The matter in the past was caused by ignorance and greed.
Although Mayor Yuan and the people who acted back then were well-educated government officials, the superstition ingrained in their bones still ended up causing them to do such a hair-raising thing.
It was actually just a case of cholera!
Over ten years ago, a flood struck this area. Although many rural areas in China were already beginning to develop at the time, these were still remote and poor places, and healthcare was quite lacking. Since no health and epidemic prevention work was carried out and it was during summer when Cholera was most active, there was an outbreak in one of Hongqing Town’s subsidiary villages called Malian Village.
At the time, almost all the adults in the village were infected with cholera. Since early symptoms didn’t include high fever, merely some diarrhea, the villagers who didn’t have much medical knowledge assumed it was just upset stomach caused by drinking unclean water.
However, the situation became more and more serious. People began to die in the village, and most of the adults in the village were no longer able to walk. The third uncle, who was the village chief, sent a child not infected with cholera to find Zhang Xin Xin, who worked at the town hospital.
Zhang Xin Xin was the only daughter of the old Zhang family. She was one of the top scorers on the national exam, one of the few who went to university before returning to the town to work. Despite her young age, she had graduated from a famous university of medicine, and was therefore the deputy-chair of the town hospital. In the minds of the villagers, she was the village’s savior.
Malian Village was deep in the mountain. Along with the mountain roads being unmaintained back then, they were essentially separated from the rest of the world. Therefore, when Zhang Xin Xin hurried back to the village with several people and basic medical supplies, the majority of the villagers was exhibiting symptoms of cholera due to heavy loss of water: sunken eyes, shriveled cheeks, dry mouths, turbid minds, wrinkled, inelastic skin, fingers withered like laundrywomen and stomachs sunken in like boats.
Xin Xin was distraught by this scene and immediately began treatment. From her education, she knew despite cholera being highly infectious and its vaccine not always effective and containing some side effects, as long as it was properly treated, it was no longer a difficult or fatal disease in modern times.
Yet despite her thoughts, the people she brought had been terrified. Although those people were nominally doctors, the lacking conditions and shortage of staff meant they were merely employees who received basic medical training. Even the nurses in the city’s hospitals were more qualified than they were. This was a common phenomenon in rural areas, where unqualified people became doctors.
Prior to the outbreak in Malian Village, there had been similar symptoms several years ago in a village called Dayang Village. Because it was even more remote, the outside world didn’t find out about it until everyone had died. Since the corpses hadn’t been treated, the disease had almost spread, causing mass panic in the area.
In the eyes of the locals, this was no disease. This was the consequence of those who offended the God of Pestilence. Contact with such people would also implicate them. Even spreading the matter would result in similar punishment!
For some reason, the locals called cholera “zero two”, perhaps named after the label of the bacteria. Regardless, due to mistaken beliefs, the locals were always terrified when hearing “zero two”. Furthermore, it was said this bacteria couldn’t be killed with any methods. Those infected were definitely dead. Only fire, continuous, raging fire could exterminate the disease!
When the people who came with Xin Xin saw the state of the village, they completely abandoned their duties as doctors for fear of “zero two’s” reemergence and fled. Xin Xin couldn’t stop them or talk any sense into them. She could only let them report things to the official responsible for health and sanitation. That person was the current Mayor Yuan. He had to come up with resources to save the villagers!
Xin Xin had an ambiguous relationship with the married Mayor Yuan back then. She assumed that the educated and upstanding Mayor Yuan would definitely think of a way to bring resources from the province’s major hospitals to save the village, which could still be saved.
From a medical perspective, these were just people lacking severely in potassium, thus exhibiting symptoms of uremia and acid poisoning. Those who died had died of organ failure, nothing to do with the God of Pestilence. Although many people were infected, the majority were still curable. Furthermore, she was convinced that the man she had a secret passionate affair with, the man whom she worshiped, relied on and loved with all her heart, would definitely save them!
However, she hadn’t expected that the Mayor Yuan she trusted would steal the village chief Third Uncle’s inherited secret kiln techniques under the guise of comforting the sick. Then, he actually brought over a dozen town workers and burned Malian Village down in a single night, along with all those who could have been cured.
The villagers were too sick to get out of bed, and weren’t able to escape the deadly fire. The children who weren’t infected could still escape, but were shoved back into the fire by the people surrounding the village. As for Xin Xin, she had been personally tied to the door by the one she loved and burned to death in front of him as he left expressionlessly.
She hadn’t known even as she died that Mayor Yuan had long since coveted those secret arts. The outbreak of cholera had given him the opportunity to force Third Uncle to hand over the secrets without any remaining evidence! He naturally knew that cholera wasn’t a deadly disease any longer with modern medicine. However, he wanted to become the mayor, wanted to get rich using the secret techniques, and also wanted to put the minds of the locals at ease.
Therefore, she and the villagers had to be sacrificed using such barbaric and cruel methods, just so others wouldn’t be at risk. But there wasn’t even any risk to begin with! Such cruel slaughter of the innocent, indiscriminate of age and gender. How could their resentment not reach the heavens!?
Therefore, not long after the incident, Mayor Yuan and his group started experiencing disturbances at home. With no other choice, he had to ask his uncle Master Yuan Long for help.
Master Long was initially furious, and even wanted to bring his only nephew to justice. Yet he ultimately couldn’t escape the fetters of family under Mayor Yuan’s bitter pleas and expressions of remorse. He instructed the people to turn those still unburied bodies into bricks and construct them into houses, preventing them from leaving. Then, he used the Grand Fengshui Formation to suppress them.
After doing all of this, Master Long died. Following his instructions prior to his death, Mayor Yuan buried him in an auspicious location deep in the mountains, allowing him to guard the formation for over a decade while trying to surpass the limits of a departed soul!
Malian Village was in a remote location and there had been the previous example of Dayang Village with cholera. Therefore, people weren’t aware that the purifying fire wasn’t burning corpses or exterminating bacteria. What was burned were living people! Afterwards, their souls were also tormented by the heat of the kiln, augmented by spells and formations! Their disappearance resulted in Mayor Yuan’s rapid ascension, his good reputation and Hongqing Town’s following prosperity.
The miscarriage of justice was buried in the hearts of Hongqing Town’s powerful and kept under wraps. Soon after, people either forgot or kept quiet out of fear of the God of Pestilence’s retribution. Those wronged were thus forgotten. With things unresolved, they resentfully lingered in the new town!
“This Mayor Yuan really is a super bastard. He will definitely suffer punishment under the law!” Wan Li was still outraged when talking about this matter.
Ruan Zhan didn’t speak.
Wan Li had grown up in a normal environment. Although he encountered many patients as a psychiatrist, those were still the normal side of humanity. Yet he was different. He had seen the darkest and most treacherous parts of humanity. He had encountered and experienced it. Therefore, he knew that monsters were actually what humans could turn into!
“Is the evidence sound?”
“That’s great. Then I’ll trouble you to seek justice for these people.” Ruan Zhan sighed. “The people back then or their descendants have pretty much all died. Only Mayor Yuan and several minor characters are left. You have to make sure not to let them escape.”
Wan Li smiled. “Don’t worry. Hong Hao Hao’s thugs were mostly scared off by me. A few remained to atone for their crimes, and are watching Mayor Yuan and those other people. You can rest assured that whoever sows the cause will have to bear the fruits that follow. No one will get away.”
He looked up at the sky and said, “Hey, it’s almost dawn. You should start making preparations. From your injuries, you probably don’t have much strength left. Let me go erase your “incriminating evidence” in the tower before sending Zuo De to look for Reporter Ma and Mao Fu. They can figure out what to tell the outside. Then we will escort Mao Fu back. Don’t you sit idle. Hurry and wake that damn lass.” He pointed at Xiao Xia who was in Ruan Zhan’s arms. He seemed to recall something and let out a sigh. “I still have to say goodbye to Ah Bai. Man, such a good woman, truly one of a kind. To think she would end up so tragically after loving the wrong man!”
Wan Li’s words made Ruan Zhan’s heart go cold. He looked down at Xiao Xia’s cute face and softly stroked it. Sensing she was about to wake up, Ruan Zhan suddenly felt reluctant. He already loved her deeply, but could only tear this love out from his heart. He really wanted to be with her forever, but knew they only had seconds left to spend like this.
It was better for her not to know anything. Regardless, he wanted to make her forget. He remembered the first time they worked together. When Xiao Xia saw him manipulate the guard’s memories, she had made him swear never to do that to her. He had sworn, but today he would unfortunately have to break his promise.
Back then he hadn’t expected to fall so deeply in love with her, and never thought they would be so intimately involved. He never thought he shouldn’t let it happen. He was facing the calamity of threes. His father and Si Ma Nan both said it was a deadly tribulation that he couldn’t avoid. This meant he didn’t have the ability to make her happy.
He had unavoidable trouble coming, and shouldn’t have gotten in a relationship with her. It was due to his weakened state and his concern for her, as well as his excitement at finally running into her, making him ignore all his worries!
He had kissed her, causing their mutual love to burst forth. Yet if he allowed this relationship to continue developing, she would only be facing grief and despair. He absolutely didn’t wish to see that.
Therefore, he had to make her forget everything that happened here, forget their relationship, forget how passionately he had treated her!
Xiao Xia struggled a bit in his arms and slowly got up. She saw Ruan Zhan’s deep, dark eyes the moment she woke up. He looked at her with complicated emotions, warmth, sorrow, passion and pain.
“Is it over?”
Ruan Zhan nodded, staring at her unblinkingly. It was like she would vanish the moment he blinked, and he was trying to carve her image in his heart. This made Xiao Xia’s heart thump and she felt inexplicably afraid.
“You’re seriously injured. You’ll probably have to recuperate for a while. Let me take care of you, ok?” She tried to use a smile to relieve her unease. “I’ll show you that I can also be very gentle if it’s necessary.”
Ruan Zhan didn’t speak and merely looked at her.
“Goodness, it must hurt a lot!” She noticed the bloody patch on his shoulder and her heart twisted in pain. Her unease suddenly grew and she wanted to hold him without letting go. “That…I want to hug you. Can I?”
Ruan Zhan reached out and lightly touched the hair hanging by her face. “Sure. But I have to tell you something first. Engrave it into the deepest part of your heart, but you don’t need to recall it. It’s fine as long as you know it.”
“What?” Ruan Zhan’s conflicted tone and extremely gentle gaze bewildered her.
“I love you! I love you very, very much. Even if I die, my love will never end, never ever!” Ruan Zhan spoke softly, then held Xiao Xia in his arms. He leaned his head down and continued murmuring into her hair, his burning kiss seeping through her scalp and branding her heart.
“I also love you very much.” She responded in a daze.
“Do something for me, ok?”
“Forget me!” Ruan Zhan said, reaching out and rubbing the top of Xiao Xia’s head.
Xiao Xia only felt a stream of heat burrowing into her head, making her feel a little dazed. Yet she suddenly sensed something was wrong. She tried to resist but it was too late. Her mind grew blurry and then she lost consciousness.
Ruan Zhan hugged Xiao Xia tightly, the steely person almost shedding tears. Although he was reluctant to let her go, he still chanted softly by her ear.
After a while, Wan Li’s voice rang out from behind him, “What did you do to her?”
“I told her that she got sick in Hongqing Town and had a nightmare, a nightmare she can not remember. Then, Ah Bai found Si Ma Nan and took him back to the border. And then you brought her home.” Ruan Zhan said faintly.
“What?” You…” Wan Li froze, before understanding what was going on. “What about you? Where have you been?”
“I never showed up. I had gone home to pay respects to my ancestors.”
“Let her forget all the horror here?”
“Tell me. As someone aware that you erased and modified her memories, I have the right to know. Why did you do this?!” Wan Li’s expression was very stern. “I know you don’t like this. Didn’t you always feel that no one has the right to violate someone else’s memories? Even the most unbearable and terrifying ones.”
“I just made her forget what happened after coming to Hongqing Town. Everything else was left untouched, unharmed. Nothing else was changed.” Ruan Zhan still held Xiao Xia, and every word he said made him feel heartbroken.
“But why? I must know, otherwise I’ll find a way to get her memories back!” Wan Li threatened.
Ruan Zhan looked up, his eyes filled with pain and helplessness. “Because I told her I love her. Because I kissed her! Because I only have one year left to live. Because I cannot allow my impulsiveness to leave her grieving the rest of her life!”
“You bastard!” Wan Li couldn’t tell whether he was shocked or jealous. “I’ve watched over her for so many years without putting a finger on her. Who would have thought you made the first move, and then want to ditch!”
“Sorry, I couldn’t help it!”
“You shouldn’t be apologizing to me, but to her!” Wan Li pulled Xiao Xia out of Ruan Zhan’s arms and let her lean against him. “No matter the type of suffering, you don’t have the right to make the decision for her. Just wait and see. If she remembers everything, she will resent you!” While speaking, he placed a small cloth bag into Xiao Xia’s pocket.
It was what Ah Bai had just asked him to pass to Xiao Xia. She said the stone could test a man’s sincerity. She had no need for it now, and wanted to give it to her best friend. She said she had completely formed the stone so it would no longer turn invisible. Once things were settled, she had her methods to teach Xiao Xia how to use it.
But now, he was very skeptical whether Xiao Xia still needed this stone. Women wanted men to be sincere, but love wasn’t something that could bloom with just sincerity. He understood Ruan Zhan’s heart, and also knew his own. Yet what would fate end up deciding?
Ruan Zhan was unable to answer Wan Li.
Despite his actions, his heart dripped with blood. Although he suffered the most, he wasn’t able to explain himself. He would love to be able to live a happy life with her!
But if that would bring her disaster and pain, then he’d rather be the wicked person who cut things off. He would rather she hated him!
“Ai…” an exaggerated sigh came from behind Ruan Zhan and Wan Li, “What a pitiful girl!”
When had there been someone behind them? Why hadn’t they noticed anyone?
Ruan Zhan and Wan Li looked over in shock.
A young man of average stature stood beneath the awning behind them. He had delicate features and a sunny expression. His entire body exuded an air of carefreeness.
They looked at each other, recognizing the uninvited guest at the same time!
Bao Da Tong!
Will Xiao Xia recall Ruan Zhan’s love for her? What did Si Ma Nan actually tell him? How will Ruan Zhan investigate the truth? Why did Bao Da Tong appear all of a sudden? Please read Book 7 of the Exorcist: Child of Yin.