been together for five years. Although he tossed me aside and left, after so many years, I’ve been reminiscing on every single thing about him. No one understands him better than I in this world. Ruan Zhan’s innate gifts are too strong. He has yet to truly awaken them, but once he finds the key to using his abilities, Ah Nan will never be able to beat him again. He’s such a prideful person. How could he accept someone being more powerful than him? Therefore, he will try to get rid of Ruan Zhan.”
“How is that pride? That’s clearly just being despicable! Truly proud people would disdain such schemes!”
Ah Bai laughed mournfully. “He has changed a little, or perhaps he is too impatient. There are too many things he can see but is never able to grasp. From some perspective, he is a pitiful person. But Xiao Xia, believe me when I say that his great efforts this time isn’t just to deal with Ruan Zhan. It’s also to deal with…me!”
“Stop speaking nonsense. You love him so much, yet he trapped you in that well for so many years. Isn’t that enough? Does he still need to hurt you more? He can’t be depraved to that extent, right!?”
“He isn’t trying to hurt me.” As a small porcelain doll, Ah Bai’s expression couldn’t be read. “To others, he’s just some villain. Yet to me, he’s my husband, the only person I’ve ever loved. I didn’t die at his hands. Everything was my own decision. After I died, he had many opportunities to scatter my soul, yet he merely sealed it in that dried well. In the end…in the end he couldn’t bear to do it. I think ultimately he still loves me a little. The reason he did that to me, and is now pressuring Ruan Zhan, is because he wants something I possess.”
Xiao Xia didn’t speak, but thought the reason Si Ma Nan didn’t finish Ah Bai off was because of that thing he wanted to obtain from her.
“You said before you were looking for him to give him something. Is it this thing?”
Ah Bai made a noise of agreement.
“I know he’s wanted it the entire time, but he never brought it up to me. Actually, if he asked me for it and then answered a question of mine, I would have given it to him.”
“What sort of treasure is it that he can’t do without?” Xiao Xia asked.
“It’s just a piece of rock that possesses a spiritual nature. My master left it for me and I’ve always kept it on me.”
“Does it do anything?”
“He didn’t need to go through so much effort. He just needed to answer a question honestly and I would’ve given it to him.” Ah Bai didn’t seem to have heard Xiao Xia’s question and continued to mutter to herself.
“Unfortunately, even if you had given it to him, he still wouldn’t let Ruan Zhan off.” Xiao Xia couldn’t bear to hurt Ah Bai, but Si Ma Nan was the one picking a fight. If they didn’t fight back, the one to die would be Ruan Zhan. From this perspective, Si Ma Nan was really extreme. He kept putting them in situations where only one side could live!
“I understand. Don’t worry about me. Truthfully speaking, the one I’m worried about is Ruan Zhan. Although his powers are strong, they haven’t been completely unleashed. Furthermore, despite his cool nature, he isn’t ruthless enough. He might…suffer some losses!”
“He’s already suffered some losses.” Xiao Xia’s heart clenched at mentioning Ruan Zhan. “I’m afraid of him getting hurt again. With his personality, he definitely won’t give up no matter what he encounters. He won’t rest until he’s dead. But Ah Bai, do you know why there’s such a heavy resentful aura here?”
“I don’t know either. Those things never spoke about it in my presence. However, these people seem to all be from a very large village. Furthermore, from what I can see, these resentful spirits had once all been suppressed by a master using this tower. Their resentment was soon to be purified and they were to be sent on their way. However, that was when…”
“When Si Ma Nan released them, right? But how is he controlling these resentful spirits?”
Ah Bai continued to sigh. “Such deep resentment, released after being suppressed for so long, isn’t something anyone can control. They and Ah Nan are merely…cooperating. He’s unable to control them at this point. These resentful spirits have a very deep grievance and are very pitiful. Although their revenge is a little cruel, they must have suffered unusual torment. But Ah Nan’s actions…are really too excessive!”
“Is there any way we can help Ruan Zhan?” Xiao Xia asked worriedly. After speaking with Ah Bai for so long, this was the only thing she wanted to know.
“I’m sorry, there isn’t. You can only wait.” Ah Bai said softly. “It’ll depend on how deep your relationship with him is. Someone like him will have a very strong connection with those he loves. If you gather your will and call out to him, it might be of help.”
“I’m sorry. Ever since I fell in love with Ah Nan, my powers started to diminish. Then I sensed that taking Ah Ya as my apprentice might result in calamity, so I used all my powers to beseech the heavens, obtaining the prophecy regarding the future and left behind the method to deal with him. My powers completely vanished after that. Now, the only thing I can do is speak with you without anyone knowing about it. What I’m using is the bit of spirit power I newly cultivated while being sealed in that well. But this is already my limit. I’m sorry, I really can’t help you!”
“Ah Bai, no need to be sorry.” “Xiao Xia comforted the guilty Ah Bai. She seemed to be putting all of Si Ma Nan’s evil upon herself. “I’ll do my best and give it a shot. I’ll definitely be able to warn Ruan Zhan. He’s been able to overcome so many dangers. This time will definitely be no different.”
Xiao Xia was actually very worried, but for the sake of comforting Ah Bai, she had no choice but to say this. Yet after doing so, she ended up giving herself a little confidence too. Who was Ruan Zhan? He was the man she loved. How could he be so easily tricked and attacked!?
She rammed against her “vessel” in the opposite direction, ignoring the pain in her injured shoulder. She only stopped when she was able to see Shuan Zhu. She had no other ideas. Ah Bai wasn’t able to help, but having found her and knowing she was just trapped like herself and in no danger, she finally put aside one of her worries.
“Ruan Zhan! Ruan Zhan! Be careful, that isn’t me!” She gathered all her will and desperately called to Ruan Zhan in her mind repeatedly, hoping to transmit her words to him.
After an unknown amount of time passed without any response, Xiao Xia suddenly heard the sound of familiar footsteps coming from the stairs, making her heart beat wildly!
It was Ruan Zhan! He was ok!
She look longingly towards the stairs. As the steady yet slightly irregular footsteps drew close, a man’s figure appeared. It was the unharmed Ruan Zhan! But…there was another woman who stuck to him tightly. Their intimacy plunged Xiao Xia’s heart from wild joy to extreme pain.
His powers hadn’t recovered!
This could be seen from his vacant eyes and relatively slower movements. Furthermore, he hadn’t received her transmitted message. He gently embraced the woman next to him, thinking the resentful spirit was her!
Xiao Xia felt her heart burning, both dry and painful, before shattering into pieces!
How could he not realize it? Although that resentful spirit was using her body, his senses had always been sharp. Why didn’t he sense that her soul wasn’t the one in the body? What made her more anxious than jealous was that Ruan Zhan wasn’t on guard against that woman at all. Instead, he treated her with the most gentle attitude! At this rate, if the resentful spirit really made a move against him, wouldn’t he be unable to even retaliate?
Why hadn’t he received her message? Why couldn’t he sense her? Was she not focused enough? But why hadn’t the resentful spirit made a move? Weren’t they trying to get rid of Ruan Zhan this whole time? If they hadn’t made a move after all this time, they must still be uncertain about Ruan Zhan’s condition!
She stared at Ruan Zhan’s face, hoping he would look over. However, he didn’t look at the cabinet at all, instead continuing to converse with the resentful spirit posing as Xiao Xia.
“You only opened the door for me after I knocked for so long.” The resentful spirit complained coquettishly.
Xiao Xia almost threw up. She had never spoken to Ruan Zhan in such a tone before. But why didn’t Ruan Zhan realize that? Did he think women in love all acted that way? Yet she was helpless towards it all. Apart from desperately trying to reach him, she could only watch anxiously.
“Sorry. I was at the crucial stage of recovering my spirit powers, and couldn’t be distracted.” Ruan Zhan’s voice rang out.
As usual, his voice was steady and magnetic, as if he had something up his sleeve. Xiao Xia figured it was this confident attitude of his that caused the resentful spirit to hesitate whether she should act. Therefore, Ruan Zhan was still fine despite her body having been possessed for so long.
“Then how is the recovery process going?”
“I’m pretty much recovered. It’s just the invisible talisman sealing my sight that has yet to be dismantled. Don’t worry, it won’t be long.” Ruan Zhan said softly.
As he was speaking, the resentful spirit was stretching her hand out towards his back. Yet after hearing he was pretty much recovered, the hand which had already turned into porcelain was slowly lowered. She was clearly afraid of Ruan Zhan. It seems his lightning palms and flaming handprints were rather threatening to these resentful spirits.
At this time, Xiao Xia realized this resentful spirit’s powers might be the strongest of the group. She clearly witnessed that it could transform its body at will. It could be porcelain one moment and resemble flesh the next. No wonder Ruan Zhan couldn’t sense it.
“What do you plan to do?” The fake Xiao Xia asked again.
“I’ll stay in this tower.” Ruan Zhan said. “I know this tower was built to suppress those resentful spirits. I also know it was supposed to dissolve the resentment and evil, sending them on their way. Yet someone had to go ruin it.”
“You know?” The fake Xiao Xia kept her tone steady, but her expression changed.
“That’s right.” Ruan Zhan smiled gently. “That’s why I’m going to stay here. This play is advantageous for me. Those resentful spirits aren’t able to enter in large groups. Only those with stronger spirit power and especially deep resentment can enter, and only with the assistance of others at that. As long as I stay here, none of them can avoid my lightning palm or flaming handprint.”
The resentful spirit stood frozen in place, its expression turning scarily malevolent. This made Xiao Xia unable to keep watching. That was her own face after all. She never wanted to turn so scary!
“Xiao Xia, don’t be afraid. How about I let you try it out? Let’s do a flaming handprint!” Ruan Zhan raised his hand.
“No!” The fake Xiao Xia involuntarily cried out.
“What is it? It’s fine, the flaming handprint won’t hurt you.” Ruan Zhan pulled the fake Xiao Xia into his arms.
“Mmm…I just don’t like it, it’s nothing. I don’t want you to use it randomly.” The fake Xiao Xia smoothed things over.
“No? That’s fine. Better to leave it for those resentful spirits. Once I’m completely recovered, I’ll take you out of this haunted city without caring about anything else.”
Xiao Xia started getting a little suspicious at this point. Did Ruan Zhan really not realize that woman was fake?
He was a cool and aloof man, and would never show off in front of women. Furthermore, he had more goodwill towards spirits than humans. If it weren’t for spirits trying to harm those around him, if he wasn’t forced to act, he wouldn’t make a move against them normally.
What was going on with him? What was he planning? Or did love also change a man?
“What about the others?” The resentful spirit asked again.
“Those people must have done something truly heinous. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be trapped here waiting for death.”
“Waiting for death…waiting for death…” The resentful spirit seemed to have recalled something and started muttering, an expression of fear appearing on her face.
“What is it?”
”Nothing. I just feel that waiting for death sounds awful.” The resentful spirit shivered. “To witness death descend with your own eyes!”
“You’re just too softhearted.” Ruan Zhan pulled the fake Xiao Xia into his arms, his palm rubbing over her back. “There are many things that cannot be helped. You don’t have to worry anymore. Everything will be resolved.”
Seeing him hug the resentful spirit, Xiao Xia’s heart was about to leap out of her throat. If the resentful spirit made a move at this time, he was dead for sure. In Ruan Zhan’s arms, the resentful spirit’s head twisted at an indescribable angle and happened to meet Xiao Xia’s gaze. Her hands were also stroking back and forth along Ruan Zhan’s back, turning between a porcelain blade and a tender hand. She was clearly wavering, wanting to make a move but not daring to do so.
In the end, she still didn’t dare to do it and slowly got free of Ruan Zhan’s embrace. Only then did Xiao Xia feel relieved, as though having undergone baptism through life and death.
“You should eat something. If you aren’t hungry, you should at least drink some water.” The resentful spirit said.
“Alright. But I remember you left it upstairs. Why don’t you go grab it.” Ruan Zhan nodded his head.
Hearing he was willing to drink, the resentful spirit looked extremely excited. “Alright, I’ll go fetch it for you. Wait here.” She turned to leave after speaking.
The moment she was gone, Ruan Zhan immediately raised his hand slightly. His familiar actions made Xiao Xia immediately realize he was setting up a formation. Her heart involuntarily beat wildly…had he recovered his powers? Could he at least set up formations?
The moment Ruan Zhan finished setting up the formation, he walked straight towards Xiao Xia. His eyes twinkled with unusual spirit. This meant he had also recovered his sight. He had been faking it earlier!
He walked in front of the porcelain doll containing Xiao Xia’s spirit. After gazing at it for several seconds, he stretched his index finger out in a tender caress. “Don’t worry, I know. I know everything!”