Seeing that another wave of Ruan Zhan’s attacks was about to arrive, Si Ma Nan raised the puppet and mirror in front of him, causing Ruan Zhan to forcibly withdraw his pointing hand.
“Everyone has weaknesses.” He said smugly. He tried but failed to get up, and could only sit there panting. “You say I lost because I had too many misgivings. What about you? Don’t you have any misgivings? You do. You are constrained by your emotions. You place too much importance on others! He waved the two things in his hand, “You didn’t even know what these things were. However, you still stopped your attack because you were afraid of hurting others, giving me time to gather myself. What if I was tricking you with some useless objects? You’re going to let the opportunity to kill me slip away just like that?”
“I do not wish to kill you. You are the one who keeps forcing me, who keeps hurting others!” Ruan Zhan took a look at what Si Ma Nan had in his hands.
The small mirror was an unbreakable bronze mirror. It was the size of a palm with a simple pattern carved on the frame. It looked very ordinary, but strangely enough, the surface of the mirror rippled, as if it was a pool of water that couldn’t flow out.
The small puppet was crudely made with indistinct limbs and features. However, there was a glittering steel needle pierced through its neck, looking exceptionally unpleasant. For some reason, Ruan Zhan suddenly felt it was definitely Wan Li!
“But this time you were very astute. Stopping was the correct move.” Si Ma Nan said, “This bronze mirror is the foundation of my art. If it breaks, everyone in the old town will die within their nightmares. This little doll is made of your best friend’s clothes. A strand of his hair is sewn inside and I wrote his birthdate in my blood on its back. Can you guess what it’s for? I just have to pull this steel needle out and he will become like a boneless fish, a pile of goo!”
“What do you want?” Ruan Zhan tried to stay calm. The look on his face did not change, but his eyes still couldn’t help but look at the little doll. He seemed to be rather concerned.
Si Ma Nan snorted softly and held the little doll tightly in the palm of his hand.
“I know this is relatively more important to you, so I’ll be keeping a close eye on it. You won’t have the chance to snatch it. I suggest not getting any ideas.” Si Ma Nan recovered his look of superiority after turning the tables.
“I’m asking, what exactly do you want?” Ruan Zhan said. “Stop beating about the bush.”
“Very simple.” Si Ma Nan leaned against the wall and stood up, doing his best to not look so bedraggled. “Follow me out of the tower and obey my instructions!”
“Or I’ll kill the entire town!”
“They have nothing to do with me.”
“Does this also have nothing to do with you?” Si Ma Nan raised the little doll again.
Ruan Zhan took a step forward, and Si Ma Nan immediately moved his hand to the steel needle on the Muppet’s neck, “Stop right there, you’re risking your best friend’s life!”
“How do I know it’s him?” Ruan Zhan stopped and thought desperately about countermeasures, but found that he couldn’t think of any good ideas at all.
“What…are you going to take a gamble?” Si Ma Nan grinned maliciously, reaching for the steel needle.
“Stop!” Ruan Zhan cried urgently. His expressionless face appeared nervous for the first time, and he also took a step back.
He couldn’t gamble because he couldn’t afford to lose. His best friend’s life might be in someone’s hands. He had no choice but to back down. He previously thought Si Ma Nan might take hostages, but he didn’t expect for it to be the entire town. Moreover, he thought that Wan Li had escaped Si Ma Nan’s grasp. When he saw Si Ma Nan enter town the alone and received Wan Li’s signal, he had been even more certain of it. Only then had he let loose in his battle of wits and brown. Unexpectedly, the worst case scenario had still occurred in the end.
Were all his plans and desperate efforts for naught? Yet he also couldn’t resist. Otherwise, Wan Li’s life might very well be in danger!
“I knew you wouldn’t dare gamble.” Si Ma Nan’s hand was still on the little doll’s neck. Seeing Ruan Zhan no longer moving, he laughed coldly, “I can be responsible and tell you that you’ve made a wise decision.”
This was how battles went. Especially when both sides were evenly matched, it would depend on who managed to seize the other side’s weakness. It was like a bout of Tai chi. When the opponent weakened, one must immediately go on the offensive. Ruan Zhan’s flaw was that he was too emotional. He seemed very cold on the surface, but whenever he formed a relationship, he would treasure it more than his own life. He kept using this method to suppress Ruan Zhan, over and over again.
He raised his chin, indicating for Ruan Zhan to leave the tower. Yet Ruan Zhan suddenly furrowed his brows, “It’s not witchcraft. It’s a flying attack spell!” He had held on to the last bit of hope. Therefore, although he looked helpless, he had been secretly examining the steel needle on the puppet. After taking a close look, he discovered that the steel needle trembled slightly. There was also a very obscure yet slightly familiar symbol drawn on the doll. When Si Ma Nan pushed him to leave, he finally recalled the thing buried in his memories.
It was a very rare type of spell. It was similar to the flying sword skill that cultivators used to kill from thousands of miles away. His father had once told him about it. The elder had said: “There are also good and bad Daoist spells. The creators of those bad spells might not have had such intentions, but once the spells were made, those with ill intent used them and caused endless tragedies.
“So what?” Si Ma Nan retorted. He was a little surprised that Ruan Zhan actually knew this type of spell. Yet thinking about it, he understood that Ruan Zhan’s father must have told him. It made perfect sense considering their special relationship.
“I’m not surprised to see you use taboo techniques.” Ruan Zhan looked at Si Ma Nan with contempt and said, “I’d be surprised if you didn’t use them.”
“Stop talking nonsense, get out of the tower now!”
“However, it is said that this kind of technique is flawed and requires someone work with you in tandem. If there isn’t someone to draw on the target with your blood, the flying attack spell won’t work! Pulling out the needle won’t kill the target directly. Instead, the needle will swiftly fly off and pierce the designated person’s heart. Only then would that person die, right?”
“That’s right. You’re a good student. Your father should be proud of you. But…” Si Ma Nan smiled smugly, “Didn’t you notice that Hong Hao Hao wasn’t here?”
Ruan Zhan had nothing to say. The hopes that had just been raised were dashed in his heart. His biggest mistake was never taking Hong Hao Hao seriously. Since he had someone helping him, Si Ma Nan naturally had someone as well. Hong Hao Hao might just be a beautiful vase, but she could also be another killer!
Without waiting for Si Ma Nan to speak more nonsense, Ruan Zhan turned and walked out of the tower. There was no need to hesitate or weigh his own life with Wan Li’s. He just felt uneasy about Xiao Xia. He understood that Si Ma Nan wouldn’t just quit at killing him. He definitely wouldn’t let his soul off. He would have to part with Xiao Xia forever. Thinking of this, his heart hurt incessantly.
No longer seeing her, no longer hearing her, no longer feeling her, no longer being able to remember her, it made him feel a bone-splintering pain!
No, he had to think of a way! He couldn’t just give up like this and surrender! His father once told him: Losing isn’t scary. What’s scary is being unwilling to search of opportunities in desperate situations!
“Stop!” Si Ma Nan spoke behind Ruan Zhan.
“What orders do you have?” Ruan Zhan said coldly.
Looking at Ruan Zhan’s face, Si Ma Nan was very angry. He wanted to see Ruan Zhan’s frustration; he wanted to see him depressed and upset; he wanted to see him fearful rather than his uncaring expression. After all, Ruan Zhan had almost beat him. Having experienced untold hardships, with victory right before his eyes turning to utter defeat. This wasn’t a blow normal people could endure. But Ruan Zhan was so calm that Si Ma Nan didn’t feel the slightest sense of victory!
As soon as he stepped out of the tower, he felt that his abilities were quickly restored. He had the advantage here, so he immediately shot out a flaming handprint.
Ruan Zhan felt the burning sensation behind him. He instinctively used a spell to deflect the fire to one side. However, his powers were ultimately no match for Si Ma Nan. Although he relied on wits and courage to significantly reduce Si Ma Nan’s powers, he was still at a disadvantage. So even though the flaming handprint was pushed aside, he was struck by the aftermath and struck the awning’s pillar with a bang. The wrist-sized pillar broke from the collision and blood trickled from his mouth.
Seeing Ruan Zhan’s appearance, Si Ma Nan felt a burst of joy in his heart. This was someone he had always wanted to eliminate, and also someone he had always been worried about. He had even felt some nervousness and lacked confidence in his own strength. Now the thorn in his side was struggling to stay upright. What a great feeling!
“I care for no one, and do what I please!” He laughed and sent out a lightning palm, mimicking how Ruan Zhan had dealt with him earlier. Palm after palm shot out continuously.
He didn’t stop Ruan Zhan from resisting. He wasn’t interesting in helpless prey. He only got excited when it struggled desperately.
Yet Ruan Zhan had no power left to attack anymore. He just stubbornly refused to lower his head and continued looking for opportunities. He felt his body growing weaker and weaker. One of Si Ma Nan’s attacks penetrated his defenses and struck his body. He finally couldn’t stand any longer and dropped to one knee, his hand braced against the ground.
There was a burning pain on his back. He knew he had been burned, but his eyes had already turned red from battle. Thus, he gritted his teeth and rolled to one side. He picked up a piece of wreckage from the burnt walkway and threw it towards Si Ma Nan.
His abilities were almost exhausted and he was badly injured, but he still had some stamina remaining. Therefore, his all-out throw caused the burnt piece of wood to shoot towards Si Ma Nan with a swish.
Si Ma Nan hadn’t expected Ruan Zhan to be able to retaliate under such circumstances. Seeing a burnt object flying over, he hurriedly leapt to one side, narrowly avoiding it. However, he almost ended up falling into the lake, looking extremely wretched. Ruan Zhan took the opportunity to leap up and run over to the awning.
He knew Si Ma Nan wanted to watch him struggle, but he was also exhausting Si Ma Nan’s strength. It wasn’t as easy to dodge in an open space. If Si Ma Nan managed to kill him in one blow, he wouldn’t have the chance to turn the tables.
Si Ma Nan was also very prideful. He definitely hoped to defeat his opponent without relying on hostages. Yet if it took too long, he would definitely use Wan Li and the townsfolk to threaten him. At that time, he would see if he could use his final move. It would be great if it worked, but if it failed he at least had to preserve his soul. Only then could he still protect the one he loved!
He hadn’t planned on using that final move. It was too much of a stretch, and he didn’t even know if he could use it!
“You’re seeking death!” Si Ma Nan was surprised by the ambush and extremely furious. He was no longer in watching the circus.
He sat on his knees and drew a circle with his hands. A circular mark immediately appeared around him. He sat there, moving both hands in strange seals before looking at the vigilant Ruan Zhan.
“Since we have that bit of connection, I was hesitating whether to leave a path of life. Yet you sought death yourself!”
“No need for false mercy. We both knew that only one of us would leave this place!” Ruan Zhan reached out and pointed at Si Ma Nan, “Use whatever you want. I’ll write my name backwards if I get frightened!”
“A tough mouth won’t solve your problems!” Si Ma Nan snorted and immediately shot the complicated handprint he formed at Ruan Zhan’s chest.
There was no red light or blue sparks. Only an invisible whirlwind blowing from all sides. Before Ruan Zhan could figure out how to respond, he felt countless hands in the wind crawling onto his body, pulling left and right, making his tensed muscles strangely ticklish as all his strength immediately vanished!
As the wind blew, countless more invisible hands appeared on his body, overlapping. Within a few seconds, his whole body was trapped. He knew this was Si Ma Nan’s spell. He had no idea how to respond to this invisible and soft attack! He wasn’t afraid of meeting force with force! His ingrained nature allowed him to withstand countless blows. Yet this sort of pliable entrapment was rather similar to how he was helpless against the Yuki-onna back then!
He tried to struggle but it was like he was trapped in quicksand. The more strength he exerted the deeper he sank!
“Fool!” Si Ma Nan saw Ruan Zhan falling for his devious attack and said smugly, “Using softness to restrain strength is the peak of Daoism. It seems you have failed to understand!”
Ruan Zhan wanted to say something, but suddenly he felt dizzy. His legs were raised off the ground, carried by those invisible hands!
“Do you prefer to be torn to shreds or pieces?” Si Ma Nan continued to say with disdain, “Seeing that you and I are connected, I’ll let you choose!”
“You go ahead and choose!”
Seeing Ruan Zhan’s expression still remain unchanging, Si Ma Nan also felt a little reluctant to act. However, he only hesitated for a moment before bringing his hands together as if kneading something.
Ruan Zhan immediately felt various forces pulling him in different directions. He felt as if he had been thrown into a blender as he was cut by invisible hands. He couldn’t help but let out a muffled groan. However, he wasn’t going to wait for death so he continued to struggle. However, he was completely unable to exert any strength, and could only allow the suffering to intensify.
In spite of this, Ruan Zhan still did not give up. He strove to prolong the time it took for Si Ma Nan to kill him, wasting as much of his strength as he could. He understood very well that Si Ma Nan’s expenditure to cast this spell wasn’t small.
He had to endure the torment of his organs splitting. Every second longer meant a greater chance for him to preserve his soul!
Cold sweat trickled from every pore in his body. Ruan Zhan endured the pain and refused to cry out. As he was lifted into the air, he turned towards Si Ma Nan who was sitting at the door of the tower. He wanted to take in the situation, but at that moment he saw something unimaginable…
The small bronze bell closest to the door suddenly moved. Then, it slowly rose, revealing a pair of legs underneath!
Si Ma Nan was sitting with his back to the tower door and was fully focused on casting his spell. Therefore, he actually didn’t hear the movement inside the tower. However, Ruan Zhan had seen it clearly!
There was a person under the bell!