Wan Li no longer spoke. He felt some clues were surfacing, and straightened them out in his mind. Although that middle-aged woman still chattered on about the town’s matters, his years of experience as a psychiatrist allowed him to ponder over things while still conversing with her. Especially since he just had to react vaguely. This kind yet chatty big sis just wanted to talk, and didn’t really care about his responses.
Previously they had already figured this matter might be related to the kiln facility. Now, despite having no direct link to the kiln, there was indirect proof that those trapped in the empty town were intricately related: they were all officials who were promoted at the same time. They had cooperated in obtaining benefits for this time. Furthermore, they had all done some secret experiments related to porcelain together.
Could they have done something heinous before inviting someone with Daoist powers to suppress the resentful spirits? Then, after Si Ma Nan inadvertently discovered this, he released the resentful spirits and helped them set up their revenge? Of course, he was just acting in his own interests. That person wouldn’t get out of bed if it didn’t benefit him!
It seems he would have to contact Ruan Zhan immediately and exchange information. Then, they would decided what to do next. Now the answers seemed ready to be revealed, but that meant they had to be even more cautious. Accidents often happened at the most critical moments.
“Oh, goodness, it’s already so late!” The middle-aged woman was in the middle of speaking excitedly when she suddenly let out and exclamation. “The kid and adult are all going to be home soon. I have to go make food.” She whirled to leave, but only took a few steps before seeming to think of something. She turned back and said to Wan Li, “I’m also making a portion for Lady Feng. I might as well bring some extra. This mister can have a meal before leaving!”
Wan Li was going to decline, but it seemed this big sis hadn’t had such a good chat in a long while. Therefore, she was exceptionally passionate in detaining him, saying how her cooking of local specialties was much better than a hotel’s. It wasn’t appropriate to keep refusing, so Wan Li could only agree to stay.
While the big sis went off to cook, Wan Li tried to chat with Lady Feng. Ever since he entered the courtyard, she hadn’t spoken a word. She merely smiled serenely while gently polishing those four porcelain pieces over and over. She watched Wan Li and that big sis converse with a blissful expression. Thinking of her pitiful past, Wan Li’s heart felt sour and he really wanted to help her somehow.
Yet no matter what he said, Lady Feng merely smiled at him. She even stroked his face a little, so he could only give up in the end. He used her preferred method of silent communication to interact with her. He knew Lady Feng wanted to make him feel at home. Therefore, he didn’t stand on ceremony and took a tour around the small courtyard.
By the entryway, there was a simple shack with two rooms. It was clearly the kitchen and pantry, but its cold state made it obvious it hadn’t been used in a long time. Across from it were a row of three rooms. The room in the middle was Lady Feng’s. It was plain, unadorned, even decrepit. The room on the left was the worship room. It was very small but rather clean. A small incense burner smoldered silently. The room on the right wasn’t large either. The furniture was simple. Although it was also very clean, the moment the door was opened, an indescribable chill swept forth.
“That room belongs to my family’s Yong Zi.” Lady Feng suddenly spoke, startling Wan Li.
He turned around to see Lady Feng carrying the wooden box of porcelain as she stood behind him. He hurriedly reached out to help but Lady Feng turned away, not letting him touch the box. She placed it neatly on the bed herself and caressed it for a while, muttering under her breath as if the box was alive.
Wan Li stood frozen for some time. He suddenly had a strange feeling that he was interrupting, and thus left the room. Luckily, the chatty big sis came back not long after, carrying a large aluminum plate. On the plate were two large dishes and several steamed buns.
“Give my cooking a try. I guarantee you’ll start thinking of the next meal while eating this one!” She called him over warmly and also called Lady Feng outside.
It was summer so the dining table was placed in the courtyard. The chatty big sis helped Lady Feng fill her bowl with rice, and was about to help Wan Li when Lady Feng stopped her. Wan Li and the chatty big sis were both a little surprised. They didn’t know what the matter was. They were about to ask when they saw the elder walk into the room on the right. She held a set of snow white bowl and plate when she came out.
“You can use these!” Lady Feng said beaming.
Wan Li heard the big sis suck in a breath and looked over in confusion.
“My goodness!” The chatty big sis looked incredulous. “Those are Lady Feng’s treasures. She normally pits her life against anyone who touches them, but she’s actually letting you eat out of them today!?”
Wan Li didn’t know what to say. Lady Feng attentively helped him scoop some rice and get some of the dishes before stuffing everything into his hands. She stared at him, waiting for him to eat. He was born with plenty of guys, and wasn’t afraid of anything. Yet he had never been so exaggeratedly nervous. He hadn’t blinked when he stared death in the face several times, but his hands were trembling as he held the exquisite rice bowl.
Whether or not it was expensive wasn’t the main issue. Since Lady Feng cared so much about it, wouldn’t it be a huge crime if he accidentally broke the bowl?
“Eat!” The elder urged. Wan Li shook with fear as he scooped a bite of rice into his mouth, swallowing down after randomly chewing a couple of times.
The chatty big sis stared for a while before running back home to spread the gossip, leaving Wan Li behind to struggle. The more nervous he was, the heavier the bowl felt in his hands. As he ate, he actually felt the bowl shake. Startled, he immediately held it tight, afraid it would shatter.
However, as he held it in his palms, a strange sensation suddenly arose. The bowl started heating up for some reason. Eventually, it grew hot, making his palms feel as if they had been bitten! Had he held it too long, or was he just imagining things?
He hurriedly placed the bowl on the small wooden table and glanced at Lady Feng. The elder showed no reaction as she slowly ate her own food. She didn’t seem to have noticed the bowl’s abnormality.
He steadied himself and looked at the sky. The sun was setting and the light was already very faint. They were sitting in the shade, without any direct sunlight. Even if the sun was shining on him, it would only feel warm, right? That scalding sensation shouldn’t have been possible.
He reached out and touched the side of the bowl…it was burning hot as expected. Although it wasn’t to the extent of causing injury, it was at least above seventy degrees.
“What’s going on?” He mumbled softly.
As if in response, the beautiful white bowl suddenly moved.
Wan Li’s heart tightened and he glanced at Lady Feng. The elder was calm as ever, as if nothing had happened. Was he seeing things after wearing himself out these past few days? He rubbed his eyes and stared at the bowl, hoping he was mistaken. What he saw in the next few seconds with his eyes made him almost cry out like a commercial: it moves!
He hesitated for a moment. When he reached out to touch the bowl, he felt it trembling as if afraid of him. It slowly moved towards the plate until they made contact with a cling.
Wan Li furrowed his brows, a question in his mind.
Were these porcelain pieces possessed? The elder kept telling people her son Feng Yong Zi wasn’t dead, and that he came to see her. Could Feng Yong Zi’s soul be unwilling to leave his old ma, refusing to move on after so many years?
It seems he would have to look into these four pieces of porcelain! Furthermore, perhaps looking into Feng Yong Zi’s death might shed light onto the huge matter that no one was willing to talk about.
“Lady Feng, who sold you these treasures?” Wan Li saw that the elder had finished eating and was looking at him benevolently, so he probed for some clues.
“Oh, the treasures? They’re mine.” The elder flipped the bowl over without caring about the spilled rice. She merely stroked the bowl’s patterns lovingly. “Mine, they were mine to begin with!”
“Lady Feng, I know they’re yours. But where did they come from?”
“My son calls me mom.” The elder smiled happily. “He’s a filial child, he won’t just leave his mom behind.”
Wan Li opened and shut his mouth a few times. He wanted to use his therapeutic methods with his patients to keep asking questions, but for some reason he wasn’t able to do so when faced with this elder. He wasn’t willing to uncover the wounds in her heart, even if it would help her recover. Although he liked his job, he now felt it might not suit him anymore. His heart was too soft. He had lost the cool, analytical discipline of the medical field.
He stayed a while longer, patiently listening to the elder repeat her son’s praises. He only left when the chatty big sis came to clear the dishes. Prior to leaving, he praised the chatty big sis’s culinary skills, making her excitedly invite him back the next day to try her other dishes. While the big sis’s food might have been good, he hadn’t really been able to eat much earlier. The reason he acted as he did was so the frank and chatty big sis would switch shifts with the neighbor whose turn it was to look after Lady Feng tomorrow. That way he could continue talking with her to uncover the hidden truths.
The situation was very urgent. Ruan Zhan needed help! However, he mustn’t panic. Pressing too hard might not yield results. Therefore, he would first return to the inn and prod the weird innkeeper before exchanging info with Ruan Zhan and plan his next step.
He took a slow stroll along the main street, allowing his panicked ex-followers to “accidentally” notice him, before returning to the inn.
The moment he returned to his room, he called the reception and made a huge ruckus, insisting that the innkeeper make a trip. His aggressive demeanor frightened the employee into sending his boss over immediately.
“Boss Sun, the service here is too awful!” He appeared extremely angry. “The dinner I ordered has yet to arrive, the food isn’t fit to be eaten, the water in the shower isn’t hot. Look, the room hasn’t even been properly cleaned. Aren’t you embarrassed to charge so much money per night?”
Boss Sun had gotten to know him over the past few days and felt he was a amiable person. He didn’t understand why he would suddenly go off like this, and wasn’t able to respond right away.
Although this was no five star hotel, it was still the best one in town. The accommodations and service were both decent. But Wan Li was purposefully making trouble for the sake of the watching Si Ma Nan. That guy thought himself sophisticated, and would definitely get annoyed. If he disdained to listen any further, he would stop paying attention to him. Then, Wan Li would have plenty of methods to avoid his surveillance.
Of course, he couldn’t be too excessive or it would become suspicious.
“Don’t give me this and that.” Wan Li’s tone was very firm, but he still showed some poise. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be acting like himself. He was worried they would really get into an argument. He wasn’t good at that after all. This made him think of Xiao Xia. Although she was a mediocre lawyer, she was best at finding flaws in people’s words and would always come out on top in an argument.
Boss Sun was also a smart one. Despite his agitated state, Wan Li was very vigilantly observing his surroundings. The boss figured there might be something else going on, and thus merely put up some protest. His words were smooth and seemed very cooperative. Therefore, the two managed to bicker for over half an hour over these minor details. Although it was annoying, they didn’t really start arguing. An outsider would feel that Wan Li was barking by himself.
“Fine, you say you have good service? Come take a look at the bathroom with me.” Wan Li kicked the bathroom door open with a bang.
That should be about good enough. Si Ma Nan would assume he was frustrated at being unable to find any clues, and thus lost control of his emotions! He was truly tired of bickering. He realized now that arguing took a lot of stamina. Since the intended effect had probably been achieved, he hurriedly initiated the next phase.
When Boss Sun came in, Wan Li immediately closed the bathroom door and stuck a talisman onto it.
It was one of the ones Ruan Zhan had left behind. Although it couldn’t form a barrier, it was enough to seal off an enclosed space from prying eyes. The reason he put on an act beforehand instead of using it directly was to make Si Ma Nan think he wanted to discuss matters of the inn with Boss Sun. That way, he wouldn’t implicate Boss Sun.
Best of all, the bathroom was without any windows. Unless Si Ma Nan was hiding inside the toilet bowl, they would be safe.
Boss Sun was startled by the talisman, his face turning pale.
“Don’t be scared, it’s just an isolation talisman. With this, no one outside can hear our conversation.” He randomly made up a name. “Forgive me for yelling at you earlier. But believe me, there is someone in this inn that you and I need to be mindful of.”
“What do you mean?” Boss Sun recovered his wits. “I’m running an inn here, all who come are guests. It’s got nothing to do with me!”
“Stop trying to pass the buck. You’re a smart man. You should know that I wouldn’t have come to you in a rush if I hadn’t gotten some clues.” Wan Li spoke frankly. “You hinted at me to go to the western side of town. Weren’t you pointing the way for me? What, still not going to admit it? Let me tell you, I’ve already found Lady Feng, and also got hold of those moving porcelain pieces.”
Boss Sun didn’t speak, but his face alternated colors.
“Your father was the official surnamed Sun back then, right?” Wan Li continued to speak. “Out with it. The people who did that unspeakable thing back then are all trapped in the new town, their fates unknown. I trust you know the reason why.”
“You don’t need to trick me.” Boss Sun said. “I’ll tell you honestly, I know nothing.”
“You know nothing? Then why did you give me a hint? This is very contradictory, but I can understand. You might have no choice due to certain difficulties. But no matter if you’re benevolent or trying to atone, no one can remain uninvolved once this blows up.”
“I really don’t know.”
“Fine, then bring me the lamp and vase you used to scare Miss Yue last time. I’ll ask them myself.” Ruan Zhan had told him what Xiao Xia had encountered at this inn. This point made Wan Li detest this Boss Sun a little. If there’s something to say, just say it. Why act mysterious and scare women. Even if there are some difficulties, you can still make your own choice as a man. In psychological terms, this was a desire to be forced into doing something. When someone wasn’t able to choose, they would subconsciously want others to force a choice on them, making them passively accept an outcome.
This was a mentality of avoidance! Unfortunately the situation was too urgent. He didn’t have the time to let him avoid things!
“How did you…” Boss Sun suddenly stopped speaking but his expression changed. These words clearly struck at his heart.
“How did I know, right? Because I’m in the same group as that Miss Yue. With us is a sorcerer with profound powers. They are currently facing off against resentful spirits in the new town. I’m to help them on the outside. I’m sure you knew that. Otherwise, you wouldn’t direct me to Lady Feng in the west side of town!”
Boss Sun didn’t speak for a moment, before asking quietly, “How are those people?”
“There are several still alive. The rest have all died, died very tragically.” Wan Li spoke the truth to strike at his mental barriers. “The resentful aura surrounding those spirits is too deep. They won’t stop until they kill every last one.”
Boss Sun clearly shivered. “My father has been dead for many years.”
“The resentful spirits won’t care about that. Others might not know about the background of those missing, but you probably do. Included in the group are the descendants of those responsible back then. Even though they weren’t personally responsible, they still had to pay with their lives! Miss Yue is completely unrelated, but she was also swept up in it. Therefore, it won’t be possible for you to stay out of this.”
“But I’ve been helping…” Boss Sun blurted out, but stopped speaking again.
Wan Li was irritated, not knowing why he kept trailing off. It seems whatever difficulties he had was indeed putting a lot of psychological pressure on him. He had yet to truly exchange information with Ruan Zhan. Most of what he said was a bluff. However, he was now sure that Boss Sun definitely knew about this matter, at least part of it.
“Who have you been helping?” Seeing Boss Sun still hesitating, Wan Li said mercilessly, “It’s fine if you don’t want to say it. When the city is unable to hold those resentful spirits, you can just wait for death. Master Long might be powerful, but that place has already been destroyed by someone!”
“No, I don’t want to die. I’ve also had enough. My dad died. I’ve been helping Feng Yong Zi’s family this whole time. I even hinted at you and Miss Yue to go purify the grudge from back then. I shouldn’t have to suffer retaliation!”
Wan Li let out a long breath. “Are you the one who gave Lady Feng the porcelain? Back then, your father was one of the participants of the first kiln. He was the one who took the remaining porcelain out, right? But how did they become possessed by spirits?”
“I don’t know, I really don’t know.” Boss Sun said, “Before he died, my dad only told me they had done something heinous. He told me to give the porcelain away, and to help Yong Zi’s family financially. He also wanted me to find someone to purify the grudge before we moved into the new town. He really didn’t tell me anything. I just figured that Miss Yue had come from a major city to spread knowledge of the law, and also sensed you must have come to find her. So I…”
“You should at least tell me whether the one possessing the porcelain is Feng Yong Zi.”