“Has he succeeded?” Wan Li was ultimately still a little nervous.
Master Long pointed towards the sand table. “Pass me the bamboo tube first.”
Wan Li knew that speaking with profound and mysterious people required patience. He had to go along with his rhythm, so he walked over and picked up the small bamboo tube.
The tube was dark green and covered with strange images. It was slightly bigger than the small wooden tower in the middle of the sand table. After they had received Ruan Zhan’s signal earlier, the had covered the tower with the bamboo tube, cooperating with Ruan Zhan to temporarily cut off the tower’s abilities.
“Do we pack up the sand table?” Seeing Master Long carefully place the bamboo tube into the wooden box, Wan Li hurriedly asked.
Master Long shook his head. “The sand table is linked to the new town. It is like the heart of the new town. If the new town dies, the sand table dies. If the new town lives, the sand table lives. Now that things are complete, it no longer has any use.” He smiled with gratification as he spoke. “As expected, the heavens will not obstruct one’s path. Through fate and coincidence, there is sure to be a solution.”
Wan Li couldn’t help but glance at the sand table again.
He had been staring at it the entire time, and was already aware of the changes on its surface. However, due to excessive worry about Ruan Zhan and Xiao Xia’s safety, he wanted to hear from Master Long’s mouth that Ruan Zhan had truly won. In the field of psychology, this was known as seeking affirmation from others. Hearing Master Long’s words, he finally relaxed.
On the sand table, the chaotic roads had long since become clean and neat. The water on the saucer had turned from turbid to clear. The small wooden tower stood steadily, clearly having returned to normal.
He was currently ready to prostrate himself in admiration towards Master Long. Master Long was different from Ruan Zhan. If Ruan Zhan was like the general leading the charge on the front lines, Master Long was the strategist in the back. He didn’t have the advantages of strength and killing techniques. However, he had laid such a wonderful Grand Fengshui Formation, and was able to create a sand table as the new town’s heart. He felt it was extremely marvelous!
Ever since he had met Master Long, he had never seen the elder smile. He had thought this elder wasn’t capable of doing so. However, since he started working with Ruan Zhan’s plan, Master Long had started smiling frequently. His smile contained understanding, admiration, and approval. They were all positive reactions.
Soon after the lightning appeared in the air, the small wooden tower had stopped trembling. Master Long had said the resentful aura surrounding it had completely vanished. After another while, the water in the saucer had started shaking. The scent of blood appeared around the tower. Master Long had said Ruan Zhan was fighting bitterly. At that time, the elder’s expression was quite grave, as if trying to sense something carefully. Only when it came time to cover the wooden tower did he let out a breath. Then, the bamboo tube started trembling and Master Long had instructed him to take it off, releasing the tower’s abilities.
“Smart kid. These three moves were well done!” Master Long muttered.
“This means he’s won!” Wan Li was also very happy. “Why won’t you just tell me directly? Making me feel uncertain.”
Master Long smiled again and withdrew slightly into the trees.
It was almost noon and the sun had grown fiercer. Master Long seemed extremely afraid of the sun, hiding under the shade of the trees and covering himself with the black umbrella. Wan Li really wanted to ask him what illness he was afflicted with. Why was he so scared of the sunlight? He also wanted to tell him that a black colored umbrella wasn’t actually that good at blocking the sun. However, he felt Master Long was weird, and didn’t dare say anything.
Master Long stood in the trees, his face seeming even more pale. He opened the wooden box he carried and placed the bamboo tube inside. Then, he slowly took out a pair of black gloves and a clear water bottle. Then, he handed the wooden box that had been by his side the whole time over to Wan Li.
Wan Li froze and instinctively received it.
“This is for your friend.” Master Long said.
“There’s some fun things inside. Hopefully he finds them a little interesting!” Master Long’s vacant eyes stared straight ahead. He then handed the water bottle to Wan Li. “Pour this spellwater onto the sand table.”
“Pour it onto the sand table?” Wan Li repeated, a little confused. Did Master Long intend to destroy the sand table? Although the resentful spirits in the new town were once again suppressed and the sand table had no more use, wasn’t it a shame to ruin such a marvelous object?
“Do we really have to?”
“As I’ve said, this is the heart of the new town. When I first created it, it was so I could guard the Grand Fengshui Formation from my stone house. Now, I trust your friend will handle the matters of the town.” Master Long paused, clearly a little reluctant. “However, since it’s mission has been accomplished, it should be destroyed. Otherwise, there could be great danger if it fell into the wrong hands.”
“But…fine.” Wan Li no longer tried to persuade him. He turned and poured the spellwater onto the sand table.
The spellwater was colorless and odorless, but it acted like a strong acid. The sand table was swiftly corroded, including the saucer and the wooden tower. In the blink of an eye, the sand table had turned into a pile or ordinary sand that merged with the ground.
Master Long let out a sigh and put on his gloves.
At that moment, Wan Li suddenly felt some foreboding. He felt that they hadn’t yet tasted the joy of victory but Master Long seemed like he was leaving behind his last will and testament.
“What should we do next?” He already viewed Master Long as one of them.
“Next?” The hint of a bitter smile appeared on Master Long’s lips. “I’m afraid I cannot help with what comes next. You will have to rely on yourselves.”
“Then where will you go?”
“I will wait for someone before returning.”
Wan Li wanted to ask where Master Long was “returning” to. However, before he could do so, Master Long said, “This matter isn’t over yet. Therefore, when you asked if your friend has won, I didn’t answer you. He has merely won this round. If he’s unable to persist, the chips he won might be lost again in the next round. This might even include his life, and that of everyone else!”
“Do you mean…Si Ma Nan?”
“So his name was Si Ma Nan.” Master Long repeated with a murmur. “To be extinguished under such a hand isn’t an injustice.”
“Extinguished, you mean…” Wan Li was a little startled, but seeing Master Long’s calm expression, he immediately said decisively, “Then let’s get out of here quickly before he finds this place!”
“What will come cannot be avoided. He has searched for me for a long time. Much longer than the time you spent looking for me.” Master Long let out a slight smile, his expression a little smug. “But I hid myself well. He isn’t as smart as you, and was unable to find me this entire time.”
“Then didn’t I lead him straight to you? No, I cannot let you get implicated because of our affairs. I must get you out of here safely!” Wan Li immediately stepped up and grabbed Master Long as he spoke. Yet he didn’t make contact with Master Long’s arm. He saw his hand pass through Master Long’s body, and his next words got stuck in his throat.
“That’s right, I’m a ghost.” Master Long nodded. “The body you felt, the warm breath and my shadow were all illusions I sent over to you. Now I don’t have the strength left to manipulate these false things. I’m sorry, I hope I haven’t frightened you. However, a gutsy kid like you were probably more startled than afraid!”
Wan Li stood frozen for a while, speechless from shock.
No wonder he didn’t feel much weight when he was pulling the cart. No wonder the elder’s face was so pale and he was so afraid of the sun! It turns out there was no skin disease. He had long since died. To be able to go out and about during the day must have been very challenging as a spirit. He also had to cooperate with Ruan Zhan to seal the tower. Therefore, he was unable to persist, revealing his true form!
“When did you…”
“You should know. The actions of my nephew were too immoral. However, he was the only descendant of my Yuan family. My elder brother entrusted him to me when he passed. I truly couldn’t just let him be.” Master Long said calmly, as if narrating a story that had nothing to do with him. “At that time, I wasn’t able to think things through. I didn’t understand that a life for a life, and money owed must be repaid. All debts will come home to roost in the end. There is no way of preventing it.”
“Did you end up this way because of that matter?”
“That’s right. Although I wanted to purify that resentment, my true motive was to resolve this issue for my nephew. That was my selfishness, and also my debt. I could only repay it with my life. Didn’t I tell you before? I don’t have any innate abilities. I wouldn’t be able to reach this level no matter how I cultivated. Therefore, by the time I racked my brains and suppressed the hundred and seventy-three resentful spirits, laying down that Grand Fengshui Formation, my life force was also exhausted.”
“I have no complaints.” Master Long interrupted Wan Li. “By protecting my own nephew, I owed others a debt that could only be repaid with my life. It couldn’t be more fair. But I only had one life to give, and there were a hundred and seventy-three people! Therefore, I couldn’t rest in peace. I could only stay in that stone building, using the remnants of my spirit power to guard the formation. Ten years had passed, and we were just barely short! I’m telling you all this, not for any other reason, but so you know that no matter what you see, you must understand that this is the price I should pay. I do it willingly. No matter the outcome, it would be a release for me.”
“What have you foreseen?” Despite their short time together, Wan Li had a good impression of Master Long. Hearing his tone implying that things would turn out ill for him made it hard for Wan Li to accept. “Is Si Ma Nan about to arrive?”
“He has long since arrived, but he wasn’t able to break into the formation I erected.” When he spoke of his skills with formations, Master Long involuntarily looked smug no matter the situation. “He has been wandering around outside for a while now. He probably knows the trap he set up in the new town has been filled in already. Now, he would have to personally make a move if he wants to deal with the youngster inside!”
“Formation?” Wan Li looked around. He didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary apart from their footprints and the strange objects placed nearby. Yet he recalled the formation in the mountains he was trapped in. If Master Long hadn’t let him in, he might still be running around. Thus, it wasn’t a surprise that Master Long could prevent Si Ma Nan from finding them.
In the past, he didn’t believe in things like formations. He felt they were too mysterious, and couldn’t be trusted. He had heard about these things in college. It was said that the remnants of Mu Guiying’s Heavenly Gate Formation still existed. Many have tried to analyze it using modern technology, but weren’t able to figure out the mysteries within. Yet he still didn’t really believe it, feeling it was inconceivable. Yet having personally witnessed this scene, he was thoroughly convinced.
There were too many mysterious things in the world, too much profound knowledge being passed on. The scope of human knowledge weren’t able to completely comprehend everything yet!
“Kid, he isn’t like you. He is able to break this formation. It’s just a matter of time. Actually, according to my estimates, he’s about to arrive!” Master Long laughed. At that moment, Wan Li felt some benevolence. He wasn’t willing to see the elder suffer even after death for a selfish mistake ten years ago.
“I’m not afraid of him.” Wan Li gritted his teeth. “Even if he is stronger than the ol’ God Emperor, I’m still not afraid. This is what is meant by the saying “he could beat me to death, but not scare me to death”. I’ll risk it all against him today. I definitely won’t let him hurt you. After all, I’m the one who led him here. If I didn’t go find you, he also wouldn’t be at the door!”
Master Long shook his head. “This is how it ends for me. I already know it. Or perhaps, fate has other things in store for me in the afterlife.”
Wan Li still wanted to argue when Master Long raised his hand, his expression turning stern.
He listened carefully for a moment and then pointed decisively at Wan Li.
Wan Li was unprepared. He felt his body turn numb and collapsed with a crash, landing right in one of the bushes by the clearing. He wanted to speak but was unable to do so. He could only grip the wooden box tightly as his body curled up, lying sideways on the ground.
Because he lay on the ground, he was able to see what he couldn’t while standing up. He had thought those strange objects were strewn about randomly, but now he realized they were arranged in patterned circles. Furthermore, those small flags, tiles and stones weren’t as they appeared when he was standing. Instead, they were tiny figures with clear features and different expressions. Their hands held swords and they looked to be guarding something.
It turns out the formation was made up of these small wooden and stone statues! Master Long was truly an impressive sculptor! The small statues he crafted looked different from various angles!
Master Long was already dead. How would Si Ma Nan deal with him? Would he eradicate the elder? He had just been momentarily selfish, and had been tormented by his conscience all these years. He had also tried to purify those resentful spirits. Was there a need to be so ruthless? Was that really the way of the heavens? Were the heavens really so ruthless?!
“Give my things to your friend. If he doesn’t want them, just destroy them. They can never fall into evil hands.” Master Long instructed. “Good things can still be used for evil even in the hands of good people, let alone in the hands of someone already evil. Also, there is a small book inside that is for you. Read it immediately once I’m gone. You must remember!”
Wan Li tried to agree but still couldn’t make a sound. He struggled desperately but couldn’t move a muscle.
Crack…it was like something had shattered.
Then, lying on the floor, Wan Li saw a pair of designer shoes walking over unhurriedly. A disdainful yet furious voice rang out. “Old fellow, you actually dare ruin my affairs! If you remained hidden in your mouse hole and didn’t let me find you, I wouldn’t be bothered to insist on killing you. But now, I cannot spare you. No one who offends me can live.”
It was Si Ma Nan’s voice.
“The youngster in the town has not only offended you, but I’ve heard he’s repeatedly won against you. Isn’t he still alive?”
“Not for long.” Si Ma Nan laughed instead of raging, making him seem even more threatening. “You can go lead the way for him first!”
“You should make a move quickly if that’s the plan. I happen to be at my weakest at the moment.” Master Long showed no signs of backing down. “However, I’m not leading the way for that youngster. The one I await on the other side is you!”
“I suggest you rush into town after dealing with me. If you don’t take advantage of his current state, you will lose once again!”
Before his voice fell, Master Long suddenly took the initiative to strike, pouncing over at Si Ma Nan!
Wan Li wasn’t able to move or speak. He only heard a sharp sound, like a needle popping a balloon. Then, Master Long’s figure disappeared, leaving only his clothing behind which crumpled to the floor.