A small black shadow left Zhao Jia Yuan’s head as his body crumpled to the ground like the shed skin of a snake. Xin Xin was also unable to escape, having been grabbed by Ruan Zhan in both body and soul!
“Let go of me!” Xin Xin shouted.
“Sure, but you need to be taught a little lesson.” Ruan Zhan hardened his heart and bit down on the middle finger of his right hand. He drew a twisty symbol between Xiao Xia’s brows. At the same time, he let go of her pulse with his left hand and struck ruthlessly at “Xiao Xia’s” face.
Along with the crisp slap, a shadow also scurried out from Xiao Xia’s head. The body collapsed afterwards as well, but Ruan Zhan reacted swiftly and caught her right before she hit the floor.
The shadow seemed to have been shoved out forcefully. After leaving Xiao Xia’s body, it dragged a trail of dust behind it as if it were bleeding after an injury. She staggered for several meters before colliding with a flowerbed and vanishing. The moment she did so, the bloodscript on Xiao Xia’s forehead vanished as well.
“As expected, she has some cultivation.” Ruan Zhan muttered as he watched Xin Xin’s shadow escape.
Xin Xin’s shadow was very complete, without the various deformities of the other souls. It also wasn’t black, but rather the red of burning charcoal. This was evidence she had cultivated all of herself, and her resentful power was the most profound amongst the spirits. Therefore, despite having been injured by him, she was able to swiftly conceal herself.
The reason Ruan Zhan didn’t allow her to leave Xiao Xia’s body by herself, and insisted on forcing her out, was precisely to injure her. He wasn’t being cruel. He needed to bring Xiao Xia’s body safely back to the tower, and didn’t want to leave a ticking bomb behind. Without Xin Xin, those resentful spirits were like scattered sand. It would be the best situation for him.
He ignored the crawling parts on the ground and gently picked Xiao Xia up, slowly walking back to the tower.
The first part of his plan was complete: dispel the black fog of resentment to avoid being restricted in battle and retrieve Xiao Xia’s body.
He knelt on one knee, slowly placing Xiao Xia’s body flat on the floor and stroking her face softly. Her delicate face was already severely swollen. There was a clear handprint where he had struck to drive out Xin Xin. He had no choice at the time, but his heart was currently filled with regret.
How long had it been since he last saw her? He wasn’t sure. When she was home, Xiao Xia would always find opportunities to hang around his bar so he would see her quite frequently. After she was sent on her awareness promoting trip, he worried it was Si Ma Nan’s scheme and secretly followed her. Therefore, he was still able to see her. After that, inside the empty city, the emotions he repressed finally burst forth. She was still by his side at that time.
It was just that he was blind then, so it should count as not seeing her, right?
Her face was ice cold but still felt smooth and soft, causing his hand to linger. Her full forehead, slender brows, tightly shut charming eyes, pert nose and perfect red lips…
His thumb stopped on her lips. He had kissed them twice, and both times left him in enraptured. When had he started loving her so much? He previously thought he wouldn’t fall in love with anyone. Yet why did he sink into without any warning?
The attraction of those lips was too strong, enticing him into slowly leaning over and lightly kissing them. She was unresponsive like a statue, making him recall her soul had yet to return.
He forced himself to get up, reminding himself that now wasn’t the time for this. There were many challenges he had to face, many problems that had yet to be resolved and many battles awaiting him.
He adjusted his emotions and reached into his shirt for Xiao Xia’s doll. However, he only then realized his pocket was empty! Reaching into the pockets on either side, he found Reporter Ma and Ah Bai were both still there! Only Xiao Xia’s doll was missing!
Ruan Zhan’s hand pressed against his shirt pocket, his face expressionless as if pondering. He stood for a while before suddenly standing up. He walked to the middle of the first floor, standing before the nine clocks. He swiftly measured and chose the small clock closest to the wall. Forcefully prying it open, he turned and carried Xiao Xia over, carefully and quickly placing her limp body inside. Giving her a light kiss, he then placed Ah Bai and Reporter Ma’s dolls next to her.
“Ah Bai, please watch over her.” He said respectfully to Ah Bai.
He had previously sealed their senses and spiritual aura, afraid of them getting injured during the battle. However, he knew Ah Bai had been a famous witch doctor previously. Even if her abilities had almost declined to zero, she still had more spirit power than an ordinary person. She could definitely protect herself and Xiao Xia.
Ah Bai’s doll shook a couple of times.
“I can’t undo the seal.” Ruan Zhan understood what she wanted to say. “This clock is no ordinary object. It contains very strong astral aura, so no spiritual bodies will dare get close. Therefore, only this place can keep you guys safe. If the seal was undone, you won’t be able to hide here anymore.”
After speaking, he looked deeply at Xiao Xia again before covering her inside the clock.
After finishing all this, he leaned against the wall and adjusted his breathing. The clock had been very heavy. Although he was quite strong, he had to handle it very carefully to avoid hurting Xiao Xia and prevent anyone from hearing the noise outside. Therefore, he was still exhausted.
At this moment, Xin Xin’s shrill summons came from outside. “The one surnamed Ruan, get the hell out for me!”
Ruan Zhan didn’t respond, merely shooting out three continuous lightning palms.
There were three explosions as the three palms formed into one massive shower of blue sparks, directly blasting through the door. The strange thing was, the massive lightning palm didn’t travel in a straight line. Instead, it suddenly turned after reaching the middle of the lake, shooting straight up into the sky!
Strangely shaped human figures were standing, or rather drifting, in the plaza outside the tower. Apart from one red shape that had a complete figure, the rest were blackened and incomplete. Some had no heads, some had no arms, and some had no legs. Some were missing half their bodies or had large holes in their torso! From the distance, they looked like a bunch of dried firewood. Only the one at the very front looked like burning charcoal.
When the lightning palm shot out, the “people” in the plaza were all startled. They instinctively cried out towards the terror of this force of extreme yang. They immediately disappeared into the ground, not daring to come out. Only the red figure at the front didn’t dodge. She personally witnessed as the lightning palm made an abnormal turn and rushed into the sky.
“Big sis Xin Xin, the one surnamed Ruan is almost out of energy.” A relatively complete figure only missing one arm appeared from the ground. It moved closer to the red figure, saying, “He can’t even aim his lightning straight anymore.” The voice was from the resentful spirit that had occupied Zhao Jia Yuan’s body. His name was Dong Zi.
Xin Xin didn’t speak. Since her face had no features, her expression couldn’t be seen. However, there was some doubt in her voice. “Hopefully this isn’t part of some scheme of his.”
Dong Zi shivered a little, clearly afraid of Ruan Zhan. “Probably not, right? Could he be looking for help?”
Xin Xin gritted her teeth and said, “It doesn’t matter if he has help. The entire town is sealed. No one can come in. We are currently fish trapped in a bowl. We either eat him, or get eaten by him. If we can’t even handle him, there’s no need for us to think about revenge! Did we endure such injustice for nothing?”
Her words were spoken very loudly, allowing every resentful spirit in the plaza to hear her clearly. Her assessment of the situation was correct. Only one of them could survive. There wasn’t any path of retreat!
“We must get revenge. If it wasn’t for revenge, would we have endured the pain of being suppressed until now? Why did we die unjustly while the perpetrator roams free? Now that all our wishes are about to be realized, how can we falter at this junction!? We will have justice, even if we are to be destroyed in the process!” Xin Xin continued speaking ruthlessly.
If her previous words allowed the spirits to understand their situation, her current words stimulated their resentment and will. They once again decided to go all out against Ruan Zhan! Therefore, they all burrowed out from the ground, gathering by Xin Xin’s side once again.
She glanced at her companions and slowly reached into the flowerbed by her side. From the bushes, a small porcelain doll immediately came flying out, falling into Xin Xin’s hand. It was Xiao Xia’s doll.
“Surnamed Ruan, if you still refuse to come out, I will smash this porcelain doll and have your loved one thoroughly perish! I will count to three. One, two…”
Before she could say “three”, the door which had been destroyed by the lightning palm fell outwards with a crash. Ruan Zhan strode out from the tower.
He walked unhurriedly, his face completely expressionless. He also didn’t make any moves with his hands. His entire being was like an icy blade, like a monarch with ultimate power facing a weak rebel army.
“I have come. Can I help you with something?” He stood by the lakeside and asked coldly.
Xin Xin ignored the fact his presence had overpowered hers. She raised the doll in her hand. “Do you want her life or yours?”
“That’s not a choice you get to offer.” Ruan Zhan didn’t hesitate. His eyes, dark like deep waters, stared at Xin Xin unblinkingly. “I’ve said before. You won’t be able to bear the cost of hurting her. It seems you didn’t believe me.”
Xin Xin burst out in wild laughter. The other resentful spirits started laughing as well. “Stop bluffing. Her soul is in my hand. Where is you confidence coming from? Do you really think I won’t dare to kill her because our helper wants a living Yue Xiao Xia? When death is at hand, who can still worry about keeping promises? The current situation is what’s important. Therefore, don’t you think I have the power to offer this choice?”
Ruan Zhan shook his head. “It seems showing mercy to one’s enemy is truly being cruel to oneself. If I hadn’t held back earlier, you would already be back in hell. Would you still have the qualifications to threaten me here?” Although his face was still expressionless, his tone held a trace of anger, disdain and also pity. “Let me give you another piece of advice: the shore is still behind you. If you stop now, I promise to find a way to bring the mastermind to justice. I will also give you all the opportunity to reincarnate. Nothing in this world can be buried forever. Your injustice is the same. However, if you truly force me, I also won’t be able to stand by idly.”
Xin Xin laughed coldly. She made a move to smash the doll in her hand. Ruan Zhan involuntarily stepped forward, his hand reaching out. However, he immediately realized he had been tricked.
“It’s true, your powers are great. Unfortunately, I’m holding something precious of yours. Do I still need to fear losing to you?” Xin Xin shook the doll in her hand. “What do you think of this move?”
“I’m despicable? There are those far worse!”
“What do you want? Just say it plainly!” Ruan Zhan said coldly, seeming a little impatient.
Xin Xin was extremely annoyed at his unyielding attitude, but was also helpless. This man was too strong. He might even be stronger than their helper. Not in regards to his powers, but rather his tough and cold nature that couldn’t be suppressed, as well as his courage. She now understand why that person wanted Ruan Zhan dead. No matter how they were connected, that person would definitely not be at ease while Ruan Zhan was alive.
She had been at a disadvantage the entire time, unable to turn things around. Now, she decided to burn the bridges and thoroughly use this card to the end! She wanted revenge. Everyone who harmed her and the villagers must die! Furthermore, she was going insane from jealousy. Ruan Zhan and Yue Xiao Xia loved each other so much, willing to lay their lives down for each other! Yet what about her? She was willing to sacrifice herself for her lover, yet that person truly sacrificed her without hesitation.
They were both women. Why could Yue Xiao Xia obtain what she couldn’t get, even at the cost of her life? This was also a sort of injustice. Therefore, she also wanted Yue Xiao Xia to suffer!
“Let me ask again. Do you want her life, or your own?”
“If you must ask…hers!” Ruan Zhan immediately answered, as if it was something obvious.
This further stimulated Xin Xin’s boundless resentment. She waved her hand and all the incomplete souls gathered around her, chained together like an invisible rope.
“I want you to stay still and take one of my strikes.” Xin Xin said softly, her voice filled with threat. “If you dare retaliate, dodge or defend, I will immediately smash this damned lass and take her to hell with me. If you really take my blow, I will return her to you.”
“Didn’t you just say promises aren’t worth anything in the face of death?”
“You have no choice.” Xin Xin was ferocious. “Also, don’t foolishly threaten us again. We’ve already bet everything, and have already died. Would we be scared to die again?”
“I never make threats. I was just stating facts. It’s up to you whether you believe it or not!”
“Enough nonsense. Do you agree?”
“Then get on with it. It’s getting late.” Ruan Zhan stuck his hands in his pockets, looking like he didn’t take his opponents seriously at all.
Xin Xin was speechless from anger. She could only point her hand towards the ground. A clump of dark miasma immediately gathered in her hand. It swiftly formed into a sharp weapon around a foot long.
She raised Xiao Xia’s doll in one hand and held the dagger in her other. She glanced at Ruan Zhan and saw he was unmoving, looking at her indifferently.
At that moment, she suddenly felt lacking in confidence. However, she knew she couldn’t hesitate at this moment. Therefore, she hardened her heart and like throwing a javelin, used all her strength as she threw the sharp weapon at Ruan Zhan.
The black blade swished through the air. Even those resentful spirits felt afraid for Ruan Zhan. However, Ruan Zhan really stood in place, as if everything was unrelated to him. Xin Xin even though he would have some plan or way to defend himself.
In the blink of an eye, there was a puff as the sharp weapon stabbed into Ruan Zhan’s right shoulder. He hadn’t resisted at all despite the blade passing right through him and turning into black miasma that lingered around his shoulder.
Fresh blood immediately stained half of his clothes. He swayed and his was paled, but his feet didn’t move. He merely grabbed his right wrist with his left, pulling his hand out of his pocket. It was clear he could no longer move his right arm.
“What other conditions do you have, just lay it all out.” His tone was still calm.
Xin Xin froze. She didn’t think he would be tenacious to this extent, not even caring about the loss of an arm. The reason she didn’t go for a vital area was because she was afraid he would still defend or retaliate despite his promise if his life was threatened. A person’s survival instinct and innate selfishness was what she had to be on guard against the most.
She was actually afraid of Ruan Zhan’s powers. She was afraid of his counterattack harming her side, and thus chose to strike his right arm. She wanted to test it out. If he dodged she could continue to use the doll to threaten him. If he didn’t dodge, she would have crippled one of his arms, preventing him from drawing symbols. Their chances of victory would naturally be much greater. Seeing that Ruan Zhan truly hadn’t dodged, she felt a little regret at being too timid and not having killed him directly!
Yet despite this, she still had other methods to kill him!
“How capable! I’m impressed!” Xin Xin laughed sinisterly. “Since you’ve kept your word, I’ll return this woman’s doll to you!”
Before her voice fell, she raised her arm behind her head and threw the porcelain doll out. Yet this time, she didn’t throw it towards Ruan Zhan. Instead, she threw it towards the lake, letting out a strange howl.
Along with her cry, the disciplined resentful spirits gathered upon her, combining all their resentment onto her body!
This was her plan! She couldn’t defeat Ruan Zhan, even if all of them worked together, and even if she held the chip that was Xiao Xia’s doll. Therefore, she had to first injure one of his arms before throwing the doll towards the lake. If Ruan Zhan wanted to save Xiao Xia, he would have to throw himself over the lake. At that time, she could use their remaining power to strike a critical blow!
He would be in midair, one arm useless and the other one reaching to catch his lover. He had no way to retaliate. Even if the strike didn’t kill him or if he chose to protect himself, he would definitely fall into the lake. He was human after all and couldn’t fly. It would already be impressive if he could defend himself with just his left hand. There was no way he could reach the other side of the lake.
He might be able to swim, but he wouldn’t be able to avoid the all-devouring resentful spirits in the lake! Their helper had placed those into the lake. Even spirits that fell in would be cleanly eaten, let alone humans!
That was a death trap!
Ruan Zhan acted as expected, leaping towards the middle of the lake, his left hand extended. He ignored everything to catch Xiao Xia’s doll, not minding the situation in the plaza or beneath the water. He was wide open!
“Die!” She shrieked madly. Their gathered power formed into a straight line of black smoke that shot towards Ruan Zhan’s chest!
With a bang, the smoke struck Ruan Zhan in the center of his chest, sending his body flying even further before crashing heavily into the water!
A shower of blood rained down from the air as the water roiled beneath the surface. Ruan Zhan’s hand tightly gripped Xiao Xia’s doll!