“Punk surnamed Ruan, get the hell over here.” Si Ma Nan suddenly said loudly.
Ruan Zhan had been standing nearby in a daze. Ah Bai’s sorrow had made him even forget to move outside the tower to recover his powers. His injuries were serious, but he gritted his teeth and made his way to Si Ma Nan’s side with difficulty. He put up no defenses at all, and he also knew it wasn’t necessary. Anyone could tell Si Ma Nan would die soon. This battle would end in such a dramatic fashion.
“You have to admit, I didn’t lose to you.” Si Ma Nan leaned in Ah Bai’s arms, his face abnormally gray. Yet he still spoke with pride.
“You didn’t lose!” Ruan Zhan admitted honestly.
“That’s right. I didn’t lose to you. I lost to myself. What was that saying?
Man proposes, God disposes.”
Si Ma Nan smiled weakly, nodding slightly. As expected, obsessing over something didn’t result in a good outcome. Money, beauties, lifespan, it was the case for all of them. “My study of Daoism was in vain, since I sought after something that opposed the natural order. What a pity!”
“No, in terms of the Dao, I admire you the most. You have the most profound powers of anyone I have ever met.” Ruan Zhan spoke from the bottom of his heart.
With Si Ma Nan’s life fading away and thinking of those who died unjustly because of him, Ruan Zhan should have celebrated his victory. However, he couldn’t feel any joy. It wasn’t only due to Ah Bai’s sadness. It was also regret for Si Ma Nan having gone astray in his path. There were also complicated, inexplicable emotions in his heart.
Dealing with Si Ma Nan had been his goal all this time. Now that he was about to die, without leaving even a soul behind, he suddenly felt empty and powerless. Why was it like this? He couldn’t stand this mournful atmosphere. He would rather fight Si Ma Nan to the death in a grandiose battle! Now that it turned out this way, he felt he was the one responsible for breaking the kind Ah Bai’s heart!
“The most profound powers? That’s not really the case.” Si Ma Nan said softly. “Your father is an incredible Daoist. What you’ve seen isn’t the true form. He is the truly powerful one!”
“My father?” Si Ma Nan’s words made Ruan Zhan’s heart tremble. He had always felt they were connected in some way. He also knew he had something to do with his father, but wasn’t clear about the details.
He briefly felt like interrogating Si Ma Nan. If he didn’t ask now, this matter would always remain a mystery after Si Ma Nan died. Yet seeing how sad Ah Bai was, he couldn’t bear interrupting their final moments together. Who would have thought Si Ma Nan would bring up the matter.
Si Ma Nan looked at Ruan Zhan. “Did he mention you would face the Calamity of Threes?”
Ruan Zhan was startled. Dealing with the empty town had made him put this matter to the back of his mind. Hearing Si Ma Nan mention it, he instinctively looked at Xiao Xia. Yet she was still in a rigid state, though her face was covered in tears. Her sympathy for Ah Bai and concern over Ruan Zhan’s injuries meant she hadn’t paid attention to Si Ma Nan’s words.
“Do you also know about my Calamity of Threes?” He lowered his voice and asked.
Si Ma Nan’s gaze was rather complicated, containing some sympathy and understanding. Yet he didn’t answer Ruan Zhan directly. “The calamity will be your deadly tribulation. There’s no avoiding it. You should think of countermeasures early! As for my connection with you…” He indicated for Ruan Zhan to come closer, and then spoke quietly by his ear.
“I’m sure you’re very surprised.” Si Ma Nan smiled bitterly. “The world is unpredictable and ever-changing. There’s no need to concern yourself with it too much.”
Ruan Zhan wasn’t one who revealed his emotions, but his face looked worse than Si Ma Nan’s at that moment. He straightened up in disbelief. He was about to ask again when Si Ma Nan shook his head. Ruan Zhan could only swallow his words.
Si Ma Nan telling him so much without reservation was already more than he could ask for. He would have to find the other answers on his own. Now that Si Ma Nan was a lamp out of oil, he should leave the last moments to his wife.
“Ah Bai.” Si Ma Nan mumbled gently. “Bring your face closer to me. I want you to be the last thing I see.”
Ah Bai sobbed and lowered her head.
Si Ma Nan forced his hand up and stroked her face. “I’m sorry, Ah Bai. In the end, I still wasn’t able to remain by your side. I also wasn’t able to figure out if I truly love you. Sorry for hurting you. I’m sorry!”
Ah Bai couldn’t say a word. She merely shook her head and cried.
“Good child…be good…don’t dwell on it….we are each other’s tribulation in life, insurmountable tribulation. But I am fond of this tribulation!” Si Ma Nan’s breathing grew weaker, his body almost transparent. “I have to leave. You take care of yourself. Listen, good child, you must be well.”
He used the nickname they had used as newlyweds to say his final farewell to Ah Bai, making her heart break. If they were each other’s tribulation, the situation must have been unavoidable the moment they met!
At that time, he was standing underneath a vine. Despite his shabby clothes and haggard expression, he had been elegant and refined. So extraordinary, so unrestrained, causing her to fall in love at first sight. During their time together, his words, knowledge, wisdom when discussing Daoism or witchcraft and the smallest bits of consideration he showed her had made her heart palpitate. During their brief period of marriage, he pampered her like a father would a daughter. She felt comfortable sharing everything with him like she would a bosom friend, and they were also passionate as lovers. With all of that, how was she able to avoid dwelling on it!?
He was the one who showed her a new world, making her realize how large it was. He was the one who showed her emotions outside of worship and respect. She didn’t have to act the upright witch doctor each day. Instead, she could be a mischievous child, a girl throwing a tantrum, a coquettish and submissive woman, and also an irresponsible lazybones. He let her experience the various flavors of life. He made her realize she wasn’t just witch with divine gifts, but also a woman with emotions and desires!
She received too much reverence and worship. Only he gave her affection and warmth, gave her tears of sorrow and smiles of joy. How could she not love him!? So what if he had been lying to her? So what if he didn’t know whether he really loved her? Even if it was all just a dream, so what?
He was everything to her. How could she be well after he was gone!?
A breeze swept by. Si Ma Nan’s body suddenly vanished in Ah Bai’s arms, leaving only the white clothes stained with blood.
“Ah Nan…” Ah Bai wailed. She tossed aside the clothes and groped about the ground. “Ah Nan, don’t leave me. Ah Nan, come back! Ah Nan, come back, don’t leave me! Come back!”
She dug into the ground as she cried, as if Si Ma Nan had sunk into the ground rather than vanishing. She dug in vain, tears streaming down her face. Her slender fingers that should have been incorporeal bled from being ground against the firm earth. Yet she didn’t stop, desperately trying to pull her lost love back from the void!
“Ah Bai, he’s already gone.” Ruan Zhan truly couldn’t watch any longer, moving forward and holding Ah Bai by the waist. Yet Ah Bai refused to listen, struggling free of his arms and kneeling once again.
“Ah Nan, come back. Take me instead…Ah Nan…come back!”
She cried so mournfully that even Ruan Zhan was about to shed tears.
“Ah Bai…” He went up once again, wanting to pull Ah Bai up, yet noticed that the pile of clothes on the floor was faintly trembling. It was like something was moving around beneath it.
He hurriedly crouched and found that red stone covered by the clothes. Si Ma Nan had died by the stone because of his lies, yet it hadn’t been destroyed. Yet it wasn’t just the trembling, lifelike stone beneath the clothing. There was also an almost indiscernible wisp of soul!
“Ah Bai, look at this.” He scooped up the wisp with his finger while holding the stone with his other hand. “Ah Bai!” Since Ah Bai didn’t respond, he raised his voice and called again.
Yet Ah Bai still didn’t hear him as she desperately dug at the ground. He had no choice but to forcibly pull her up. “Look at this.”
Ah Bai’s teary eyes couldn’t immediately discern what was going on. Yet when the wisp on Ruan Zhan’s finger saw Ah Bai, it seemed to have seen it’s master. It leapt about even more rapidly, making Ah Bai stare at it in shock. Seeming to have realized something, she immediately reached out and held the wisp in her hand.
“Is this – is this him?” She stared at Ruan Zhan with wide, teary eyes.
Ruan Zhan sighed and shook his head. “Ah Bai, Si Ma Nan is already gone, and will never come back. This is just a remnant of his soul, without any consciousness or thoughts. It only had such a huge reaction towards you due to instinct.”
Ah Bai didn’t speak. She looked at her hand. Seeing the wisp rubbing gently against her bloodied hand, she once again shed tears.
“It turns out he did love me.” She said bitterly. She lifted her hand and lightly rubbed it against her face. “He didn’t understand since he had never loved anyone. Yet he did love me. Although it was only a tiny bit, he did love me. I got it, Ah Nan, I got it. I have no regrets! It’s enough as long as a tiny bit of you loved me, Ah Nan…
Her tears hadn’t dried but she started smiling. She held the wisp of Si Ma Nan’s soul like it was the most precious treasure and kissed it gently. This made Ruan Zhan’s once again sink into her grief.
The stone of eternity scatters the soul of those who lied. This was the greatest punishment to heartless people. Yet perhaps Si Ma Nan himself hadn’t known that in the depths of his heart was a trace of true love for Ah Bai. It was that hint of true love that allowed him to preserve a wisp of his soul.
Yet it definitely wasn’t Si Ma Nan anymore. It could not turn into that man to accompany Ah Bai. It couldn’t speak or smile, and didn’t have any of his memories. It was ultimately transient, and could vanish at any time. Even if Ah Bai was at her most powerful, and helped gather his soul with all her might using the wisp as foundation, it would no longer be Si Ma Nan.
Si Ma Nan was dead.
“This is part of him. Even if it doesn’t know anything, it at least feels like he’s with me. I will no longer be lonely.” Ah Bai understood Ruan Zhan’s thoughts and said faintly. “This is enough. I never asked anything of him, including his love. Yet he has still given it to me. I have no complaints.”
“Then what will you do?”
“What will I do?” Ah Bai smiled sadly. “He has gone, with only this remaining. Even if I want to follow him, I wouldn’t know where to go. I think it’s best if I go back to my dried well. With him accompanying me, I don’t mind even if the world changes, the oceans dried or if the stones crumble. As long as he is by my side.”
Hearing her sad yet determined words, Ruan Zhan couldn’t think of any comforting words. Yet recalling that Ah Bai had severed part of her soul in order to save him from Si Ma Nan, he made up his mind to help her.
“I will bring you back.” Ruan Zhan said to Ah Bai, while returning the stone of eternity to her.
She had no divine energy and was missing a piece of her soul. It was also a long journey. If she took Si Ma Nan’s soul back by herself, it would be too dangerous. Therefore, after he finished dealing with the empty town, he would personally escort her back. He would also use all his efforts in placing the strongest barrier around the dried well. She would be able to leave, but nothing else could enter.
Si Ma Nan was gone, but he owed him for revealing some secrets. He would protect Ah Bai in Si Ma Nan’s stead!
Ah Bai nodded. She took the stone and bundled up Si Ma Nan’s clothes and shoes into her arms. She sat on the ground and started quietly chanting some unintelligible prayer. At this moment, she had entered a state of nothingness, a layer of holy radiance shrouding her beautiful face.
Ruan Zhan looked up at the sky. He didn’t understand why such a kind woman would end up with such a tragic outcome. Was the world really fair?
The sky, no longer dark but rather grey, reminded him that the matters here needed to be resolved quickly. It was almost daybreak!
He turned his head and saw a red figure swiftly fleeing from the awning over the lake towards the plaza. Who else could it be apart from Hong Hao Hao?
The unexpected scene from before had also left Hong Hao Hao at a loss. She, like everyone else, could only stare at it all and wait until it was over before she remembered her own affairs.
Si Ma Nan was gone. Her backer was gone, the situation she feared most had occurred. She wasn’t a complete woman and couldn’t survive on her own in this world. But she also didn’t wish to return to that other world. Her only reaction was to run.
She had no plan at all and didn’t know where she was going. It was just an instinctive action.
She fled very quickly and reached the plaza in the blink of an eye. Yet darkness appeared before as Ruan Zhan, who had recovered some of his spirit power, stepped over from the tower and blocked her path.