In the blink of an eye, the previously “lively” chase scene in the morgue suddenly stopped. There was only the heavy breathing of two people in the room.
Ruan Zhan stepped over the six corpses and helped Xiao Xia, who had collapsed against the wall, up to her feet. She didn’t cry, but was trembling fiercely. She had clearly suffered excessive fright. One hand still held her last talisman in a death grip.
“This one…is a fire talisman.” Xiao Xia mumbled subconsciously.
“I know, I know.” Ruan Zhan held Xiao Xia’s hand, gently unclenching her whitened, slender fingers and removed the talisman. Then, he pulled her into his arms, doing his best to comfort her and allow her to relax, his heart aching at what she had to endure.
She was someone timid with an inauspicious birthdate. Yet after everything she had been through, she was actually able to hold out for so long while being pursued by risen corpses that had died violently. It truly wasn’t an easy feat! It was something she could only accomplish after countless painful experiences. She had never taken the initiative to provoke anything, so why did evil spirits keep going after her? Was she really the one bringing trouble to him, or had he actually implicated her? Or were they actually connected by fate?
“I’m going to die of fright!” Xiao Xia grumbled into his chest.
She felt unprecedentedly safe in his arms and swiftly calmed down. She had already stopped trembling. But why was this feeling so familiar? It was as if he had hugged her like this before, and perhaps treated her even more passionately? But why was that scene so blurry? Was it because it had only happened in her dreams? Did she long for his love too much?
“Come, hold my hand and you won’t be scared anymore.” Ruan Zhan let go of Xiao Xia. “We need to leave this place and pick Yang Yang up. The fiend failed to harm to and might very well set its sights on him.”
Hearing Yang Yang’s name caused Xiao Xia to cry out, suddenly remembering there was still a child she needed to protect. This was no time for romance. She anxiously ran towards the door but was stopped by Ruan Zhan.
“Don’t forget to conceal yourself.” He drew lightly on her forehead.
Xiao Xia scolded herself for being rash. She knew that the morgue looked like the scene of a battle. If no one was found to have been here, it would at most end up as a supernatural event. If someone discovered they had been here, they would be in big trouble!
After Ruan Zhan finished drawing, he took Xiao Xia and returned to a remote corner of the outpatient ward in a single step. Seeing no one around, he dispersed their invisibility spell and went to fetch Yang Yang. Walking past the stairs, they immediately saw him sitting there, his back pressed firmly against the back of the chair, his appearance stubborn and unyielding.
“Yang Yang, are you ok?” Xiao Xia grabbed his hand and asked. Unexpectedly, he shook her hand off and looked at her vigilantly.
“Yang Yang is amazing, a real man!” Ruan Zhan stroked his little head, subtly erasing the mark he had drawn. “But this is the real Auntie Xiao Xia, not a bad person in disguise. Come, let’s get out of here.” He reached out and picked Yang Yang up, bringing him and Xiao Xia to sit in the park across from the hospital.
Immersed in the warm sunlight, Xiao Xia felt more at ease, as if it had all been a bad dream. At this moment, Yang Yang was also not as fiercely guarded against her.
“Did some bad person pretend to be me earlier and bully Yang Yang? Alright, we’ll beat them up next time we see them! It’s their fault for being bad people!” Xiao Xia put Yang Yang on her lap. She sensed his tense little body gradually relax under her soft coaxing and kisses.
Yang Yang leaned his head close to her neck and took in a deep breath. Then, he planted a loud kiss, tickling Xiao Xia into laughing involuntarily.
Watching from the side, Ruan Zhan scolded himself continuously. He was actually jealous that Yang Yang could be so intimate with Xiao Xia, despite the brat only being five.
“What was that for?” Xiao Xia asked Yang Yang.
“I am sniffing Auntie Xiao Xia’s smell.” Yang Yang said seriously. “Auntie Xiao Xia smells sweet and good.”
“So you know I’m the real one, right? So Yang Yang’s zodiac is a little doggy.” Xiao Xia stroked the cartoon band-aid on his forehead.
Earlier, Zhang Jia Lin must have used an illusion of Yang Yang to lure her away. Luckily she had noticed the band-aid was different. Otherwise, who knew where she would have been led to. From a certain perspective, this child had also helped her!
“What happened, tell uncle.” Ruan Zhan asked from next to Xiao Xia.
“I am a man, I kept my word and didn’t leave the chair!” Yang Yang was a child after all, and couldn’t help but feel aggrieved when this was brought up.
“A nurse auntie came and wanted to bring me to find uncle. I refused. She was very angry and tried to hit me, but she missed!”
“And then what?”
“And then mommy and Auntie Xiao Xia both came, saying it was time to go home. I said we had to wait for uncle. Mommy and Auntie Xiao Xia scolded me for being disobedient, and said a dog was going to bite me!”
“Mommy and Auntie Xiao Xia were both there?”
Yang Yang nodded vigorously. “The dog was so big and its teeth were so long.” He exaggeratedly stretched his arms out. “But I am a man, I wasn’t scared.”
“So what happened?” Xiao Xia was the curious one this time.
Yang Yang giggled, seeming very happy. “A very big fireball grew on the doggy’s head, making it run around and then disappear.” He had mistaken the fire left behind by Ruan Zhan’s protective talisman for a fireball growing on the illusory dog.
“Then Auntie Xiao Xia and mommy, I mean the bad people pretending to be them, also ran, right?” Ruan Zhan asked.
Yang Yang nodded vigorously again, confirming his guess.
“Then if Auntie Xiao Xia smells sweet and good, what did the bad people smell like? Does Yang Yang remember?”
This time Yang Yang didn’t answer, seeming not to have understood. Ruan Zhan could only repeat the question, but Yang Yang still looked blank. At his age, the memory of a smell clearly wasn’t too deep. He was soon distracted by a butterfly, struggling free of Xiao Xia and running after it.
“Is it ok to let him run around by himself?” Xiao Xia asked worriedly.
“Nothing will happen with me here. Let him play for a bit. Such an energetic kid was cooped up the entire morning.”
Hearing his response, Xiao Xia relaxed. She sat quietly with Ruan Zhan on the park bench. Seeing Yang Yang forget everything so quickly, running around happily, made her feel a strange sense of sweetness. She imagined herself living such a peaceful and happy life with her husband and child one day. Of course, that husband had to be Ruan Zhan.
She looked at the people passing by, wondering if they mistook them for a married couple taking their child out to play. This scene happened in movies a lot. There would a kind, talkative person who appeared and asked this question enviously. It would make the man feel awkward and the woman bashful. Then, their relationship would take a step forwards. Why wasn’t someone showing up to urge their relationship onwards?
She complained silently while staring at the grass in front of them. She hoped for such an angel to appear, but before she could spot one, she saw that naughty little devil trip over a rock and fall flat on his face, which ended up buried in a tree bed. Perhaps it was freshly watered, so his face ended up covered in mud.
Ruan Zhan swiftly walked over and picked him up. Xiao Xia fished out some tissues to wipe him off. She had just rescued his mouth from the mud when he hurriedly said to Ruan Zhan, “Uncle, I remember what those bad people smelled like!”
“What did they smell like?” Ruan Zhan asked urgently.
“Mud!” Yang Yang started laughing. He tried to get free again but was held fast by Xiao Xia.
“You stay right here, I’m not done cleaning!”
“Men don’t lie!” Ruan Zhan asked again.
“I didn’t lie to uncle. It was mud!” Yang Yang was a little upset and he pouted.
“Alright, I apologize.” Ruan Zhan said and revealed a hint of a smile.
Xiao Xia and Ruan Zhan spent the rest of the morning in the park with Yang Yang. They only returned after eating lunch. At this time, the paragon of virtue Bao Da Tong had already returned. Wan Li had no patients in the afternoon but had to give a lecture at the university, so he had dropped by to get an update on the situation. Therefore, after they put Yang Yang, who had fallen asleep, on a couch within sight, they sat around the bar for a “meeting”.
“Come, let big bro give you a hug. You suffered such a fright.” After listening to Xiao Xia recount the events at the hospital, Bao Da Tong stretched his arms out towards her.
“You’re just disgusting! ‘Big bro’?” Wan Li saw Xiao Xia shrink back and exchanged seats with her. “You’re gonna disgust the whole world to death, and you’ll be the only one left alive.”
“No need for that.” Bao Da Tong chuckled. “The women don’t have to die. It’s fine if the men die out. Of course, my dad isn’t included.”
“Hold on.” Ruan Zhan interrupted their bickering. He looked at Xiao Xia with his brows furrowed tightly. “You said that a risen corpse swept across your shoulder and there was a stinging pain?”
Xiao Xia felt warm inside that Ruan Zhan noticed details that the others hadn’t. “That’s right. But the strange thing is that I noticed my clothes weren’t ripped at all. And it doesn’t hurt that much anymore, it’s just a little itchy. I guess…”
Before she could finish speaking, Ruan Zhan suddenly rushed over and roughly tore her clothes open, revealing her entire snowy left shoulder. Xiao Xia was startled by his sudden actions and instinctively held her clothes to her chest, ensuring the alluring sight of her left breast wasn’t revealed.
“Wow, it’s the legendary human beast!” Bao Da Tong cried out.
“Stop spouting nonsense! Come purify the corpse poison!” Ruan Zhan circled behind Xiao Xia, wrapping her arm around her own waist and having her lie back against his chest.
“Corpse poison? How can someone who just died have…” Bao Da Tong saw Xiao Xia’s shoulder. There were several dark fingerprints on her smooth shoulder. They were especially sinister against her fair skin. He immediately changed his words, “There really is corpse poison.”
“Luckily, luckily it hasn’t entered the body.” Ruan Zhan closed his eyes and sensed the soft body in his arms. He felt a little regret at not having come back earlier and wasting the morning at the park. “Your Daoist techniques are the most orthodox. You do the purification!”
Although Bao Da Tong was someone who was sloppy and messed around, he was always good with sticking to the proper time and place. He would never delay things in critical moments. He immediately ran behind the bar and poured a glass of red wine.
“We have no cinnabar at the moment. Wine has warmth and is yang aligned, it’ll be beneficial.” He explained while dipping his finger into the glass and drawing something on Xiao Xia’s shoulder. Xiao Xia felt his fingertip was wet and cold, but before she could ask what was going on, she saw red spellscript appear on her skin. They were like countless little hooks piercing into her flesh.
“This is very easy, but it’ll be a little painful.” Bao Da Tong smiled at her. He stretched out two fingers of his right and waved them around as if writing something. Then, he placed the fingers softly on her shoulder.
His fingers had just landed when Xiao Xia felt a scraping pain. It was like a piece of string inside her flesh was being pulled out intermittently. She now understood why Ruan Zhan was holding her from behind. Although the pain wasn’t to the extent she would faint, and although she had been mentally prepared, she still trembled. Luckily, the body behind her gave her firm support, helping her not cry out.
Bao Da Tong’s eyes were closed and his lips moved faintly. He remained like this for several minutes before slowly curling his fingers. As if pinching something from her shoulder, he slowly pulled backwards. Once it reached a certain length, he suddenly jerked hard. Xiao Xia inhaled in pain but at the same time her body felt much more relaxed, as if it had shed something. The skin on her shoulder was still unblemished, as if nothing had entered or was pulled out. Yet the dark marks had vanished.
“What should we do with this stuff? It’ll pollute the environment if we just throw it out.” Bao Da Tong raised his hand.
Wan Li and Xiao Xia couldn’t see anything there, but Ruan Zhan could see several strands of black aura. Therefore, he stretched out his hand and drew a flower-like object, throwing it out. Crackling could be heard in the air and Bao Da Tong lowered his hand with an envious expression.
“You can actually purify evil aura now? Teach me, teach me!” He was a little excited.
Ruan Zhan nodded, not hiding anything. He looked down at Xiao Xia. She looked normal and there was no black aura in her shoulder anymore. “How are you doing?”
“She’ll be fine.” Bao Da Tong said. “Getting poison extracted is a little painful in the moment, but there won’t be any residual effects. Especially since I used the most harmless, most effective method on Xiao Xia. She just needs a change of clothes. You’re not thinking clearly in your worry!”
“Alright, I’ll go change. But…”
“The mirror’s been taken down, don’t worry.” Wan Li knew what Xiao Xia was thinking and answered her.
With this guarantee, Xiao Xia immediately went upstairs to change. By the time she came back down, the three men were in the middle of a discussion.
“What did I miss? I’m also a victim now, and have the right to know.” She said.
“We were discussing the corpse poison.” Wan Li said. “According to these two great swindlers, the recently deceased shouldn’t have that type of corpse poison. It was caused by a fiend’s sorcery.”
“Zhang Jia Lin?”
“I dare say so.” Ruan Zhan said. “Think about how you ended up getting attacked. She was the one who used an illusion to make you follow Yang Yang. In reality, he had been with the nurse the whole time. And when I tried to find you, she tried to take Yang Yang away. Luckily I made preparations in advance. But most importantly, a child’s eyes are pure. Her illusions wouldn’t easily work on Yang Yang, and there were too many people in the hallways. The yang aura was overwhelming, so despite her profound powers, the world of the living isn’t somewhere she can run amuck. That’s why she couldn’t break my barrier.”
“However, to be able to appear in the middle of the day, and remain for while in such a crowded place, is already very impressive!” Bao Da Tong sighed. “You encountered her. Did you discover anything?”