I held the branch over the spellfire.
I always thought of myself as someone kind and softhearted. Yet once I was deeply hurt, the resentment in my heart was able to make me lose my mind. All thoughts of morals and ethics were thrown out the window. I only wanted revenge. I wanted Zhao Jiang to pay. Even though it wouldn’t bring back what I had lost, it could numb the wound on my soul.
Zhao Jiang was skewered on the branch and unable to escape. His screams were extremely faint, but I knew his consciousness was there. I felt the thrill of vengeance, and also knew Nana was watching from the side.
I was not willing to put him out of his misery. I was going to slowly torture him, so I would roast him for a while and then let him rest, before roasting him again. I made him suffer in atonement for his sins.
He had selfishly helped the infant fiend harm the other students back then. He killed the kind and innocent handmaiden and absorbed her cultivation. He drowned the innocent child and worker to feed his own soul. He killed the innocent Xiao Ling to approach Nana. He caused the girl to jump from the building in retaliation. Finally, he caused Nana’s death!
My beloved Nana, my first love, the person I let down!
He wailed and begged, but my heart was like steel. I know understood the saying “a life for a life, debts should be repaid, that is the way of things”. No one could sin without paying a price. Consequences would eventually catch up, no matter how long it takes or how tragic!
I repeated my actions without saying a word. Ah Zhan and Bao Da Tong also remained silent. Bit by bit, the black miasma shrank under the roasting. Its struggles grew fainter and fainter until it completely vanished. The person that deserved death by a thousand cuts no longer polluted this world.
I gripped the branch, unwilling to throw it into the fire. If I did, it would mean the matter was over, and Nana would leave me forever. How I wished the dawn would never come, but how could an insignificant being like myself stop the rising sun?
“Wan Li.” Ah Zhan called, his voice a little reluctant.
I stood, not daring to look at the white mist. Disconcerted, my hand trembled for a long while before finally tossing the branch into the fire, ending my relationship with my own hands.
Ah Zhan sighed softly next to me and walked some distance away with Bao Da Tong. That white mist slowly drifted over, swirling around me and reluctant to leave. I couldn’t hear her voice, but I understood how unwilling she was to part from me!
What should I do? My heart refused to let go but my mind knew what I had to do.
She was no longer mine. If I had her stay, she would happily do so. However, she would become a roaming spirit, unable to find happiness in a next life, unable to reincarnate. I wouldn’t be able to give her anything apart from suffering and danger. She was dead, and no longer belonged to this world.
“Go, Nana!” I held back tears as I forced myself to speak calmly. “If there is a next life, let’s fall in love again. I swear I’ll be able to find you!”
The mist still refused to leave, wrapping me inside. The cold mist felt so gentle and comforting, as if it was kissing my face. I stretched my hand out but couldn’t grab anything, couldn’t touch anything! Who said men weren’t emotional creatures? At that moment, I really wanted to burst out crying, but I had to hold back. I knew my pain would make her even more reluctant to leave.
“Go, Nana!” My heart twisted in pain, each word another cut. “I swear I will never forget you! You will always have a spot in my heart for the rest of my life! You always will! The warmest, most peaceful place that no one can touch!”
A gust of wind swept over but the mist didn’t scatter. Instead, a sob rang out from the wind. The sound was so sorrowful it almost made me leave with her. I wanted to let her go in peace so I no longer spoke. I watched as the mist gently swirled around me, gradually becoming translucent before finally…fading!
I didn’t know how I made it back to the hospital. I only knew I had completely lost her! Many years later, I still often dreamed of her. However, those were just visions caused by reminiscence. She had left in peace, so she definitely reincarnated!
Afterwards, Bao Da Tong left. Ah Zhan and I graduated and we never returned to that place. Since we all claimed we had no idea who ambushed us from behind that night, the campus case remains unsolved to this day. Xiao Xia’s face was covered in tears. She never knew there was such a deep wound in Wan Li’s heart.
“Just a centimeter away!” Wan Li was still lost in memories. “If I had been a second faster, she wouldn’t have died! Regardless whether our relationship would have lasted in the end, she would at least still be alive! She was so young, so cute. Just a centimeter away! Just that little bit…”
“Don’t blame yourself, it wasn’t your fault!” Seeing Wan Li’s weak appearance, Xiao Xia’s heart twisted painfully. Wan Li was seated, so she leaned over and hugged him, trying to comfort him. “The heavens were cruel to torment you with such a turn of events. It wasn’t your fault.”
“No, it’s because I wasn’t careful enough.” Wan Li insisted, as if blaming himself lessened the pain. “I was so complacent, thinking things could be resolved so easily. I never thought the world was so complicated and unpredictable.”
“No it wasn’t your fault. You were so young back then, how could you have known?” Xiao Xia hugged him and hit him hard, in distress over his self-reproach. “Besides, you also kept your promise and never forgot her. Otherwise, why would your marriage have ended over this matter. I think, if she is watching from somewhere, she would be happy. Being remembered by a man like you is hard to come by!”
She had never felt so much regret!
Why did she have to ask about Bao Da Tong’s matter? Why did she have to reopen old wounds, and make him bleed anew? She hated herself, not just for making Wan Li recall the unbearable past, but also for how everyone treated Wan Li normally.
He was the one everyone,especially her, vented their issues to. It was like he was obligated to resolve their stress, like he was born to be everyone’s guardian. No one considered the fact that he was also human. He also felt weary and bitter going through the bustle of life. He had his own sorrows and pain, but had anyone ever bothered to care about his wounded heart? Just because he was gentle and understanding, just because he had a smile every day, didn’t mean he felt no pain when getting hurt.
“Sorry! I’m sorry!”
“Why are you apologizing?” Her tears dripped on his neck, making him feel numb. “It’s not your fault, silly lass!”
“Whatever, I’m just sorry.” Xiao Xia said, feeling everyone treated Wan Li quite excessively.
Everyone treated him as a good friend, but did anyone really take care of him? He always helped others, but when he licked his own wounds, was there anyone who comforted him? Perhaps Ruan Zhan had, but she had not. She was so selfish!
Wan Li smiled bitterly and didn’t quibble. “Stop crying, others will think I bullied you.” He patted her back and said. “Now you know why I’m always the first to leave whenever we part, right? It’s because I cannot bear watching other people leave. It’s a mental illness of mine. I’m terrified that person would never return. I’m a doctor, but cannot cure my own illness.”
“Everyone has some sort of mental problem. Those without any problems are the abnormal ones. That’s what you said before.” Xiao Xia mumbled in response, but her heart still ached for Wan Li.
“That’s right, I have plenty of issues. For example, my attitude towards Bao Da Tong.” Wan Li sighed. “He didn’t do anything wrong. In fact, he was helping us the entire time. But I just subconsciously needed a target for my pain, so I vent my anger on him. I blamed him and his father for not dealing with Zhao Jiang back then. I blamed him for not pushing Nana another centimeter closer towards me. I even blamed him for not predicting the rain. Ha, how unreasonable.”
“He seems to understand this, and is very cooperative in bickering with you!”
“That’s right, or perhaps he also feels a little guilty! There were three of us, but we all failed to save one delicate girl.”
“Perhaps it also makes him feel better.”
“That’s right. I think it’s the same with Ah Zhan.”
Ruan Zhan’s name made Xiao Xia tremble for a moment. She herself didn’t know why she had such a huge reaction whenever he was mentioned. Wan Li acutely sensed it and felt a burst of sourness in his heart.
“Do you know why Ah Zhan was willing to help you the first time?” Wan Li ignored the fresh pain and said. “It’s because I said you reminded me of Nana.”
“Are we alike?” Xiao Xia let go of Wan Li, a little surprised.
“Technically…no. Apart from being entangled by a fierce ghost at that time, you aren’t similar to Nana at all. You don’t look alike and your personalities are different. She was extremely delicate, making men involuntarily cherish her. You are impetuous. You seem very docile normally, but if anyone provokes you, you’re essentially a fanatic!”
“That sounds like a compliment.” Xiao Xia noticed Wan Li had gradually calmed down, and his emotions were no longer as painful. “But…Ruan Zhan was willing to help me just because I was like Nana? I mean, just because we were in the same situation? Does…he still love Nana?”
“It wasn’t because of that.” Wan Li saw Xiao Xia cared a lot about this and spoke honestly. “He was never deeply in love with Nana, or rather, he had never deeply lover any woman.”
Of course, that’s not including you…Wan Li added mentally.
“So, he also felt guilty about the matter back then?” Xiao Xia said. “I thought he did it for your sake, or perhaps out of fear I would reveal his secret.”
“Why would he be afraid of that?” Wan Li sighed. “You don’t know how cold he used to be. He could watch countless innocents die before him and walk over them without blinking an eye. He could also manipulate memories, so would he be afraid of you spilling anything? You are right. He merely felt guilty, and wanted a way to relieve that. That’s why he helped you. As for the stuff afterwards, that’s all due to your bossy shamelessness. You bugged him until he had no choice.”
Xiao Xia didn’t speak, a strange feeling in her heart. Ruan Zhan could manipulate memories. Had he done something like that to her? Why else would her memories be so blurry recently. She kept getting the feeling something had happened, but couldn’t remember anything.
But, he wouldn’t have, right? She still remembered that during Li Jing Ming’s case, he had promised he would never manipulate her. He promised, and based on his nature, he wasn’t one to go back on his word!
She must be thinking crazy thoughts!
Xiao Xia shook her head, getting rid of this notion. But she used too much force and her condition wasn’t great, so she suddenly felt dizzy and tipped over. Wan Li was startled and caught her in his arms. “Be careful!”
Xiao Xia collapsed in his lap and took a while to snap out of it.
“I…” She wanted to thank him, but suddenly saw a man by the door when she raised her head.
That man was in her mind all day and night. Now that he suddenly appeared like in her dreams, she wasn’t able to react right away. She could only stare at him blankly.
“Ah Zhan!” Wan Li was the first to react. “You’re back!”
Ruan Zhan shifted his gaze from Xiao Xia and pointed at Bao Da Tong, walking into the room.
Seeing him move, Xiao Xia finally realized she was still sitting on Wan Li’s lap and hurriedly stood up. “Have you eaten?”
“How about I make something for you?”
“Alright.” Ruan Zhan responded shortly.
Hearing his affirmation, Xiao Xia hurriedly ran out, only daring to breathe after reaching the stairs. What was wrong with her? Why did her heart threaten to leap from her chest the moment she saw? Why did she want to rush over and hug him? If she stayed any longer, she might have really made a move. When did she become so thirsty? No, she had to distract herself. She would first go make some food for him. He seemed exhausted!
She ran off downstairs as she thought this. Upstairs, the atmosphere was a little awkward between the two men.
“Did things go smoothly?” Wan Li broke the silence.
“Somewhat.” Ruan Zhan walked over to Bao Da Tong who lay quietly on the bed. “The people at Creek’s Head Inn were very honest. They were initially scared to say anything. However, as long as you treat them sincerely and can help them, they are still willing to reciprocate.”
“You found out where ‘Zhang Jia Lin’ came from?”
Ruan Zhan nodded. “More or less. Although there are still mysteries, I deduce a few hints.”
“How did you get back? Did you use the space-warping spell again?” Wan Li sighed. “You can’t use that too frequently. Can’t you use some normal means for transportation?”
“I’m also aware.” Ruan Zhan frowned habitually. “But I was worried he couldn’t wait.” He inspected Bao Da Tong’s situation. Seeing that his condition wasn’t too awful, he felt more at ease.
“That’s right, you’re the savior. Last time, you sensed I was in danger and hurried back earlier than planned. This time, you once again sensed he was in danger.”
“The incident with Nana.” Wan Li’s voice lowered, but he immediately adjusted his mood. “I was telling Xiao Xia about that matter earlier. She ended up crying her eyes out, even more upset than I was.”
“You shouldn’t have told her about it. She’s going to feel miserable for a long while.”
“You might be right.” Wan Li mused. “But there are too many sad things in the world. If you don’t want her to encounter any of them, and want her to only be happy, you need to preserve that life of yours first.”
“You should know…”
“I know.” Wan Li interrupted Ruan Zhan. “But you aren’t able to calmly await your fate, even for her sake, right? Could it be that you weren’t jealous seeing her in my arms earlier?”