“I treat men best. I give them whatever they need.” Hong Hao Hao said with a smile.
As the three women approached, Ruan Zhan realized they weren’t walking normally. Ah Bai and Xiao Xia were walking slightly ahead. Their movements were rigid, seeming rather unwilling. Hong Hao Hao stood behind them, a talisman in her left hand pressing against Ah Bai’s shoulder while holding a gleaming dagger in her right hand against Xiao Xia’s soft neck.
Seeing Xiao Xia’s predicament, Ruan Zhan subconsciously took a step forward, but was immediately rebuked by Hong Hao Hao.
“Stop!” She tilted her head with an innocent expression, but she spoke viciously, “My Ah Nan said that you are very powerful, so I have to keep some distance from you. Well, unless you’ve had a change of heart and are now interested in me. In that case, it doesn’t matter whether this woman dies or not.”
As she spoke, she twitched the sharp knife. The unusually sharp blade immediately caused a bloodstain to appear on Xiao Xia’s neck, causing Ruan Zhan to back away in fright.
“Alright, I’ll back away, I’ll back away immediately. Let her go!”
Seeing that her threat was effective, Hong Hao Hao couldn’t help but laugh. However, she was actually filled with jealousy instead of glee. Ruan Zhan treasured this Yue Xiao Xia so much that he would rather suffer harm himself than let her lose even a hair. Why hadn’t she ever been cherished by such a man before? Was she not beautiful enough, or not persistent enough?
She looked towards Si Ma Nan as she thought of this, but he had his head lowered and didn’t even look in her direction. She knew it wasn’t because of her, but because of Ah Bai. The man she saw as cruel and emotionless actually didn’t dare look at a long-dead woman, his ex-wife!
In contrast, Ruan Zhan and Yue Xiao Xia had been looking at each other they moment she appeared. Although Xiao Xia and Ah Bai’s ability to speak had been sealed, her gaze had tenderly intertwined with Ruan Zhan’s the entire time. Profound love and care didn’t need any words to be communicated.
In this time and place, to Hong Hao Hao’s eyes, the world had shrunk to this small space. There were only four people here, and she was the odd one out!
Jealousy, sadness, and self-pity, these three emotions mixed in her heart, causing her to suddenly feel angry. She handled Xiao Xia and Ah Bai roughly, making them groan in pain. This made the two men cry out “Stop!”, before glaring at her.
Hong Hao Hao giggled coquettishly, “Have you finally noticed my existence?” She asked in a frivolous but sad tone.
Ruan Zhan didn’t speak, and suddenly felt that Hong Hao Hao was both a pitiful yet hateful woman. She only wanted men to pay attention to her and love her, but never considered that love and respect weren’t obtained through allure and force.
Ever since Hong Hao Hao showed up with Xiao Xia and Ah Bai, his heart has been extremely flustered. On one hand, he was very happy about Hong Hao Hao’s arrival. It meant that Wan Li’s chance of survival would increase. On the other hand, he was very worried about this sort of situation. He had finally subdued Si Ma Nan, but now his accomplice had appeared with two hostages. One of them was someone he couldn’t lose, no matter what.
Was this his second mistake of the night? He had just wanted Ah Bai to bring Xiao Xia far away from the battlefield. He hadn’t expected Hong Hao Hao to capture them halfway, putting them in even more danger!
He couldn’t help but glance at Xiao Xia again, and saw that although she looked haggard, she didn’t care about her situation, and just looked at him anxiously. He knew she was worried about his injuries since he definitely looked very wretched. Luckily they shared a telepathic connection, allowing him to transmit gentle feelings, telling her not to worry and that everything will be fine.
Suppressing his urge to stare at Xiao Xia, Ruan Zhan faced Hong Hao Hao, “What did you do to Wan Li?”
“Him?” Hong Hao Hao drew out her words, “I killed him!”
Ruan Zhan could tell from her expression she was lying. He was only worried about whether she had drawn the fatal bloodmark on his body.
“You forgot Si Ma Nan’s instructions and didn’t mark his body!” He bluffed, worriedly waiting for her response.
Unexpectedly, Hong Hao Hao gave the reaction he was hoping for. Her face turned pale, and she said angrily, “Who cares about that bastard’s life or death? Let go of my Ah Nan first!”
Ruan Zhan couldn’t help but smile. Hong Hao Hao’s expression told him Wan Li would most likely survive. Thus, he only had to worry about this side.
“What are you smiling about?” Hong Hao Hao glared, “Let go of my Ah Nan, or I will kill these two women!”
“Your Ah Nan?” Ruan Zhan looked mockingly at Hong Hao Hao He had also majored in psychology, and could see Hong Hao Hao both feared and depended on Si Ma Nan. He also saw her apprehension and provocation towards Ah Bai. “Are you sure he is yours, and not Ah Bai’s?”
“Shut up! Otherwise I will really kill this woman!” Hong Hao Hao yelled, her eyes filled with fear of being abandoned. “Don’t think I wouldn’t dare!”
Seeing her agitation, Ruan Zhan was afraid that she would hurt Xiao Xia. He hurriedly made some placating gestures and turned towards Si Ma Nan. “Are you shameless enough to have me release you? Is your skin thick enough to explain to Ah Bai why you treated her like that?”
Si Ma Nan had kept his head lowered ever since hearing Hong Hao Hao’s voice. He knew that Ah Bai was in this empty city, but he never thought that the two would meet under such circumstances. Therefore, he was unable to face this unexpected situation and could only bury his head in the sand. Yet Hong Hao Hao had suddenly hurt Xiao Xia and Ah Bai. Ah Bai’s pained groan made him subconsciously search for her figure. In the end, he instantly sank into her gentle, limpid eyes.
Ah Bai wasn’t as excited as Xiao Xia. She just stood there calmly, yet not saying a word or showing any emotion. This made Si Ma Nan continuously question his emotions.
There eyes met and the past surfaced in his mind. The bits and pieces of their life in the forest, the figure that appeared in his dreams countless of times, the easy smile that permeated his chest, all made him unable to speak.
No one else had ever treated him so well, so unreservedly. No one else had ever been such a gentle existence in his cold, dark heart. No one else had ever looked at him with such pure and gentle emotions in their eyes after being harmed by him. No one else had ever showed absolutely no resistance despite seeing through his falsehood and lies, allowing him to push her into the abyss.
Who said being weak meant being a pushover? When something developed into an extreme, it would bring about opposite results. Just like how Ah Bai’s gentleness and weakness now became something he had no hopes of defeating!
The weakest was also the most unyielding! He imprisoned her soul, but she imprisoned his heart!
“Ah Nan! Tell Ruan Zhan to let you go!” Hong Hao Hao urged.
Hong Hao Hao’s scream pierced Si Ma Nan’s body like a sharp arrow. The conscience and feelings that had just begun to surge in his heart were shattered again. His whole body trembled, and he forcibly moved his gaze away from Ah Bai’s eyes, hardening his heart. He let her down once before. He didn’t need to fear letting her down again! He had his own ambitions, goals he had to achieve no matter what. That was his lifelong dream. Countless years had passed. For the sake of his goals, he had suffered and harmed. Now that success was before him, he couldn’t give up, and couldn’t allow anyone to stop him! “Listen to her, let me go!” He said hoarsely, “You have your helpers, and I have mine. We’re even!”
Ruan Zhan looked at him quietly, and was silent for several seconds before speaking. “Pathetic.”
He spoke so seriously, making Si Ma Nan ashamed to look straight at him for a moment. Yet the longing and humiliation that came after made him grit his teeth and say, “Kid, such thoughts are backed up by ability. Only the strong have the right to disdain everyone else! You want to look down on me? You are not worthy yet!”
Hearing Si Ma Nan’s words, Hong Hao Hao understood he was still on her side. Seeing him also stop staring at Ah Bai, she was extremely excited and loudly said, “Ruan Zhan, you can choose not to release Ah Nan. However, your girlfriend will also lose her life! I’ll let you choose. You should think it over carefully! I’ll count to three. If you don’t choose, I’ll kill her! I keep my word! One, two—”
Ruan Zhan didn’t look in Xiao Xia’s direction. However, he still felt a voice in his mind desperately trying to prevent him from making the self-sacrificing choice. However, how could he watch her die in front of him? Even if he survived, his world would once again become dull.
He didn’t hesitate. He stepped into the tower, picked up Si Ma Nan and threw him outside.
“Your spiritual power will recover quickly, and no rope can keep you tied up.” He said coldly, with the pride of the victor, as if it was Si Ma Nan who had lost this crucial battle, “If only you can also undo the ropes around your heart!”
He could clearly see that Si Ma Nan didn’t dare look at Ah Bai. This proved he felt guilty, perhaps even a tiny bit of affection!
With a snap, Si Ma Nan’s abilities allowed him to escape his restrictions faster than Ruan Zhan imagined. The moment he was able to move freely, he stretched out his fingers and drew a flower-like seal. He flung it at Ruan Zhan’s chest, causing him to slam against the bell behind him. He spat a mouthful of blood and was unable to move.
“Ruan Zhan!” The strong emotional stimulation made Xiao Xia suddenly break through the vocal restriction, and she screamed. She struggled desperately, but although Hong Hao Hao was slender, her hands were terrifyingly strong, clamping her like iron tongs, making it impossible for her to get free.
The moment she saw Ruan Zhan, his exhausted, haggard and bruised appearance had already made her heart ache incessantly. Seeing him lying on the ground motionless, her heart was broken into pieces. Only at this moment did she deeply understand what it meant for her insides to split apart. She experienced wanting to live for someone else, to die for him, to bear all his suffering.
“Ruan Zhan, are you alright!? Don’t scare me! Get up!” She called Ruan Zhan’s name loudly, tears welling up.
“Silence her. Her wailing irritates me.” Si Ma Nan frowned and ordered.
“I——don’t have any hands to spare!” Hong Hao Hao was in a bit of a dilemma. She was restraining Yue Xiao Xia with one hand and Ah Bai with the other. Where did she have the ability to spawn another hand?
It was already a stroke of luck for her to have caught them! She had listened to Wan Li back then and decided to check things out in the new town to seize some benefits for herself. At that time, she realized the restrictions around the town hadn’t broken, preventing her from entering. She had burned with anxiety and circled the place several times. Then, the restriction suddenly dispersed. The moment she entered, she saw Ah Bai and Xiao Xia hiding in an empty store.
She heard that Ah Bai was no ordinary person in life and approached their location very carefully. The two women didn’t speak, and were filled with worry. She realized the men were definitely still fighting on the other side. These two had run over to avoid getting caught up.
Her thoughts turned malicious, and she acted forcefully while Ah Bai was distracted and immediately subdued the two. She sealed their vocal points and took them hostage, helping Si Ma Nan out in a critical moment!
This way, Si Ma Nan would realize her worth. He would see she was the most loyal to him. That way, he wouldn’t abandon her!
“Trash!” Si Ma Nan didn’t look grateful at all, and cursed callously instead. He then pointed towards Xiao Xia. It was unclear what method he used, but Xiao Xia immediately fell silent, and couldn’t even move anymore.
“You should let her go!” He continued to give orders, his tone mocking. “You can’t go back on your word. After all, you let Ruan Zhan choose, and he has chosen!”
Hong let go of Xiao Xia. They kept their promise on the surface, but the situation hadn’t really changed at all. Xiao Xia was immobile like a piece of wood. There was no difference whether they let her go or not. She could become a hostage again at any time.
Ruan Zhan slowly picked himself up, sitting against the bronze bell. Every breath was hard and painful. He knew the extent of his injuries. Even if the tower didn’t absorb his powers, he wouldn’t be able to turn things around. In this battle, he had given it his all and fought bitterly. However, due to repeated surprises, he ended up losing to Si Ma Nan.
He was really tired, not just because of his life, but also due to the recent battles. Which battle hadn’t been incomparably hard fought? Which one didn’t require him to exhaust himself and win against a stronger opponent? Today he finally couldn’t hold on anymore. He had no way to turn the situation around. He was already crushed firmly underfoot.
However, Xiao Xia was still there, with tears on her face, looking at him while motionless. How could he ignore her plight? How could he bow his head to Si Ma Nan in front of her? He had to save her. He had to keep her safe. It was enough if she could live. But what should he do?
If there was no other way, he could only kill himself! As long as he didn’t die by Si Ma Nan’s hand, as long as he was faster than him, there was a chance of preserving his soul. If his soul was not wiped out by Si Ma Nan, he would be able to rescue Xiao Xia! Even if they were separated forever, he would at least still be in her heart. He could at least still love her, protect her and silently remain by her side.
Si Ma Nan wouldn’t hurt Ah Bai. He was extremely sure of this point. He had no use for his treasures after death. He would ask Zuo De to destroy them. Although those treasures were powerful, he had yet to refine them so they would move with his thoughts. Therefore, they were merely ordinary objects to normal people, and were easy to destroy.
He had thought through everything. He would end his own life to protect Xiao Xia! There was no need to hesitate. This choice was something he would never forget!
“Release her as well!” Si Ma Nan spoke once again to Hong Hao Hao.
This time, he didn’t turn to look, but Hong Hao Hao understood who he meant.
She was a little unwilling, but she didn’t dare defy him. Luckily, after releasing Yue Xiao Xia, the pressure on her decreased. Therefore, the instant she released Ah Bai, she sealed her once again, keeping her in a frozen state.
Her actions wouldn’t go unnoticed by the powerful and shrewd Si Ma Nan. However, he didn’t stop her. This made Hong Hao Hao realize that he was willing to let her do so. He had been tangled up by his feelings and wasn’t able to extricate himself. He needed her to sever this connection!
Ah Bai was the knot in his heart, his only weakness. If Ah Bai, who had been silent and unresisting this whole time, joined the battle, the situation would become unpredictable. She hoped that Si Ma Nan would kill everyone here and destroy all the souls, allowing them to return to their previous lives.
Their unfeeling, yet peaceful past!