After several days had gone by, Ruan Zhan had yet to see Lil’ Tong. See his complete face, that is.
The child was scared of strangers or something. He refused to meet Ruan Zhan. When Ruan Zhan knocked on the door, he had said Auntie Xiao Xia told him not to open it for strangers. When Ruan Zhan entered with Lu Yan, he buried his face deep within his mother’s arms, unwilling to raise his head no matter what. Any attempt resulted in him crying and yelling, making it awkward for both Lu Yan and Ruan Zhan.
However, based on his aura, Ruan Zhan felt he was really just an ordinary, slightly autistic crippled child. Lu Yan also didn’t have any abnormalities. Therefore, Ruan Zhan eliminated them as possible suspects and busied himself with the case of the missing children.
Xiao Xia also kept herself busy. Her sick leave was about to end. Although she still felt unwell, she had no time to rest if she wanted to thoroughly help Lu Yan and her son. She felt Ruan Zhan was right in saying that helping someone out of poverty won’t change their fate. It was useless to just provide monetary support. She had to find some way of improving Lu Yan’s circumstances.
However, that still required money. These months she hadn’t been officially working and her income was limited. Therefore, she stretched her wicked clutches towards the profiteering Bao Da Tong. Unexpectedly, he was even poorer than her. He didn’t even have any pocket money, and relied on Ruan Zhan and Wan Li for his food and drink. She only found out after asking that Bao Da Tong had donated all his ill-gotten gains to charity.
“Even if you kept a small portion of that, it would make things a lot easier now! Isn’t helping Lu Yan also a type of charity?” Xiao Xia scolded Bao Da Tong on the surface, but her impression of him changed drastically.
She had thought he was a glib-tongued, cunning and lecherous little Daoist. Who would have thought he was so magnanimous, a good person who didn’t bother with the details. Doing anonymous good deeds was already impressive enough. Even more so was that he didn’t mind that others misunderstood him. He didn’t care about wealth, and was uninhibited and carefree in his bearing.
“How about you go suck Wan Li’s blood?” Bao Da Tong suggested. Although his face was sincere, his gaze contained poorly concealed excitement. He was clearly filled with schadenfreude.
“It’s better to come up with a different method if you want to screw him over.” Xiao Xia sighed. “His salary is extremely high, but his lifestyle is also extremely expensive. Therefore, he is completely living paycheck to paycheck. When his budget falls short, he even has to shamelessly freeload off Ruan Zhan for food and drink.”
Xiao Xia felt extremely vexed at this. Wan Li loved travelling too much, and he wasn’t even willing to go with a tour group. Whenever he had some time off, he would fly either domestically or internationally. He had finally saved up money to buy a car, which was also for the sake of convenient travel, but ended up spending it all on that house nobody wanted. Luckily that was a haunted house where a horrifying murder had occurred. Price-wise, they had practically given it away. Otherwise, he would still be renting.
Furthermore, his yuppie elegant outfits weren’t just for show. He wasn’t like Ruan Zhan, who had no luxury goods, and whose clothes were also simple button-ups and jeans. But how was he able to make such ordinary clothing look so stylish?
“How about we both leech off Ruan Zhan?”
“Rotten idea, shameless thought!” Xiao Xia rolled her eyes at him, but noticed Ruan Zhan walking over.
“Take this card. The pin is my birthday.” He seemed to know why Xiao Xia was fretting about. “There isn’t that much money, but it’s still enough to help purchase a smaller storefront for Lu Yan.”
“What? Can’t use my money? Or are we not as close compared to Wan Li or Bao Da Tong?” Ruan Zhan asked in return.
Xiao Xia shook her head in a panic. “No, no, Wan Li doesn’t have any money at all. You know that. I was thinking Bao Da Tong’s money was ill-gotten so taking it is basically stealing from the rich to help the poor. Therefore…”
“Then just use that for now. I’m not giving it to you, you’ll need to return it.” Ruan Zhan couldn’t bear seeing Xiao Xia in a tough spot and placed the debit card in her hands. “That’s all. I still have things to do so let’s talk later if there’s anything else.”
“My money was ill-gotten?” Bao Da Tong looked at Xiao Xia spacing out over Ruan Zhan’s receding figure and took the card into his own hand. “I’ll hold on to this. Let me show you what stealing from the rich to give to the poor really looks like!”
Bao Da Tong spoke viciously, making Xiao Xia assume he was going to spend all of Ruan Zhan’s money. Unexpectedly, he didn’t even spend a tenth of the amount, and also let Xiao Xia witness what stealing from the rich meant.
Xiao Xia wanted to start a children’s goods store for Lu Yan. She had her eye on three storefronts, and Bao Da Tong chose one of them in the end. It was the biggest of the three with the best location. It was the most expensive and also included a living space behind it. The storefront had been renovated already. Most importantly, according to his investigations, the developer of this piece of land was an unscrupulous rich man. Although it wasn’t to the extent of doing all sorts of evil, he was at least treacherous, miserly, harsh and shameless.
Seeing Bao Da Tong punish the bad merchant, Xiao Xia finally understood how terrifying a Daoist who was malicious and unrestrained could be. She personally witnessed how Bao Da Tong used various illusions to make the merchant think he had incurred the wrath of evil spirits. Terrified, he asked around for help and, as expected, ended up coming to Bao Da Tong. Then, Bao Da Tong underwent a huge battle with the non-existent evil spirit in front of the merchant, only suppressing it after suffering some injuries. In the end, he told the wealthy merchant that by building upon the land, he had disturbed the foundations and evil aura beneath the ground. That was why he had met with this tribulation. He needed to find a fated widowed woman to move in. It would be best if the place was connected to the earthly aura, thus the side facing Rongxi Street. Only by using yin to suppress yin would there be peace.
That side was the market street and the store made up the entire first floor.
At the same time, Xiao Xia encouraged Lu Yan to inquire about the storefront. She wasn’t aware of Xiao Xia and Bao Da Tong’s plans. Therefore, she was naturally extremely nervous and impoverished, drawing the attention of the merchant’s underling. Bao Da Tong was asked for a reading and he confirmed this woman’s fate was of extreme yin, and could resolve the danger.
Therefore, the transaction went smoothly. Lu Yan was able to buy the place for less than a tenth of the price. The wealthy merchant also gave Bao Da Tong a large reward, which helped Lu Yan purchase her first batch of goods. In less than a week, Lu Yan’s little store opened for business.
“I know what you want to say. I shouldn’t use Daoist techniques to mess with people.” Bao Da Tong shrugged. “If my old man saw me like this, he might very well kill me. But although it was wrong, it felt really satisfying.”
At this moment, he was on the way to Lu Yan’s new place to see if there was anything else he could help with. They were moving and also about to open up shop, so there was definitely a lot to do. It was also Xiao Xia’s last day of leave. Because things kept happening to her one after another after being “lent out”, Director Pan had reassigned her back to Vast Sky.
“I don’t think you did anything wrong.” Xiao Xia was a little out of breath from walking. “I just feel if someone evil had your powers, that would be a terrifying thing.” She recalled Si Ma Nan. “There is only a fine line between doing good and doing evil.”
“Relax, I won’t turn evil.” Bao Da Tong grinned. “However, I can’t help but be impressed by that merchant. He was actually able to take advantage of the situation. He’s really good at making money. He clearly needed to find a woman to help him suppress his misfortune. But he ended up arranging a sweepstakes drawing, doing a huge round of advertising and attracting countless buyers. Then, he gave the rigged jackpot to the person most beneficial to him. Man, I’m truly in awe!”
Xiao Xia nodded in agreement. “All this seems too much a coincidence. Do you think he ever suspected us?”
“Of course. He’s so shrewd he definitely investigated us thoroughly in secret. However, we did all our previous cases properly. I also gave him a little extra excitement, how could he not be scared!”
The two chatted as they walked, and soon arrived at Rongxi Street which was close to the bar.
Lu Yan was still busy. Seeing Xiao Xia and Bao Da Tong arrive, she hurriedly had them enter the store. She was filled with gratitude towards the two of them. With this small store, her income should increase a lot. That way she would have the money to keep taking Lil’ Tong to doctors. Also, since they would live right behind the store, she no longer had to leave Lil’ Tong home alone every day.
“Opening up shop tomorrow, right?” Seeing that she had been able to help Lu Yan, Xiao Xia was in high spirits despite her body feeling weary. “Unfortunately I have to report to the law firm tomorrow and won’t be able to come offer support.”
“I really don’t know what to say.” Lu Yan smiled bashfully. “Thank you guys for helping me so much. You are both good people. This money…I will definitely return it.”
“Of course you will. You’re gonna strike it rich in the future! There wouldn’t be any need to embezzle our money. Everyone knows it’s easy to make money off children. If I struggle in the future, remember to make me a partner here.” Bao Da Tong said glibly. Recalling Ruan Zhan’s incredulous look when he returned his card a few days ago, his mood soared.
“Where is Lil’ Tong? I haven’t seen him in so many days.” Xiao Xia looked around.
“The child is extremely shy. He still needs to get used to his new environment. He’s currently hiding in the back, unwilling to come out.” Lu Yan said.
“Then I’ll go look for him.” Xiao Xia got up. She knew Lu Yan and Bao Da Tong still had things to discuss so she recused herself.
Although her circumstances had changed a lot, Lu Yan hadn’t forgotten her wish of wanting to see her husband one more time. As a woman herself, Xiao Xia felt a lot of sympathy for Lu Yan’s plight. She kept thinking that if Ruan Zhan were to die, she would be devastated too. Her heart would also feel hollowed out like this, right?
“Lil’ Tong, Lil’ Tong?” Xiao Xia knocked on the bedroom door but no one answered.
“If you don’t answer, auntie is going to barge in.” Xiao Xia called again but there was still no reply. Therefore, she opened the door and walked in.
There was no one.
How was this possible? He couldn’t have gone anywhere, especially since his small, customized wheelchair was still in the middle of the room. The windows were tightly shut. Where could he be hiding in this twenty square meter room?
Was he being childish, wanting to play hide and seek with her?
“Lil’ Tong, where are you?” Xiao Xia softly called his name while searching everywhere. “If auntie finds you, I’m gonna spank your little butt!”
Bathroom, nothing. Under the blankets, nothing. Under the bed, nothing. Under the table, nothing. Only the closet was left.
“Nowhere to be found? Alright, I’m going to check the closet.”
Xiao Xia said loudly on purpose. She walked over and listened for a moment, but there was no sound. Xiao Xia couldn’t help but smile, thinking that the little thing could really endure. Not only did he not come out, he was even holding his breath.
“So Lil’ Tong turned out to be here!” Xiao Xia shouted and pulled the closet doors open, but the scene inside made her freeze.
Apart from the hanging clothes, there was still no one there! Was Lil’ Tong really not here? Where had he gone? The only way out was through the store. Why hadn’t Lu Yan noticed Lil’ Tong was missing?!
A soft laugh came from the depths of the closet. Xiao Xia felt a chill in her heart. Before she realized what was happening, she felt all the clothes surging towards her. Everything turned dark and a strong force pushed her to the floor.
There were several seconds of confusion as she suddenly felt as if she was being buried alive. Then, she realized that the closet had fallen over, pinning her underneath. In a fluster, she tried to move the heavy clothes off her but realized her hands were pinned by something, unable to move. Instead, something icy moved across her body, and fragmented breathing rang out by her ear.
“Lil’ Tong, is that you?” She asked as she felt a small hand moving aside the clothing on her body. She realized her voice was trembling.
No response, but she felt the air against her face as a piece of cloth was pulled off. A pair of flickering lights swayed before her eyes!
“Auntie Xiao Xia.” A voice rang out from the dark. Although it was still that of a child, the tone was slow and cold.
Xiao Xia’s heart tightened. She knew Lil’ Tong was speaking to her. However, in the pitch darkness under the closet, she couldn’t see his face. There was only that pair of shimmering eyes.
Did human eyes glow so brightly in the dark? She didn’t really know!
“Lil’ Tong, why did you end up in here? Look, now we’re both stuck.” Xiao Xia shifted uneasily. “Don’t be scared. I’ll call for someone to help us!”
“I’m not scared.” Lil’ Tong’s voice which was unlike Lil’ Tong said innocently. “I’m always in a very dark place. So dark, so dark.”
“It won’t be dark in the future anymore.” Xiao Xia said comfortingly. The darkness made her nervous, but Lil’ Tong interrupted her as she was about to call for help.
“Auntie broke her promise, so I’m going to punish auntie.” He said a little angrily. “You said you would come play with me, but you never did.”
“Auntie got sick.”
“Auntie is lying. Auntie never got sick!” A pair of small, cold hands gripped Xiao Xia’s wrists.
She subconsciously tried to avoid it and happened to bump into a protruding nail, making her cry out in pain.
“I don’t like that Uncle Ruan! I want auntie to play with me.” Lil’ Tong said willfully.
At that moment, Xiao Xia felt the person talking to her wasn’t the obedient, adorable little boy anymore. It was someone else. A domineering, sinister adult. The changes she had felt in Lil’ Tong before could be felt now as well, making her feel extremely unsettled.
“Alright, alright, I promise. Let go of auntie first and we’ll call for someone to get the closet off, ok?” Xiao Xia spoke and started calling Bao Da Tong’s name loudly.
This time, Lil’ Tong didn’t stop her. Instead, he suddenly started humming a lullaby: oh throw, oh throw, throw the handkerchief, put it lightly behind the child, everyone don’t tell him…
Whether due to the cramped space or Lil’ Tong’s hypnotic singing, Xiao Xia suddenly saw a vision. She felt herself being buried underground in a barrel-shaped object, her body filled with icy cold liquid!
There was a swish and blinding light that prevented Xiao Xia from opening her eyes. Then, she felt a pair of hands picking her up from the floor.
“What’s going on?”
Xiao Xia let out a long breath before snapping out of it.
“That…I was playing hide and seek with Lil’ Tong. Then, the closet fell over.”
“This child, weren’t you supposed to stay put in your wheelchair? Actually climbing into the closet, how could you be so disobedient?” Lu Yan scolded Lil’ Tong but her hands gently felt his small body as if making sure he hadn’t been injured.
How could the closet have fallen over? Supposedly, unless someone pulled on it with all their strength, it shouldn’t have fallen over!
Bao Da Tong turned to look at the mother and son. He suddenly felt they were strange. One looked gentle and timid while the other looked innocent and harmless. Viewed with spells, both couldn’t be any more ordinary. Yet at that instant, his heart seemed to have been struck. He immediately grew vigilant…