Book 6 Chapter 29: Minor seclusion within the wilderness

The fake Xiao Xia stood on the winding walkway outside the tower, her expression a little unreconciled.

  Mao Fu’s assassination failing was something she had expected. The one surnamed Ruan was no ordinary man. Even if he was meditating, his supernaturally keen intuition was still in effect. She instead felt that it was a pity Mao Fu hadn’t died. Ruan Zhan hadn’t killed him in anger!

  Mao Fu was one of the sinners from back then. Even if he wasn’t the mastermind, he still deserved to die! All of the participants back then must die! For those who had already died, their descendants would pay in their stead. The son inherits the debts of the father. That was the way of things! However, Zhang Qun, the person helping them, had said to spare Mao Fu’s pathetic life so he could be a mole. She had agreed but she hadn’t been willing.

  Therefore, she came up with the idea of having Mao Fu go assassinate Ruan Zhan. It was of course great if he succeeded, but her true goal was to use Ruan Zhan to kill Mao Fu. That way, she would obtain justice for their wronged group while also not breaking her promise to Zhang Qun. Of course, the best outcome would be mutual destruction on both sides.

  However, the one she sent to observe had reported that Ruan Zhan hadn’t killed Mao Fu, but merely knocked him out. He then stripped him of his clothing and tied him up firmly before tossing him into the top floor’s room!

  That room’s powers were too strong and she wasn’t able to enter. She could only roam about outside. Did she have no choice but to let Mao Fu get away with everything?

  “What should we do now?” An aged voice sounded from the fog.

  “Third uncle, that Ruan Zhan hides in the tower and won’t come out. Does Sis Xin Xin have any ideas?” A young man’s voice responded. It was the resentful spirit that was currently occupying Reporter Ma’s body.

  “Then let’s just drag things out like this. No one’s able to come out. They’ll die of thirst even if they don’t starve!” A woman’s voice said resentfully. “Let them have a taste of the feeling back then!”

  “The problem is, the only real person is the one surnamed Ruan. The rest have all been sealed in the porcelain dolls. They won’t feel thirsty or hungry at all. The one surnamed Ruan probably won’t be so easily affected.” The third uncle seemed steadier as he slowly spoke. “Furthermore, as time drags on, who knows how much Ruan Zhan’s abilities will recover?  Xin Xin said his powers hadn’t been drained by the tower. They had grown stronger instead, right, Xin Xin?”

  The fake Xiao Xia, who was being called Xin Xin, didn’t even turn her head. She stared at the tall, unyielding tower. “That’s right. I used his girlfriend’s body to repeatedly get close to him. I truly sensed that his powers had grown stronger after entering the tower.”

  “If he isn’t affected by the tower’s restrictions, what should we do?” The young man cried out helplessly.

  “How about we use fire to burn it down?” Another voice suggested from the fog. “I don’t believe he wouldn’t come out!”

  This time, Xin Xin swiftly turned her head. She glared at a figure in the fog and said loudly, “Those unaware of the situation shouldn’t make random suggestions. Did you forget that we are ghosts? Apart from ghostly fire, what other fire can we use? You should all probably know that spirits are afraid of fire. To use, it’s like our nightmare…those raging flames, and then…” She wasn’t able to continue speaking. The fog also hummed. It was clear many “people” recalled the matter Xin Xin was talking about.

  “Then what should we do?” The third uncle’s voice grew louder and the surroundings fell silent.

  Xin Xin remained silent for several seconds before saying with gritted teeth. “Dong Zi, Ya Ya and I won’t be able to handle him with just the three of us. But we have so many more people. Since he won’t come out, we’ll lure him out before killing him!”

  “How do you plan on doing so?” “Reporter Ma” asked. “And what if we can’t beat him after he comes out?”

  “We can’t afford to worry about all that anymore. We have to beat him even if we have to risk everything. Otherwise, we won’t be able to have our vengeance!” Xin Xin spoke with gritted teeth. “I’ll go inside and distract him. This body is able to block the tower’s power for a bit. The two of you…” She pointed at “Reporter Ma” and “Liu Hong” on the side. “You two secretly go in and take the porcelain dolls of those survivors out. But don’t hurt them. They’ll be our bait. If we possess both the doll and the body of the one he cares about, free to destroy either one, would he still not surrender?”

  She sneered coldly and headed towards the tower.

  Her resentment towered over the heavens and was deeper than the oceans. If this debt of blood wasn’t avenged, she wouldn’t be able to quell her rage. Therefore, no matter who got in her way, she would come up with a method to eliminate them!

  Ruan Zhan was very powerful. However, he couldn’t stop her actions. Since underhanded tricks didn’t work, she might as well go head on. She didn’t care even if it ended in mutual destruction!

  She walked upwards with determination. “Liu Hong” and “Reporter Ma” followed close behind. She had just reached the eighth floor when she spotted Ruan Zhan coming down the stairs!

  “Ah Zhan, you’re out. Have you fully recovered?” She immediately put on a smile and took several quick steps forward.

  Hearing her loud words, her two subordinates halted their steps and hid on the dark seventh floor.

  Ruan Zhan revealed a gentle smile but his eyes still stared vacantly forward. “My eyes are still useless. I can only see some faint shadows. But it’s lucky I am able to see to that extent. Otherwise…” He sighed and stretched out his hand. “Stay by my side. Don’t wander off.”

  Xin Xin hesitantly put her hand into his. His hand’s warmth made her feel an inexplicable twinge of fear. “What happened?”

  “That Mao Fu went crazy earlier. He tried to kill me.”

  “Then are you ok? Were you injured?” Xin Xin acted concerned, feeling over Ruan Zhan’s body with one hand, trying to probe for weaknesses. But when she tried to exert the slightest bit of Yin energy towards he hand, she sensed it would be deflected by his formless spirit power. It seemed the tower truly couldn’t do anything to him. Her expression involuntarily changed.

  Ruan Zhan grabbed her hand that was lingering on his chest. “Xiao Xia, let me warn you. Don’t randomly feel around on a man’s body. Otherwise…you might ignite some flames and end up hurting yourself.” He held her wrist while he spoke, his middle finger placed on her pulse. He felt the satiny skin, making him feel a little peculiar. However, he knew the one inside the body wasn’t the one in his heart.

  Xin Xin struggled a bit but couldn’t get free, and was pulled along by Ruan Zhan down the stairs.

  “What’s that by the wall?” Ruan Zhan squinted his eyes, pulling Xin Xin slowly towards the glass cabinet. “If I recall, didn’t you say this was a pagoda? Are there perhaps some consecrated Buddhist items?”

  “It’s nothing. It’s just an empty storage cabinet.” Xin Xin didn’t want Ruan Zhan to get close to the cabinet, afraid he would notice something. However, Ruan Zhan was very strong and she was unavoidably pulled towards the wall.

  The glass on the cabinet was covered in a thick layer of dust. Without looking carefully, in thus murky environment, it was impossible to see the faces on those three-inch tall porcelain dolls. Ruan Zhan remembered Xiao Xia had been placed in the cabinet facing the stairs. Therefore, he pulled the resentful spirit occupying her body straight towards that one.

  He wanted to find that small porcelain doll and swiftly switch their souls before the resentful spirit could react. Yet as he walked in front of the cabinet, he saw it was completely empty and couldn’t help but freeze.

  Where had Xiao Xia gone? She had clearly been right here!

  His moment of hesitation allowed the already suspicious Xin Xin to immediately understand his intentions. Especially since the foggy glace reflected the glimmering light in Ruan Zhan’s deep gaze. She realized his sight had already recovered and that he had discovered her true identity.

  “Dong Zi, Ya Ya, come quick.” She shrieked, using all her strength to try and break free of his grasp.

  However, she felt a wave of warmth around her pulse. A formless rope seemed to bind her fast, preventing both her body and soul from escaping!

  Hearing her summons, the two resentful spirits swiftly ran up to the eighth floor. However, Ruan Zhan sent a lightning palm flying over, making them immediately cry out and dodge.

  They had escaped too hastily. Two shadows left their vessels as Liu Hong and Reporter Ma crumpled to the floor. Without the protection of the bodies, the spirits couldn’t remain inside the tower for long. They immediately drifted away.

  “What say you?” Ruan Zhan turned back and looked at the fake Xiao Xia, his emotions complicated.

  He loved this face, this body. He had once yearned for her, and at this moment he wanted to pull her into his arms. Although he knew “she” wasn’t her, he was still unable to treat this body harshly.

  Furthermore, his powers was currently weakening. If time dragged on, it’ll be noticed by this resentful spirit. Therefore, he had to wrap the matters inside the tower up quickly!

  Mao Fu’s assassination made him realize the resentful spirits had grown impatient. They would attack soon. He knew they would definitely use the survivors, and mainly Xiao Xia, to threaten him. Therefore, he had hurried over the moment he dealt with Mao Fu. He wanted to get ahold of Xiao Xia’s doll ahead of time, but didn’t expect to run into that resentful spirit.

  He guessed she must have gotten news about Mao Fu, and was coming to get those dolls in advance. Therefore, while the fake Xiao Xia was probing him, he had seized her pulse, preventing her from fleeing Xiao Xia’s body. He wanted to use all his power to switch the souls once he got Xiao Xia’s doll. That way, Xiao Xia would be completely safe. At the same time, he would have sealed up the resentful spirit that was clearly in charge.

  However, he hadn’t expected Xiao Xia and Ah Bai to have been moved by Mao Fu without permission. They were no longer in their original spots. This was too unexpected and made him freeze up, which was discovered by the resentful spirit who was on high alert!

  “Let go of me!” Resentful spirit Xin Xin twisted desperately. Ruan Zhan could only wrap one arm tightly around her waist. Yet when she let out a gasp of pain, his heart tightened and he involuntarily loosened his grip.

  In that fleeting moment, the fake Xiao Xia pulled one hand free, her fingers forming into a sharp blade out of shattered porcelain, pointing towards “her” own throat.

  “I know I cannot beat you, but don’t underestimate porcelain.” She said viciously. “Not only can it harm this body, it can even cut off this cute head. What will you choose?”

  “If you harm a single hair of hers, I swear I’ll annihilate you.”

  “I’d love to be annihilated!” Xin Xin laughed coldly. “You can’t scare me, but can’t bear to lose this woman, right? Therefore, although you think you have the advantage, you can’t actually turn things around.”

  “What do you want?” Ruan Zhan was helpless, but he still seemed calm on the surface.

  “Now, let go of me.” Xin Xin looked smugly at Ruan Zhan. “I’ll give you one chance. Scram out of the tower within five minutes. Otherwise, I will destroy her body. You can then live with a porcelain doll the rest of your life.”

  Ruan Zhan looked Xin Xin in the eyes and let go without any hesitation. His straightforwardness surprised Xin Xin a little.

  “You love this woman that much? Or are you so sure of yourself?” She looked vigilantly at Ruan Zhan.

  “Scram if you’re going to. Don’t worry, I won’t attack you from behind. Based on your level, you aren’t worthy of me resorting to despicable tricks.” Ruan Zhan’s cold gaze remained upon her eyes to prevent himself from getting distracted by Xiao Xia’s face. “You had best remember not to harm any part of her. Otherwise, while you might not be afraid of annihilation, the hundred and seventy-three souls outside will accompany you as well! I keep my word!”

  Xin Xin slowly retreated silently, her face pale.

  Why hadn’t she met such a man? Why was the man she fell in love with so despicable and shameless, willing to sacrifice everything, including her, for the sake of his prospects?

  These thoughts turned her heart even more vicious, wanting to seek justice from the world, to destroy everything!

  Watching her retreat to the stairs and then sprint off, Ruan Zhan suddenly felt a sense of loss. He dazedly felt that Xiao Xia was leaving him, and an indescribable pain rose from the depths of his heart. It was like something had been pulled apart! He had to rescue her. He would be unable to bear it if he lost her!

  If Xiao Xia hadn’t placed her amulet on the doorknob, preventing the resentful spirits from attacking him from the doorway and to buy time for him to remove the seal, she wouldn’t have been possessed so easily.  She was willing to give everything up for him. He naturally could do the same for her.

  But where had she gone?

  Thinking of this, he looked around and suddenly noticed the floor by the cabinet was covered in broken porcelain!

  His heart twisted fiercely as an inexplicable fear bubbled forth. If those broken pieces came from the doll that stored Xiao Xia, it meant she had already died. What was he to do then?

  He mindlessly walked over and crouched down, examining the broken porcelain. He reached out and lightly touched them, at a loss for what to do for the moment.  Yet at that moment, he heard a tiny voice calling him, making him suddenly stand up.

  “Xiao Xia!” Ruan Zhan saw Xiao Xia’s unharmed porcelain appearance through the blurry glass. He immediately picked her up, putting her to his lips for a kiss and then raising her to eyelevel. “Come with me now. Unless I die, no one else can hurt you!” 

  “Where are you going?” Xiao Xia sensed his affection and wasn’t at all afraid of what they were going to face.

  “It’s time to deal with those resentful spirits.” Ruan Zhan carefully put Xiao Xia in his shirt pocket, against his chest, as he spoke. Then, he picked up Ah Bai and Reporter Ma, placing them in his left and right pocket, and headed out of the tower. In the forest on the mountain.

  A tall man staggered along. He cursed quietly the whole way. It was Wan Li.

  He didn’t choose to walk this unfamiliar mountain path in the dark. There was a very important reason for it. First of all, he had to put on a show for Si Ma Nan. Secondly, he had to investigate Master Long’s matter based on what Feng Yong Zi had let slip. His efforts were not in vain. He had finally gotten word of Master Long’s whereabouts, but by that time it was almost dusk.

  Ruan Zhan and Xiao Xia’s lives were at stake. He had to seize every second. Although he had to avoid making mistakes in his haste as before, he still couldn’t delay. Therefore, he could only run into the mountains in the middle of the night.

  Master Long was someone who kept to himself. He had changed the town’s name, and in the eyes of the townsfolk, he had helped change the town’s Fengshui. Therefore, they treated him like a deity. However, he was extremely mysterious. Practically none of the younger generation knew him. Even amongst the elders, those who had seen him in person were few.

  He was like a secluded hermit.

  As the ancient saying goes: minor seclusion within the wilderness, major seclusion within the court. Wan Li had disguised himself, turned invisible, spied, followed and cajoled before managing to find out Master Long lived deep in the mountains.

  When he left the town and reached the foot of the mountains, it was already dark. He asked for directions in the village by the foot of the mountains. The villagers told him that the elder living in the mountains was a craftsman who made puppets. They also urged him stay in the village overnight instead of climbing up in the dark.

  He told them the plan was to head up a few days later and he was merely getting info. Then, he went in the direction of town. When they stopped paying attention to him, he circled back towards the mountain. The luminescent watch he specially bought showed it was already around nine.

  According to the map, this mountain wasn’t tall. However, when he really started climbing it became clear how tough it was. He was unfamiliar with the road and he couldn’t bring a guide. The night just happened to be cloudy. There weren’t even any stars visible, let alone the moon. Therefore, he could only rely on his past scavenger hunt experiences and find the way using a compass.

  He twisted and turned, having to double-back many times. The fierce mountain mosquitos managed to fill him up with painful and itchy bites through his long sleeves and pants. As midnight approached, he had yet to find Master Long’s residence. Right as he was about to collapse, a bit of light suddenly appeared nearby. It wasn’t quite a light since it was moving. Yet it wasn’t quite a will-o’-wisp since it was a warm yellow instead of green phosphorus.

  No matter what it was, he’ll go check it out first!

  Wan Li gritted his teeth and walked towards the firelight.

  This area was relatively flatter. The light was on top of a hill. Therefore, despite it seeming close, it wasn’t that easy to get there. Once he got closer, he saw that there truly was a house behind the roaming lights. It occupied a fairly large area and was pitch black. It looked like a random pile of large rocks, but gave off the feeling of a grave.

  The strangest thing was that the lights were all outside the house. It was lifeless on the inside, without a hint of light!

  Was the master of the residence sleeping? Why did he put up lights outside the place? To guard against beasts? But this mountain was pretty small. There shouldn’t be any wild animals appearing here!

  Wan Li pondered as he walked. He felt the road beneath his feet grew more and more difficult. Waist-high weeds were everywhere. It seemed very few people came to this place. There wasn’t even a small path. Right as he was wondering how the owner came and went with the way being this difficult to traverse, all the lights suddenly went out!

  In the blink of an eye, they had all been completely extinguished!

  Wan Li stood frozen in the undergrowth, immediately having lost his target. The surroundings were pitch black and he only heard the rustling grass and the sigh of the wind!

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