He couldn’t help but be impressed by Ruan Zhan.
The Soul Absorbing Bell was his spirit treasure. He had refined this bell over many years, and had never used it before. He hadn’t even done so the last time he had been forced to swap bodies. It wasn’t that he was unwilling to do so. It was because he used his soul to refine it, so it had become part of him.
Becoming one with a treasure meant it was much easier to wield, but if it were destroyed, his life force would suffer damage as well. Especially when it wasn’t completely refined yet. His life force was something he had finally managed to steal back from the heavens. Or rather he had expended a lot of effort to reconstruct it. He naturally cherished it exceptionally.
Now the bell was just shy of being completely refined, but he couldn’t worry about that anymore. He realized that despite being stronger than Ruan Zhan, he felt that he couldn’t really suppress him. Perhaps he would still win at this rate, but it would definitely be a long and painful process. But he didn’t have the time to waist.
Truthfully speaking, he wanted to resolve this matter quickly, even more so than Ruan Zhan did.
So many people had gone missing and the old town was already in an uproar. The workplace and families of those from the province had also been stirred up.
Although the mayor did his best to obstruct things, many people had decided to come investigate the new town. This meant that the area won’t be sealed for much longer. While outsiders remained unaware, he didn’t hesitate to break taboos and cast a nightmare spell over everyone in the old town, temporarily cutting off communications with the outside world and foiling their plans of coming to the new town.
Yet their society was a hidden one after all, and no one knew of their existence. He couldn’t expose his identity and actions. Otherwise, they would end up like lab rats, or be forced into exile, or even death.
All their battles had to be done secretly. This was the case for Ruan Zhan, and even more so for him!
He had planned things out beautifully, but hadn’t expected Ruan Zhan, whom he had planned to quickly eliminate, to drag things out for so long with the help of his friend. The situation had seemed to be spiraling out of control, forcing him to personally make a move. Everything had to be completed within a certain amount of time. Otherwise, his nightmare spell would be broken and a large group of “spectators” would arrive at their enclosed battlefield!
Therefore, he had no choice but to take out the Soul Absorbing Bell, even if there was some risk in doing so. Otherwise, he would end up losing everything!
Ruan Zhan’s willpower was too strong. He was actually able to endure for so long. This was why Si Ma Nan was feeling impressed. Unfortunately, Ruan Zhan didn’t understand that against the Soul Absorbing Bell, the more he struggled the more he would suffer, and the more damage he would take!
Despite having crashed to the floor, Ruan Zhan was still trying to get up. He was like a beast trapped in a well, untamable yet continuously sinking!
He laughed coldly and walked up to Ruan Zhan, continuing to chant while changing up the rhythm of his ringing.
The entire new town was deathly silently like a giant tomb. Only the crisp chimes unhurriedly rang out. They could be heard from every corner, sorrowful like mourning bells, sinister and penetrating to the core!
Ruan Zhan continued to struggle. He felt his body was penetrated by several chains that left him feeling like a puppet on strings, unable to move of his own volition. An alluring and malicious voice whispered in his ear: Just give up! It’s too exhausting! Sit, rest for a bit! Stop struggling, let go! How relieving that would be!
That’s right. He was exhausted! He felt awful! But was he really going to give up?
Ruan Zhan’s mind was a little blurry. He suddenly recalled something from his childhood. Those dark days where he was shunned, the loneliness of being someone who was different, seeing terrifying things other people couldn’t, his father’s neglect and the shadow of his calamity of threes…
Give up! Just die! Everything would be over then! That voice sighed once again.
While his mind was in chaos, Ruan Zhan relaxed slightly. He felt the another chain being added, his body growing even heavier. It became even harder to resist and his will grew weaker by a bit. The moment it did, the formless chains increased once again. The vicious cycle continued, finally pressing him down, leaving him prone and unmoving.
Si Ma Nan smiled once again.
He had seen through Ruan Zhan’s heart and knew at this rate, victory was at hand! Why had he never thought to use such a method to deal with him before? As long as he controlled Ruan Zhan’s heart, he could control all of him! However, it was also hard to say. In the past, he never had the opportunity to battle him while in a healthy state at such close quarters. He naturally had no opportunity to use this sort of method!
It turned out that despite his tough bones that made him get up no matter what, his heart was heavier than anyone else. He had suffered more than anyone alive! He was someone with a cold exterior and warm interior, ad also someone extremely sensitive. His heart was his biggest weakness. As long as it involved emotions, whether regarding his father, his friends or love, he would lose focus, grow weak and make mistakes.
Therefore, Si Ma Nan had long since said that emotions were the most unnecessary things! Only the emotionless were truly the strongest!
He put both bells in his right hand while continuing the steady rhythm. He drew in the air with his left hand, grabbing the heat from the still burning walkway and forming it into a fiery dagger. He threw it to Ruan Zhan who was lying in front of him.
“Pick up the dagger. Aim it at your heart. Just one stab and you’ll be free.” Si Ma Nan gently enticed him. “No more tiredness. No more being an outcast. You can even ask your father why he would adopt you yet treat you like he did!”
Ruan Zhan reached out his hand and picked up the dagger, seeming unable to control himself. Yet he didn’t make the next move, merely staring at the dagger while spacing out!
“What is the point of living? Who cares about you? No one will even notice if you’re gone. Therefore, you might as well leave by yourself. Once you are free of your fleshly constraints, you won’t have to do those things you hate doing. No one would care if you hid yourself in a dark corner. There won’t be any need for pretense! Wouldn’t that be wonderful? No pressure, whatsoever! Come, just a gentle move. Just a bit, and you won’t have to worry about anything anymore! Do it. That’s right…sit up. A little to the left, right between your third and fourth rib…good, right there, that’s right. Now, just use a little bit of strength, just a bit…”
Si Ma Nan patiently guided in a soft voice. He crouched down as he spoke, leaning close to Ruan Zhan’s ear.
This wasn’t some psychological hypnosis, it was a spell. Hypnosis spells were useless against someone firm and strong-willed like Ruan Zhan. Any spells carried some risk.
If Ruan Zhan broke his soul absorbing spell, he would be the one in danger. Therefore, he could only use his words to entice him instead of personally making a move. Any outside influence could result in Ruan Zhan instantly waking up, while he would suffer the backlash of the soul absorbing spell!
“You face the calamity of threes. Bringing that woman along would only harm her! She and Wan Li make such a great couple. If you die, it’ll complete them. She will slowly forget about you and live happily ever after with Wan Li. Don’t worry, Wan Li is such a reliable man! As long as you die, everything will be taken care of. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?” Sensing a trace of unwillingness in Ruan Zhan’s chaotic heart, Si Ma Nan figured that he couldn’t let go of the woman called Yue Xiao Xia. Therefore, he advanced in his attacks. “If you can’t let her go, it’ll only bring her more pain. Short-term pain is better than long-term suffering. Just leave!”
Ruan Zhan’s heart was filled with twists and turns. He couldn’t tell if that voice was his own conscience. He couldn’t remember where he was. Within his already blurry consciousness, a familiar yet foreign tiny figure faded in and out.
Who was she? Who was Wan Li? He couldn’t recall who she was, yet why wasn’t he willing to let her go?
Yet he felt that voice was right. He had to face the calamity of threes, and shouldn’t get involved with anyone else. He didn’t feel there was anything good about this world. What was worth being hung up about? Regardless, for someone like him who could step between the boundary of yin and yang, there wasn’t too much of a difference between life and death.
If he died, everything would become peaceful, right? But why was he unable to let go? He had the feeling he had told her something, but couldn’t remember what it was. Who was she? What had he told her?
“Stop hesitating. Go ahead and stab. Spare her!” The voice urged.
There was a faint prick against the left side of his chest. This made him realize he wasn’t dreaming or in an illusion. Then where was he? Why couldn’t he remember?
His hands increased the pressure slightly and the pain on his chest grew stronger. But in his mind, he still searched for the figure’s name. Whether or not he left, he had to recall her before doing so!
Ruan Zhan was still hesitating while Si Ma Nan was extremely anxious. He watched as Ruan Zhan held the fiery blade against his own heart, but just refused to stab downwards. He had the sense that something unexpected would happen. He couldn’t touch Ruan Zhan, and could only keep urging him on. Ruan Zhan’s brows furrowed, but he couldn’t sense what he was thinking about. He only knew he was gathering his will.
After a long while, his mouth was practically parched from speaking yet Ruan Zhan was still lost in thought.
“Die!” He gathered all his willpower and roared, deeply afraid the situation would change. He tried to scatter Ruan Zhan’s consciousness.
With his shout, Ruan Zhan’s body trembled and his hands jerked downwards forcefully.
Si Ma Nan stared excitedly at Ruan Zhan’s suicidal move. He watched as the tip of the dagger entered Ruan Zhan’s chest by half an inch. His goal was about to be accomplished. At this moment, a warm, divine glow suddenly spread from Ruan Zhan’s chest!
“Die!” Si Ma Nan subconsciously tried again.
“Never!” Ruan Zhan retorted loudly, swinging the fiery blade in his hands towards the enticing voice.
The situation had changed too rapidly and Si Ma Nan was too close to Ruan Zhan. Therefore, despite him already moving backwards due to his quick reflexes, the fiery blade still swiped across the back of his right arm. The enormous pain made him involuntarily unclench his hand. Therefore, despite having dodged the majority of the attack, the bells ended up falling to the floor, letting out one last chime.
Si Ma Nan also spat out a mouthful of blood. Although he immediately retrieved the bells, the spells around them had been broken and his mind also suffered from the backlash!
He saw Ruan Zhan slowly getting up and was afraid the latter would loot a burning building. Therefore, he ignored his injuries and urgently drew symbols with both hands, summoning a whirlwind that swept towards the blazing walkway.
The fire grew with the wind and became even more ferocious. It followed the wind and whirled towards the tower!
This was what Ruan Zhan was most afraid of. The tower was made of wood, and there was a small awning connecting the tower’s concrete base to the walkway. As long as the wind and fire was large enough, the fire might very well spread onto the tower.
Spirits were afraid of fire so they hadn’t dared burn the tower. Si Ma Nan was currently human, and had no such reservations. Without the tower, not only would the resentful spirits get released anew, Ruan Zhan’s plan would be unable to proceed to the next phase.
Now that Si Ma Nan was trying to shift the fire onto the tower to distract him, he had no choice but to immediately shift in front of the tower. He also drew in midair, conjuring up an air current that pushed the fire backwards!
His powers weren’t Si Ma Nan’s equal and he had just shaken off the soul absorption spell. Therefore, despite Si Ma Nan having suffered serious damage, the power of Ruan Zhan’s gust was still much weaker. Although he gave it his all, he was unable to prevent the fire from slowly encroaching towards the tower.
Seeing the tongues of flame about to lick the side of the tower, Ruan Zhan resolutely dropped his hands which had controlled the wind. He stepped over to where the awning met the walkway, forming a protective barrier around himself with one hand while his other pointed towards the lake!
“Primordial Envoy pacifies and suppresses, propagating through the Ten Thousand Divinities. The true lords of mountains and valleys, the divinities of the Earth. God of Land to the left, God of Grain to the right, no need for wanton alarm. Return to the true Dao, all is illuminated. All shall stand in position, guarding the main altar. The Exalted commands, persecute the essence of evil, Lord of Protector Deities, guards those who chant the Sutras. Shelter under the Great Dao, live long and prosper…”
He chanted loudly, gathering his will and spellpower around him, working to raise the lake’s water to extinguish the fire. As he did so, Si Ma Nan cast an opposing force in the distance. The water struggled in the grip of two forces which were temporarily evenly matched. Waves shook violently and sprayed against the shore, but they just weren’t able to reach the fire!
Both sides wrestled for control but Ruan Zhan was clearly at a disadvantage. On one side he was struggling to keep the fire back. On the other, his arm outside the barrier was about to get burned by the fire. It was already blistering from the heat. At this rate, he would run out of space to maneuver!
Looking at Si Ma Nan’s smug smile, and his face which was more sinister due to blood trickling from his mouth and nose, Ruan Zhan burned with anxiety.
He had just been struck by Si Ma Nan’s soul absorption technique. The strong willpower he had always been proud of had been fully controlled, and he had almost killed himself. If it weren’t for his strong fixation on Xiao Xia, as well as the amulet he had been keeping in his pocket saving him in the nick of time, he would already be in the underworld.
The situation was getting more and more desperate. He had to quickly resolve this matter. Although Si Ma Nan’s injuries weren’t light, he himself was covered in wounds. A simple contest of powers meant he had no chance of victory!
Hardening his heart, Ruan Zhan suddenly leapt up and threw himself into the lake!
He felt a strong surge of force and knew Si Ma Nan was exerting pressure on the water to stop him from extinguishing the fire with it. He used this pressure to dive to the bottom of the lake. Then, he swiftly used the transference spell to direct the force to the lakebed!
He immediately felt ground shaking and waves roiling. He felt as if he had fallen into quicksand and everything turned black. Yet at the same time, he felt the pressure reverse, becoming a pull instead of a push. Using this opportunity, he promptly added his own strength to it. The water around him formed into a powerful current that pulled him upwards to the surface.
With a crash, Ruan Zhan was thrown to the ground. Despite the tremendous pain, he had luckily crashed onto the awning of wisteria before landing on the floor, and wasn’t heavily injured.
Hissing sounded from around him. The dangerous flames were instantly extinguished. The smoldering embers that remained were no longer any threat!
His plan of restraining fire with water succeeded but Ruan Zhan had no time for a breather. He leapt up and stretched his right hand out towards Si Ma Nan. Beneath Si Ma Nan’s gaze, a resplendent small red stone appeared on his right palm.
“Want this stone?” He said provocatively. “Unfortunately, Witch Doctor Ah Bai has handed it over to me. Come take it if you can!” He warped space after he spoke and stepped into the tower.
He didn’t actually have the stone. It was just an illusion he produced. He wanted to test if Si Ma Nan would fall for it. If he did, it meant he had no way of distinguishing the real one and his mind was no longer calm. Then…it would be his turn to attack!