“I will go to Xi’an and investigate Zhang Zi Xin’s mysterious disappearance.” Ruan Zhan said. “Lu Yan and her son are more powerful, so Bao Da Tong will still be responsible for surveillance and probing. But if you discover anything, don’t make rash moves by any means. That’s just alert the enemy. You must wait for me to get back. We cannot allow the enemy to attack before we make our preparations.”
Bao Da Tong nodded in agreement.
Ruan Zhan then looked towards Xiao Xia and Wan Li. “The two of you will work as a team to search for the missing children. Firstly, you have various contacts in the police department and it’ll be easier to get information. Secondly, you guys just need to search for clues. No need for a frontal assault. Immediately contact the police if you find any information. If it ends up being more sensitive and unsuitable to be disclosed, contact Bao Da Tong and myself.”
“What if they encounter Zhang Jia Lin?” Bao Da Tong asked.
Ruan Zhan nodded. “I’ve considered this. Therefore, I will make arrangements prior to leaving. Although that little girl is powerful, as long as Xiao Xia and Wan Li focus on defense, she won’t be able to do as she pleases. But you two must remember never to split up. If anything happens, it’ll be fine if you return to this place as quickly as possible.”
“You can leave at ease. We’ll be able to handle ourselves.” Wan Li patted Ruan Zhan’s shoulder. “No matter how good the plan, accidents are bound to occur. However, we’ve always managed to resolve any dangers before, and will be able to keep doing so in the future. Don’t get distracted!”
“That’s right! I can also protect myself.” Xiao Xia agreed with Wan Li.
Although she felt somewhat flustered and unwilling at Ruan Zhan’s departure, she knew the matter was serious. She definitely wouldn’t drag him down. That was definitely not something a good woman would do.
“Since we’ve assigned the roles, I’ll present some of my new findings over the past few days.” Bao Da Tong said. “We all know that Zhang Zi Xin went to Xi’an to investigate some sort of supernatural case. However, Xi’an is very large and not even the police have any idea where he went. He could have gone anywhere after getting off the plane. An ordinary person like him doesn’t have the heroic bearing of someone like myself. No one would notice him in a crowd. Therefore, the trail of clues ends in Xi’an. The police only know he went to Xi’an, but aren’t aware he went looking into a supernatural case. Therefore, they naturally don’t know anything that happened after that.”
“You didn’t go torment Zhang Zi Xin’s timid friend again, did you?” Wan Li asked knowingly.
Bao Da Tong laughed awkwardly. Someone thick-skinned like him was actually a little embarrassed. “Can you not be so smart? Besides, I take suggestions well. Last time Ah Zhan said using illusions to control others negatively effects my karma, and I haven’t done it ever since. I didn’t ‘torment’ him this time, and merely went for a discussion. I gave him some earnest guidance, expounded on the aspects of society and reason, and established a strong bond of trust before he was willing to divulge a tiny, extremely minor bit of information.”
“How tiny?” Xiao Xia almost laughed at Bao Da Tong’s vivid expressions.
“Very tiny, but also very useful. As I said, that Wang Yong is especially timid. Although Zhang Zi Xin was somewhat guarded against him at that time, he himself was also guarded against the cops. He merely told them Zhang Zi Xin went to Xi’an, but didn’t even mention the supernatural case, let alone its precise location. He felt that if he said anything, the evil spirits would come find him for revenge. Coincidentally, not long after the police visited him, he went to cover some construction site in some village at the province’s border. While they were digging the foundations, they dug up two hibernating snakes. Big snakes, huge snakes.” He gradually extended his arms out as he spoke to indicate how large the snakes were. In the end, his arms were completely stretched out.
“That’s too exaggerated!” Wan Li laughed angrily. “You sure it wasn’t the trunk of some thousand year old locust tree? Not even two people could carry that.”
“Regardless, they were very large pythons. Furthermore, the climate there shouldn’t allow for such large snakes. Therefore, the rural villagers were convinced they were snake gods. The problem was that the excavation machine had cut one of them in half, killing it on the spot. The other had slithered off. After Reporter Wang returned home, he fell ill. To this day, he often feels unwell. He feels it was due to having angered the gods, and is even less inclined to blab about anything now. This was why he didn’t say anything after so many years. Actually, it was merely due to a deficiency of yang energy. He would recover after working out, relaxing his mind and eating some supplements.”
“So what important information did he reveal?” Wan Li asked.
“Just the name of a place.” Bao Da Tong said a little smugly. “However, despite just being a location, it’ll let us get straight to the point.”
“Stop stalling, spit it out!” Xiao Xia said menacingly. “Don’t force me to extract it from you!”
“Creek’s Head Inn. Zhang Zi Xin went to a place called Creek’s Head inn.” Before leaving, Ruan Zhan left the bloodwood sword to Xiao Xia.
Although she couldn’t enlarge it, Ruan Zhan’s powers were much stronger than before. He could now control the bloodwood sword via talismans. Therefore, he left one to Xiao Xia. If she encountered a situation where she had to use the bloodwood sword, she just needed to stick it to the hilt and the sword would grow. Although it wouldn’t be able to shrink back down afterwards, it was better than having her carry a fishing rod case everywhere.
The tattered banner was given to Wan Li. Although it wasn’t clear if the banner could absorb the spirit bodies hidden inside the children, it could at least serve as some deterrent. Wan Li had an outstanding constitution. He had no innate gifts but his yang energy was abundant. Therefore, after learning a few tricks from Ruan Zhan he was slowly able to enlarge the banner himself. Of course, he also couldn’t make it shrink again.
Since he had a clear destination, Ruan Zhan estimated he would be gone for at least three and at most five days. Creek’s Head Inn was remote and impoverished. Rural folk were more believing of the supernatural, and it should be easier to get some information. Even if they were scared and unwilling to talk, there would definitely be those with courage in face of heavy remuneration. It would be fine as long as those fiends don’t interfere.
“Relax, they’ve all flocked over here to harm people. They don’t have the strength to go after Ruan Zhan.” Bao Da Tong said.
However, these words didn’t make Xiao Xia feel any better. She recalled during their first case when the scholar’s evil spirit split itself into many parts, before ultimately managing to fuse back together. That time, Ruan Zhan had almost been buried beneath the waters.
“But Ruan Zhan is several times stronger now.” When Xiao Xia mentioned her worries, Bao Da Tong comforted her. She knew he was right. Now that Ruan Zhan had experienced so many fierce battles and dangers, he was no longer the same as before. Yet how could she not worry about him?
“Stop worrying, think about something else?”
“I’m more curious how you managed to convince Wang Yong.” Xiao Xia distracted herself.
Bao Da Tong bared his teeth in a grin. “Simple. People like him all have a guilty conscience, and are therefore afraid of punishment. Zhang Zi Xin died, leaving behind his pitiful widow. Yet as his best friend, Wang Yong didn’t dare tell say where he had gone for the sake of self preservation. This meant not even Zhang Zi Xin’s remains could be retrieved. He had always felt extremely guilty about this. Therefore, I just needed to read Dante’s Inferno to him. I bought it at a small bookstore a few days earlier. It was only a buck. I’ll lend it to you.”
“I’m good. I haven’t done anything shameful.”
“Nothing wrong with some education.” Bao Da Tong chatted with Xiao Xia while greeting a customer with a beaming smile. “If villains all feared punishment after death, there wouldn’t be so much crime in the world.”
“Whatever! I’m going upstairs, I still have some work to do.” Xiao Xia no longer bantered with Bao Da Tong and went back upstairs.
She was a little tired. She had to work during the day and go out with Wan Li at night. However, she hadn’t finished her newly assigned projects at works yet and had to make the most of her time.
She hurriedly changed, made instant noodles and turned on her laptop. She was raising a virtual QQ pet, and thus opened the interface while doing her work. Yet for some reason, her usually steady laptop seemed to be at odds with her today. It constantly froze, either crashing, lagging or randomly opening webpages.
Was it a virus?
Xiao Xia was extremely annoyed as she once again stared at a black screen. She mashed the keys repeatedly but it was completely useless. The laptop refused to start again!
Ugh, an hour and a half of hard work down the drain! She thought helplessly, grabbing the already cold noodles and slurping a mouthful. It must be a virus. However, she was not good with computers and only knew how to surf the web and handle documents. She had to wait for Wan Li to verify before knowing anything.
Maybe it caught a virus from Bao Da Tong browsing porn. He had used her laptop yesterday to contact Uncle Bao, and then played video games for a while. He was so indecent, he might very well have browsed some websites he shouldn’t be browsing.
She had just walked to the door, planning on going downstairs to question Bao Da Tong, when a voice suddenly sounded in the room behind her. Her hairs stood on end and she almost dropped her bowl of noodles. She whirled around. There was nothing in the room, only silence. Perhaps it was in her head. Xiao Xia felt the silence was inexplicably terrifying, as if the furniture might suddenly start speaking.
She stood blankly for a while before slowly walking back inside. She placed the bowl on the table and looked out from the window, afraid that Zhang Jia Lin was harassing her again! She reminded herself that she was no longer merely someone who needed protection. She was going to help those missing children, and also help Ruan Zhan!
Outside, the summer evening was still lively. There were also many people going about, but there was no sign of Zhang Jia Lin.
There was a sudden noise behind her and the room suddenly lit up. Her laptop had restarted by itself after being bricked for so long!
The system swiftly booted up, with countless numbers flashing by. The desktop image also appeared three times faster and her QQ pet account automatically logged in. Then, the screen turned black again with a pop!
Step, step, step…
Before Xiao Xia could react, a burst of footsteps drew closer. It sounded like someone wearing ill-fitting shoes walking on wet pavement. It was clear yet sluggish, each step stomping on her heart. Gradually, the sound seemed to be right in front of her!
Inside the laptop! Something had entered the room from the laptop!
The same noise came again, but this time the screen didn’t show an image. Instead, two spots of light appeared on either side. The lights blinked weirdly, slowly moving towards the center. At the same time, it expanded and changed shape, turning into two small, almond-shaped objects. The black screen slowly lightened, turning ash-white. The bottom turned into a gaudy shade of red!
It was a face!
A face had appeared on the screen, filling it up entirely. It was as if a head was inside a black box! It wasn’t clear if the face was male or female. The features were indistinct, without brows or nose. It was just a ashy face, white eyes without pupils and a blood-red mouth.
“Auntie.” The glaring red smear moved slightly, speaking once more.
So it was the laptop calling her!
Xiao Xia leapt in fright, her first instinct to rush and shut it off. However, she wasn’t able to turn it off no matter what she tried. It was still there even after pulling the plug. Instead, it let out peals of sinister laughter!
Xiao Xia gritted her teeth and rushed to the closet. All the mirrors had already been taken down. Inside the closet were still the five element binding talismans Bao Da Tong had given her. As long as she got her hands on those, she could suppress this fiend!
She ripped the doors open and grabbed for her black purse. She had pulled very hard yet the purse didn’t move at all. Furthermore, she felt something furry, and the side of her hand felt a wet and cold numbing itch. It clearly wasn’t the sensation of a purse!
“Auntie.” The purse called out to her.
Xiao Xia instinctively looked down. There was no purse. She was clearly grabbing onto Zhang Jia Lin’s head. She held onto her hair while Zhang Jia Lin’s tongue was like the length of a dog’s as it licked her hand!
Xiao Xia screamed and fell backwards. The doors of the three-section closet opened one by one, with a child inside each one: Zhang Jia Lin, Lil’ Tong and Yang Yang.
Play with me!
The three children stretched their arms out towards her!
Despite her fright, Xiao Xia knew this was an illusion from the laptop. However, illusions could still be lethal if it wasn’t broken. Her courage was already exhausted so she hurriedly scrambled for the door. However, it slammed heavily shut. She had just been one step too slow, and no matter how she pulled, it no longer opened!
Creak…the laptop turned itself on the table, making a sharp noise. The face on the screen once again pointed towards Xiao Xia with its pale eyes and blood-red mouth! The three children in the closet also slowly crawled out!
She had nowhere to run. She saw her phone lying next to the laptop. Therefore, she narrowly avoided the three children and scrambled to the desk, snatching the phone.
While she did so, the laptop turned by itself again, continuing to look at her.
“Auntie, it’s useless.” Seeing her pick up the phone, the face said mockingly.
Xiao Xia ignored it. Without even pressing the call button, she directly shouted, “Bao Da Tong!”
Immediately, a burst of rapid footsteps sounded outside the door. A fireball blasted through it and Bao Da Tong directly leapt inside!
“Exhausting the three rivers, waves overflowing to the skies, restrict!” Bao Da Tong chanted rapidly, pointing towards the laptop.
As his finger fell, a torrent of water burst forth from somewhere, pouring over the laptop. It fizzled and released a plume of black smoke. The face and the three children vanished at the same time. The strange silence in the room was also broken!