“What happened?” His “daughter” Zhang Xue pounced on top of him and asked in concern, ignoring the spilled water basin nearby.
The current Zhang Xue had been outfitted with prosthetic limbs and a fake eye. Her tender and beautiful demeanor was once against present. Although she wasn’t as alluring as Hong Hao Hao, she had still recovered her tough yet sexy appeal!
“That stubborn brat. He’ll already having a hard time protecting himself, yet he still wasted what little remaining power he has to break my water scrying technique. Now how am I supposed to monitor the situation in the city?!” Si Ma Nan’s eyes were reddened as he kicked the coffee table in front of him angrily.
“How is that possible?” Hong Hao Hao was a little alarmed at Si Ma Nan’s fury.
“Why wouldn’t it be?” Si Ma Nan blinked forcefully, confirming his sight was unharmed before replying. “I’m afraid was due to Ah Bai’s teachings. Otherwise, how could he have broken my water scrying technique? She was the one who taught me after all.”
“Are you afraid of Ah Bai?” Hong Hao Hao asked sourly.
Hearing her name coming out of someone else’s mouth, Si Ma Nan’s heart clenched in an unusual display. In his mind appeared a fairy-like face, pure and beautiful. Only after a while did he mutter, “Who would be afraid of Ah Bai? She’s so good!”
“Better than me?”
“You can’t even compare to a single hair of hers. You are not allowed to mention her name in the future!” Si Ma Nan’s temperamental face was covered in frost for a moment. He got up and left, slamming the door behind him.
The water scrying technique had been broken so he could no longer observe the situation in the empty city. Therefore, he didn’t know that Ruan Zhan had spat out a mouthful of blood after breaking his technique. He also almost collapsed. The effort had been too great for him. His entire body’s powers had been sealed. He had used his strong will to squeeze out his remaining spirit power and gave Si Ma Nan a blow.
He hadn’t lost his cool. He just didn’t want to be observed by the enemy the entire time. Since they were on the defensive already, he couldn’t allow the situation to worsen!
Besides, as Wan Li would say, there’s no way he would let him enjoy a show of them battling the resentful spirits so cheaply. He didn’t even buy a single ticket!
Thinking of Wan Li, he smiled through his weariness and helplessness. He trusted Wan Li would definitely find the truth. Therefore, he would focus everything on dealing with the resentful spirits. Then, when the truth was revealed, he would battle it out with Si Ma Nan.
This time, Si Ma Nan wouldn’t run. His injuries were healed and his strength had recovered. He wouldn’t allow Ruan Zhan to gradually grow strong enough to overcome him! Also, that person had some mental issues. He could’ve just challenged him to single combat, but he just loved to get many others involved, set up a huge event, and play a game of cat and mouse.
Who on earth was he? Where did such a personality form? What kind of emotional satisfaction does he want? The answers to these riddles were all to be found in this empty city.
Ruan Zhan steadied his breathing and slowly walked straight ahead.
Although he couldn’t see anything, he knew the fog had gathered again. Si Ma Nan wasn’t responsible for that. It was those resentful spirits. Only by suppressing them could he clear up this city.
He doesn’t know where Si Ma Nan gathered them from, but combined they became a force to be reckoned with. Some other skilled person must have done something previously to suppress them, which was why they had never been a threat before. Spirits cannot roam far without possessing something. With this many spirits, even his tattered banner couldn’t absorb them all, so it was even less likely for Si Ma Nan to have brought them from afar. Therefore, he judged that these spirits had come from somewhere nearby. There must have been some miscarriage of justice!
This was why he had Wan Li investigate the old town while he tried to suppress the spirits once again. Then, he would figure out the root cause and battle the troublemaker Si Ma Nan to the death.
Based on his nature, he wasn’t willing to hurt these spirits. They must have suffered major harm for them to linger here. They tormented themselves while tormenting others. It was best if they could be purified. He had always liked ghosts better than people. Unless they were evil spirits, the deceased didn’t usually harm humans. They were just a type of existence in the world.
He merely wished for all those who pass away to rest in peace!
He carefully sensed for the slightest movements while he walked. Although his abilities were sealed, his senses were still sharper than an ordinary person’s. He also had a few spells he could still use, albeit severely weakened versions. However, he couldn’t call out to Xiao Xia. He wasn’t afraid of attracting trouble. He was afraid she would charge carelessly into a group of resentful spirits.
“Xiao Xia! Xiao Xia!” He repeated her name in his mind. He had a strong telepathic connection to her, but someone sensitive like her should also be able to feel something. Xiao Xia was running blindly in the fog.
Initially, she was still able to walk slowly, trying to figure out how to overcome this danger. Yet before long, she felt more and more things appearing around her. Every now and then, disembodied limbs would grab at her through the impenetrable fog. They tried to trip her and shove her as if purposefully making things difficult. She didn’t know if she was the only one who encountered this, or if everyone was suffering such treatment!
The pursuers along the way eventually forced her to start running. She also had to avoid running into things. It made her feel as if she were passing through a corridor in hell. There were too many things trying to drag her into the darkness. She screamed and dodged the whole time, having lost all sense of direction. Only now did she realize it was easy to tell herself to keep calm, but doing it was much harder.
Yet at this time, she heard Ruan Zhan calling her name!
She didn’t hear it in her ears. Instead, she sensed him calling her. It was so gentle and fervent that several inexplicable emotions arose in her: excitement, sorrow, weakness, expectation, and also the fear and emptiness that it might just be her imagination.
“Ruan Zhan.” She called out quietly, trying to move towards where she sensed his call.
“Ruan Zhan.” She called out again. She felt a figure “walking” towards her from the left and cautiously went to greet it.
The white fog parted. Muffled footsteps rang out, making Xiao Xia feel that even the footsteps sounded humid. She longed too much for Ruan Zhan to be here by her side. Although she was a little doubtful, she still slowly approached the source of the footsteps. She opened her eyes wide, trying to discern the figure’s appearance.
The footsteps drew nearer and the shadow within the fog also got closer. It was very tall and walked steadily. It matched Ruan Zhan’s usual appearance.
Xiao Xia’s heart leapt and she involuntarily took two steps forward. “Is it you?” She stopped and asked.
The other party was silent for two seconds, and then said gloomily, “It isn’t.”
Xiao Xia sucked in a cold breath. She turned to run, but a black, burnt hand shot out from the fog and grabbed her arm. At the same time, the shadow she had assumed was Ruan Zhan stepped out from the fog!
An unfamiliar, round, elderly face appeared in front of Xiao Xia. He was around sixty years old, with thinning hair, a bald forehead and a huge nose. This face should normally be friendly-looking, but it was currently deathly grey. It wore a sluggish smile.
“I’m Shuan Zhu’s dad.” He said.
Xiao Xia was scared stiff. She had no idea who Shuan Zhu was, only that it was a common name in the northern farming villages.
“I’m Shuan Zhu.” The thing that was grabbing her suddenly spoke.
Xiao Xia instinctively turned her head. She saw another face almost sticking to her own.
This one was a man in his thirties. There was a faint scar by his eyebrow, and his simple and honest features held a sinister smile. He strengthened his grip as he answered her, immediately making her cry out in pain.
She struggled in terror but the hem of her clothes was grabbed by another hand. This time, it was a young girl around ten. Then, a woman appeared claiming to be Shuan Zhu’s daughter-in-law as well as Shuan Zhu’s mom.
It was an entire family! If there really was some injustice, their resentment must be extremely fierce. Her chances of survival became even smaller, but she hadn’t done anything to deserve this. She felt it was even more unjust!
This anger gave her fresh strength as she struggled. Although she didn’t know how many ghostly hands were attacking her, she freed her hands and gripped the amulet while crying “Blessed be the Ksitigharba Bodhisattva”. At the same time, she forced her way out through the gap between them and sprinted wildly away!
They actually pretended to be Ruan Zhan to trick her. How awful! Why would they pretend to be him? He was such a precious person to her! This thought made her almost cry from anger.
Burning pain came from her injured arm, making her angry and sorrowful mind suddenly realize something: if that was a family of ghosts, why had she run painfully into something with her injured arm? Thinking back, she had clearly run into an actual object. She slowed her steps, trying to recall the sensation…
Wood! She had run into wood! Thinking back, although the family had human heads, their bodies were made of wood. That was why the old man was the same height as Ruan Zhan, but his proportions weren’t normal. His wooden legs had been too long!
What was this? Why was a spirit’s head installed onto a wooden body? Was there some meaning to this?
Tap, tap, tap….
Before she could ponder over it, sounds came from behind her once again. Xiao Xia now knew why those footsteps were so muffled. It was the sound of wood hitting the damp ground!
She ran while being chased. Suddenly, her eyes lit up. She had once again barged into the fog-less plaza!
The remaining nine people were all there, including Mao Fu who had gone insane from fear and Zhao Jia Yuan, who had followed close enough behind to actually grab him!
Everyone was pale as they stared towards the lake.
Xiao Xia also followed their gazes. Three more water spouts had appeared in the lake. They were arranged together with the three red water spouts to surround half of the lake. If three more people were going to die this time, it would be exactly half of twelve. Then, would the remaining six people’s spouts cover the rest of the lake?!
The nine stood terrified in place. Apart from the insane Mao Fu, each of them were afraid of being one of the three to die next. No one dared to even breathe loudly. Their bodies were tensed, ready to struggle against an invisible attack at any moment!
Yet this time they waited for an especially long time. The surroundings were silent apart from the splashing sound of water and the thumping of their hearts. After a long while, nothing at all happened!
For the first time, Xiao Xia understood something: dying wasn’t the worst torment. Waiting to die was!
It wasn’t that they didn’t want to run away. They didn’t want to wait for death. Yet at this time, the fog seemed like a firm wall behind them. No one was able to leave until the malicious performance was played out. Only then would the remaining people be ushered out, running around in despair to await the next round of killings!