When Zuo De disappeared, Ruan Zhan’s eyes hadn’t recovered yet so he didn’t recognize him. However, the moment he saw the feet wearing sneakers appear, he had already intuited that the person inside the bell must be Zuo De, who had vanished for a long time.
He hadn’t expected Zuo De to be hiding inside the bell all this time. Truly a smart decision! This specially made bronze bell had strong astral affinity that could block off the senses of resentful spirits. Furthermore, it also prevented harm from material objects. Zuo De must have noticed something when the resentful spirits started occupying the survivors’ bodies. He was powerless to protect the others and could only save himself first.
Zuo De’s backpack was filled with food and water when he entered the town. He must have relied on those things to sustain himself over the past few days. Ruan Zhan felt both impressed by his intelligence and in awe of his tenacity. It was impossible to tell night from day in the darkness under the bell, or know what was going on. It was even less clear when this matter would come to an end. It must have been torture!
Now, he had probably verified over a long period of time that the two battling weren’t illusions conjured by resentful spirits. That’s why he had come out in an attempt to help Ruan Zhan.
However, his body was too weak, making it rather hard for him to move the bell. Ruan Zhan was also unable to help him due to being wrapped up. He could only struggle desperately, trying to capture Si Ma Nan’s full attention, creating an opportunity for Zuo De!
Slowly, Zuo De trembled as he finally lifted the bell with difficulty, crawling out from beneath it! At this point, Ruan Zhan was completely out of energy. He was raised in the air by invisible hands like a wilted leaf.
He couldn’t look in Zuo De’s direction for fear of attraction Si Ma Nan’s attention. However, he could still see from the corner of his eyes that Zuo De had snuck to the side of the door. He had taken off the large sneakers and placed them into his backpack along with the empty food and drink containers. He aimed it at Si Ma Nan and desperately hurled it over.
Si Ma Nan was fully focused on dealing with Ruan Zhan and hadn’t expected to be ambushed from behind at all. He felt a rush of air and instinctively ducked. However, the attack still struck his head!
Si Ma Nan only felt the solid object hitting him was very bulky. The shock made him feel a wave of dizziness. He failed to continue forming the hand seals that operated his invisible spell and Ruan Zhan immediately fell to the floor.
The moment he landed, the indescribable pain made Ruan Zhan wish for nothing more than to lie there unmoving. However, he knew this was a fleeting opportunity. Therefore, he got up with the last bit of his strength and threw himself towards Si Ma Nan!
However, his previous injuries were so severe that it was difficult for him to walk. He stumbled and almost fell. In the brief dozens of seconds, Si Ma Nan knew that things weren’t looking good. He subconsciously entered a state of desperation as he conjured a strong gale with his finger, aiming at the bronze mirror that represented the lives of the townsfolk. His other hand entered his robes, pulling out the needle from the doll’s neck.
The moment he moved, Ruan Zhan knew what he was going to do. He didn’t have time to think, pulling out the keychain ornament-like object from his pocket. He didn’t even have time to chant, relying on his willpower and familiarity with the spell instead as he threw it out.
This was his last resort!
The item was only effective against the bronze mirror, so he threw it in that direction while he swiftly threw himself in the path of the flying needle, using his own body to block its movements, planning to injure himself to protect Wan Li.
However, the needle was too fast and Ruan Zhan’s injuries caused his movements to falter slightly. The small, rectangular object he threw out suddenly enlarged, instantly covering the mirror. However, the needle shot past his ribs, vanishing in the blink of an eye.
Ruan Zhan’s heart froze. He had thrown his body out and thus ended up landing next to Si Ma Nan with a thud.
Si Ma Nan was still dizzy from Zuo De ruthlessly smashing his head. Although he had immediately retaliated vengefully, he was still shaky as he stood up. He saw Ruan Zhan’s look of despair and knew it was due to guilt at being unable to save Wan Li. He couldn’t help but start laughing.
Ruan Zhan felt his failure had harmed Wan Li. Grief turned to anger as he got up without thinking and swung a fist out, striking Si Ma Nan on the temple. The powerful sorcerer was immediately knocked out by the most primitive form of might.
Yet Ruan Zhan couldn’t hold on any longer due to guilt and self-reproach. He collapsed to the floor, unable to get up.
All of this happened in a short period of time. Things had concluded before Zuo De even understood what was going on. He stood frozen for a while before slowly walking over.
“Mr. Ruan, are you OK?” He tried to lift Ruan Zhan, but Ruan Zhan refused, only pointing at Si Ma Nan.
“Please tie him up tightly and drag him inside the tower. Just the first floor is fine.”
Seeing Zuo Do complying despite his weakened state, Ruan Zhan lay back onto the floor.
He was seriously injured this time and was unable to maintain the barrier around the town. Therefore, the sky was no longer overcast, and instead turned into a splendid sea of stars. However, his heart was in turmoil like cold water tossed into a pot of boiling oil.
Would Wan Li die because of his mistake?
He had thought he could block that needle with his body, but he had overestimated his resistance to his injuries. He had only been too slow by a millisecond, but it was that millisecond that might result in his best friend’s death!
Si Ma Nan’s powers were profound so it was impossible for his spell to go wrong. Wan Li’s only chance of survival was if Hong Hao Hao hadn’t restrained him. But since Si Ma Nan had set a trap for Wan Li, had he been able to avoid it?
The uncertainty filled Ruan Zhan with worry, and he wanted nothing more than to warp space and take a look at the situation in the old town. However, he could only suppress his worry and think about wrapping up matters here first. If he left, Si Ma Nan might very well recover. Everything would have been for naught. Si Ma Nan would bring further calamity and Xiao Xia wouldn’t be safe. If something had really happened to Wan Li, he would also have died in vain!
Getting up with difficulty, he saw Zuo De carrying Si Ma Nan back into the first floor of the tower. Ruan Zhan first picked up the small mirror and the tile-like treasure before following. He was hurting all over but he didn’t feel it. He was thinking about all sorts of possibilities.
He had Zuo De lean Si Ma Nan against a bell while he himself sat outside the tower. That way, Si Ma Nan’s abilities would be suppressed while his own would remain.
Zuo De wisely went to hide on the second floor. He didn’t even ask about the situation, not wanting to obstruct things. This gave Ruan Zhan time to think on his own, sorting out his tumultuous emotions and slowly waiting for Si Ma Nan to wake up.
The bronze mirror in his hand still looked the same, though it no longer rippled weirdly. Instead, it reflected his bloodstained and haggard face. This proved his last resort had worked. The townsfolk were waking up from their nightmares. It was late at night currently and they wouldn’t feel sleep at all. They would only have a headache.
His father left him with three treasures: the bloodwood sword, the tattered banner and the seal of annihilation. The bloodwood sword was in Wan Li’s hands. The tattered banner was still hidden in the corner of the inner room, containing Xin Xin and the other resentful spirits that hadn’t been sucked back into the porcelain dolls. However, he had never used the seal of annihilation before. It had rather high requirements in terms of magic power that he hadn’t been able to fulfill.
While the bloodwood sword is something that destroys spiritual bodies and the tattered banner is something that captures them, the seal of annihilation is something that could destroy all barriers. When he came to Hongqing Town this time, he brought all three treasures with him since he felt it wasn’t safe to leave them at home.
To make them easier to carry, he took them out of their wax seals but kept them in their miniature ornamental states. The bloodwood sword was an inch-long sword and the tattered banner was a palm-sized flag. The seal of annihilation was a small rectangular stamp, so he hung it on his keyring as an ornament.
He hadn’t included it in his plans. Therefore, he hadn’t used it when breaking through the barrier Si Ma Nan erected around the empty town. If the lives of the townsfolk weren’t at stake, he wouldn’t have thrown it out in a desperate attempt to fix things. He hadn’t known how things would turn out, and could only do his best. He hadn’t expected the dangerous situation and his strong faith to allow him to succeed.
But… what about Wan Li?
He wasn’t being selfish or callous. It was just that Wan Li was worth more than the entire town to him.
“Tell me, can Wan Li be saved?” Seeing Si Ma Nan move, Ruan Zhan asked, “If you’re willing to say it, I promise to let you go again!”
Si Ma Nan spaced out for a bit. His head clearly hadn’t fully cleared up yet.
Ruan Zhan asked once again.
Si Ma Nan reacted this time, but he only maliciously sneered, saying, “Now that the needle has pierced his heart, there’s nothing I can do even if I wanted him to live. Do you think I’d be messing around when refining a flying treasure? Why would I save someone after killing them? Haha…a lapse in judgment means paying a price!”
Si Ma Nan’s words and tone almost made Ruan Zhan lose his mind from anger, but he persevered.
“He’s not necessarily going to die. Your Hong Hao Hao might not be able to hold him down!” Ruan Zhan’s heart twisted but his tone was still relatively calm. “You, however, juts lost your only chance to live.”
Si Ma Nan sneered once again. “I’d be too embarrassed to carry on living after losing to you. You were right. Only one of us can get out of here alive. Your luck is good. There’s always someone to help you wherever you go. I’ve completely lost. But fortunately, your best friend will be accompanying me in death.”
“He won’t be.” Ruan Zhan’s voice was murderous, “You’ll be turned to ashes by the bloodwood sword while I will find a way to revive Wan Li. Since you were able to borrow a body, I can do the same.”
“Since Wan Li’s fallen into my hands, do you still hope for the bloodwood sword to be whole?” Si Ma Nan provoked Ruan Zhan again.
However, Ruan Zhan was not at all moved by his words, “I’ll come back to look for it. Besides, I can still handle you without the sword. Try it if you don’t believe me. I haven’t touched you yet only because I promised Ah Bai to let her meet you before I take your worthless life!”
Si Ma Nan couldn’t say anything after hearing Ah Bai’s name. He felt as if the flying steel needle had pierced his own heart. That was the person he wanted to see most, yet also the one he was most afraid to see. Wasn’t this his weakness?
Right as he was at a loss for words, a woman’s charming voice rang out in the night. “You want Ah Bai? Am I not here to deliver her? Yue Xiao Xia’s also included in the bundle!”
Ruan Zhan and Si Ma Nan were both startled, looking over at the same time. Three women slowly walked over from the walkway. Ah Bai was on the left and Xiao Xia on the right. In the middle was a red figure. It was Hong Hao Hao!