Wan Li and Xiao Xia watched the scene before them fearfully.
That was nerve wracking. They were a few meters away from plummeting from the heights. Furthermore, Xiao Xia had already used up all the talismans! Their car was stopped against the side of the overpass. The cement on this side hadn’t been poured yet, and there was only a lattice of steel that stood like weeds. If Wan Li hadn’t thought fast, going against human instinct of avoiding obstacles and swerving back, they would have gone straight to heaven.
“Almost died.” Xiao Xia let out a long breath.
“You may be safe now, but my life is still in peril!” Wan Li looked out from his window. The bridge couldn’t even be seen, only the ground tens of meters below. If he wanted to commit suicide, he just needed to open the door and step out.
“Don’t talk nonsense!” Xiao Xia leaned in her seat and said weakly.
“I’m serious.” Wan Li acted earnest. “With the car in such a state, Ah Zhan is going to kill me! He might leave my corpse whole based on our years of friendship.”
The relief after prolonged tension was exceptionally sweet. Therefore, Xiao Xia started laughing at Wan Li’s words. “I will ask for leniency on your behalf. But it’s best if we drove his car somewhere safe now.”
“You’re right. Even if the car got wrecked, he should still see the wreckage. That way it would be easier to ask for mercy.” Wan Li straightened up and went to turn on the engine. However, perhaps due to braking too hard or having been abused all night, the car didn’t start.
“What should we do? Call a tow truck?” Xiao Xia suggested.
“We can’t!” Wan Li immediately shot her down. “This bridge is still under construction. How are we supposed to explain why we drove up here and ended up in an accident? This isn’t just an issue of getting a ticket, my license might even get suspended. Don’t be hasty, let’s take it slow. Ah Zhan’s car is pretty good and he keeps it well maintained. Therefore, it can definitely start up again!”
“Fine, we’ll do as you say. I thought fussy men weren’t a thing anymore!” Xiao Xia huffed helplessly, not wanting to argue. The previous terror left her a little at a loss. She kept glancing left and right, unable to settle down. When she looked into the rearview mirror, a face sudden appeared in her line of sight.
It was the living doll that had been sitting in the backseat the whole time. Since she and Wan Li had been too focused dealing with the various dangers, they had practically forgotten about the little girl’s existence! At this moment her small face no longer had the sluggish expression. Instead, it was locked into a rigid smile, as if someone was pulling the muscles on her cheeks upwards.
Xiao Xia was startled. The moment she turned around, she felt something tightening around her neck and was immediately unable to breathe.
“Wan Li!” She vaguely forced out those words before being unable to speak again. Her arms fell limp for some reason and she could only kick her legs futilely. She couldn’t move but she could feel the two slender arms choking her with irresistible strength.
Wan Li was also startled at seeing the scene. He hurriedly grabbed at the slender arms, trying to free Xiao Xia. Yet the moment he did so, he knew the little girl was no longer herself. Her strength exceeded that of a grown man. Although her face was smiling, he wasn’t able to save Xiao Xia no matter how hard he tried!
Seeing that Xiao Xia was about to suffocate, he pulled even harder at the snake-like arms. Yet the little girl suddenly started rocking back and forth heavily! She was abnormally strong, and after a couple of rocks, the entire car started rocking violently too!
They were at the edge of the bridge. If this continued, they would definitely fall of!
He was unable to think clearly in his panic. He used one hand in trying to save Xiao Xia and attempted to start the car with his other. Yet no matter how hard he tried, neither action was effective. Xiao Xia was about to pass out and the car had edged slightly over the side!
This wouldn’t do!
He roared silently to himself. He released both his hands, grabbed a random talisman and slapped it straight on the little girl’s face.
Along with the crisp ringing, a gust of black smoke was expelled from her body. The little girl toppled back onto the seat.
With the pressure gone, Wan Li didn’t waste time asking how Xiao Xia was. He opened her door and shoved her out before leaping after her. He dragged Xiao Xia and the unconscious little girl far away.
“Are you alright?” He rubbed Xiao Xia’s back as she coughed violently.
Xiao Xia shook her head with difficulty, glancing at the little girl next to them. The child that had just tried to kill her was lying there with eyes closed, one cheek badly swollen. Her slender brows were furrowed as she lay unconscious and she seemed like she would shatter at a touch. She seemed completely different from the vicious person earlier. She knew that the little girl had been controlled, and was suddenly extremely furious with that evil spirit.
“No need to fear her. The spell has been dissolved. I don’t know which of Ah Zhan’s talismans was used to do it.” Wan Li sighed lightly, not daring to look at the little girl’s face.
He was a man of poise and never hit women, no matter how deserving of it one was. But a minute ago, he not only struck a woman, she was even a young girl. The wound was also really serious. Such a sin!
“Where are you going?” Xiao Xia watched Wan Li walking towards the car. “We should still call someone for a tow. Don’t go over, it’s too dangerous.” From where she was, she could see the wheel on the driver’s side was already suspended in the air. If Wan Li tried to force the car back, he’d be playing with his life!
“We can’t get someone to tow it. Everything else could be explained, but what about the little girl?” Wan Li said. “It’s fine, my driving skills are pretty good. I can turn the car back. Relax, relax. I’m not like Bao Da Tong, I don’t do empty bluster.” Wan Li did his best to sound relaxed. Before Xiao Xia could react, he got back into the car.
This was how a man should be! He was clearly super nervous, but had to keep a relaxed appearance. He knew that he would lose his life if he messed up, but some things had to be done!
He carefully drove the car that was hanging over the edge. Doing all he could to put the center of mass towards safety, he shifted the car bit by bit to the side. After what seemed like an eternity, right before his heart was about to leap from his chest, he finally rescued the car without turning from a “man” into a “dead man”.
“Were you worried about me?” Wan Li asked as they swiftly drove away from the scene of the crime.
“No shit, what kind of immature question is that!? My heart leapt at every noise the car made.” Seeing the quiet yet safe roads in the early morning light, Xiao Xia’s tension could finally drain out. “What should we do with this little girl?”
“We’ll find a small police station and drop her off at the door while invisible. We can observe while hidden and leave once they discover her. We cannot reveal ourselves, or it’ll be hard to explain.”
Xiao Xia nodded. “I understand. But we should remain visible for now. Or some street cleaner is going to see a high-tech self-driving car.” By the time they returned to the Nocturnal Revenant, it was already around seven in the morning. The moment they entered, they saw Bao Da Tong drinking at the bar.
“Drinking already? Isn’t it a little early!?” Wan Li said.
Since Wan Li was spending a lot of time at the bar recently, he had left some daily necessities and clothing upstairs. He was planning on washing up here before heading to work with Xiao Xia.
“What’s it to you, quack doctor!” Bao Da Tong spoke without turning around.
“How were things on your side yesterday?” Afraid they would start arguing again, Xiao Xia hurriedly changed the subject.
“No gains whatsoever.” Bao Da Tong still didn’t turn around. “There is nothing abnormal about the mother and son. She runs the shop until ten, closes up, and then sleeps. There wasn’t the slightest hint of unusual aura.”
“Perhaps we were mistaken, and there’s nothing wrong with them.” Xiao Xia said wishfully.
“Xiao Xia, hopes are beautiful but reality is cruel.” Wan Li put an arm on her shoulder. “I know you aren’t willing to believe it, but if those two were normal, there wouldn’t be all these things happening around us. Besides, them acting too normally actually confirms that we weren’t mistaken.”
“Did you guys make any progress?” Bao Da Tong interrupted Xiao Xia and asked.
“Not just progress, but practically huge progress!” Xiao Xia sat next to Bao Da Tong and recounted what happened. “We almost didn’t make it back. It’s really scary now that I think about it! Unfortunately, we weren’t able to find the place where the evil spirit stashed the other children.”
“But based on your exchange with the evil spirit, we can more accurately estimate her power. See, she was wary of the bloodwood sword and the tattered banner, but the treasures combined weren’t able to harm her. The two of you have no magic and aren’t the owner of the treasures so you couldn’t unleash all of their power. Yet it still indicates that the evil spirit’s capabilities cannot be dismissed. To get rid of it, we must come up with another plan. Also, you managed to save a child. This is the most successful part. Life is most important after all!” Bao Da Tong’s voice was weak. He seemed extremely exhausted.
“That makes sense.” Wan Li praised Bao Da Tong a little insincerely, but Xiao Xia felt something wasn’t right with him.
Ever since they got back, Bao Da Tong hadn’t turned around. He kept facing the bar, and was currently staring into his glass with his head lowered. He was completely different from his usual spirited self. Xiao Xia thought he might be depressed at not finding any leads, and hurriedly said, “Don’t be impatient. Keeping an eye on the two of them by yourself is like using one piece to lock down two in chess. You’re clearly ahead, so what’s there to be vexed about. Relax, relax. Once Ruan Zhan finds some clues, we’ll need to rely on your might.”
“That’s right, I’m Great Master Bao.” Bao Da Tong still stared into his drink. “You guys should leave, you’ll be late for work.” He rushed them, but since this was too different from his usual self, it attracted attention instead.
Xiao Xia tilted her head and drew closer. Despite Bao Da Tong’s efforts to hide it, she still saw that his face was pale and covered in sweat.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” Xiao Xia was shocked. “Did you also encounter an accident last night?”
Her cry caused Wan Li to also notice Bao Da Tong’s unusual state.
“Who would’ve thought an idiot could also get sick!” He patted Bao Da Tong’s shoulder. The gesture was very light and intended to be comforting. However, Bao Da Tong actually trembled. Wan Li’s expression turned dark. “Something is wrong with you. Just what on earth happened?”
“I said I’m fine!” Bao Da Tong was a little twitchy. He stood up, wanting to get away from their encirclement. Yet the moment he did so, he swayed and almost fell. An inexplicable sensation rushed towards his head. It wasn’t pain, but rather an indescribable soreness, like tiny cracks forming form the inside.
“Look out!” Seeing him about to fall, Xiao Xia supported him by the waist but was also sent staggering along with him.
“Hey, this is serious. You don’t seem fine at all.” Wan Li braced his arm, supporting his weight. “Are you sick, or did you get hit by an attack without noticing?”
Bao Da Tong wanted to speak, but another wave of sore numbness struck, making him groan involuntarily. He wasn’t able to stand steady any longer.
Xiao Xia felt his forehead and was shocked by the cold sweat on her palm. This made her extremely worried. She had never seen so much sweat pouring from a person all at once.
“Help him to a seat, I’ll go call an ambulance.”
“No.” Bao Da Tong grabbed her hand. “I won’t go to a hospital.”
“This is no time to throw a tantrum, ok?” Xiao Xia tried to pry his fingers open but he held her wrist tightly.
“You’ll die at this rate!” Seeing his worsening condition, Wan Li also became anxious. “If you’re going to die, wait until after we deal with these evil spirits!”
“No…you guys don’t understand. I’m not sick.” Bao Da Tong panted.
“Then were you ambushed last night?” Wan Li asked. “Tell us, it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. The enemies are so powerful this time. I’m afraid even Ah Zhan would suffer a loss if he fought alone.”
“No.” Bao Da Tong gritted his teeth while shaking his head. “Fine, seems like I can’t deal with this by myself. Help me upstairs first and I’ll tell you guys about…it!”
He refused to go to the hospital so Wan Li could only piggy-back him upstairs.
“You guys also know how strong these fiends are. I wouldn’t be embarrassed about losing to them, or even getting my ass handed to me.” Bao Da Tong seemed a little better after getting upstairs. “However, this really has nothing to do with them. I already felt something was off with my body last night, and I am certain it isn’t any sort of physiological illness.”
“Then where are you feeling unwell?” Xiao Xia asked anxiously. “If not an illness, then were you cursed? But you said it wasn’t Lu Yan or her son, so what else could curse you?”
Bao Da Tong laughed bitterly.
He had wanted to revolve this matter on his own. Therefore, he had kept trying to calm the irregularities in his body. He thought he could do it, but the discomfort had suddenly intensified, making him realize he had to rely on others.
“Before you guys returned, I already examined my aura. There is no external curse. This means…that it’s karmic backlash.”
“What is karmic backlash? What sort of strange sickness is that?” Xiao Xia asked.
“It means I accidentally did something that ended up harming my soul. The strange thing is that the moment I felt unwell, I started thinking back. But no matter how I try, I don’t recall doing anything I shouldn’t have in the past few days!”
This was the first time Xiao Xia and Wan Li heard of something like this, and they looked at each other.
“How do we fix it?” Wan Li was the calmer one. “Tell us what to do. We can help you do it, no matter how hard it is.”
“I just have to find the cause of the karmic retribution. However…” Bao Da Tong got up and went to fetch his small wooden box in the middle of his sentence. Then, he went into Xiao Xia’s room. Under Xiao Xia and Wan Li’s bewildered glances, he took off his shirt and drew different symbols on his acupuncture points. Then, he pulled aside the blankets and sat in bed, as if preparing to sleep.
“Long story short, I might not be able to hold on anymore.” He grinned, revealing two super shota and super cute canines. “I’ve been trying to suppress it all morning, but it seems my condition is worse than I thought.”
“What, what, what…do you mean?” Xiao Xia said, stunned. “You don’t mean that you’re…going to die, right?”
“Not quite that bad.” Bao Da Tong still looked calm, as if talking about someone else. “But it’ll be pretty much as if I died. Don’t worry.” He let out a breath. Due to the sweat, the symbols had become slightly smeared and they dripped down like blood. “We’ll have to see how capable my friend is, and also if Ah Zhan is as smart as you guys say he is!”
“What do you mean?”
“Tell him I’m suffering karmic retribution.” Bao Da Tong was having a lot of trouble speaking.
“That’s enough? I mean…hey, hey, Bao Da Tong!”
As she cried out in surprise, Bao Da Tong suddenly collapsed on the bed, like a crumbling hill.
“Bao Da Tong! Bao Da Tong!” Xiao Xia was horrified. She called his name loudly while shaking his shoulder, wanting to wake him up. In her mind, Bao Da Tong had always been someone hyperactive. She was unable to process his sudden condition right away.
Wan Li stepped up and stopped her. “He’s unconscious, you won’t be able to wake him up like this.” He frowned. “He must have been aware this might happen, and prepared accordingly. Didn’t you notice? He told us the only way to save him and drew soul-warding symbols on himself. He even chose the place to pass out. He knew you would watch over him, and thus decided to pass out in your room. This place has Ruan Zhan’s protections, and he’s also covered up any gaps the fiends might use. There is no safer place in the world.”
“Then what should we do? Do we just wait?” Xiao Xia looked at Bao Da Tong anxiously.
Although they had encountered those fiends in the guise of children several times and were at a disadvantage each time, they had at least avoided serious injury. But now that Bao Da Tong was suddenly afflicted with this mysterious illness, the situation suddenly became grim.
Now it was no longer a question of whether they could eradicate the fiends. It was now a matter of desperation!
“Xiao Xia, don’t panic. We definitely can’t lose our heads in panic.” Wan Li shifted Bao Da tong so he could lay more comfortably on the bed. “We have to wait for Ah Zhan to get back. He will definitely have a way to resolve Bao Da Tong’s karmic retribution.”