Book 7 Chapter 8: Reunion

What was wrong with her?

Why did she see the cute kid as a weird person? Why would such an illusion appear?

It must have been in her mind! Apart from her, no one had seen anything wrong with Lil’ Tong. Even if he was a fiend in disguise, Bao Da Tong was no ordinary person. If there was something supernatural, he wouldn’t have missed it!

Therefore, it must have been a mistake on her end!

Ever since returning from Hongqing Town, she hadn’t been quite right. It was just that her fever from exhaustion and being unaccustomed to the place had yet to fully fade. She wasn’t a delicate person, but she had yet to fully recover after recuperating for so long. Not only did she easily get tired, she would often space out, and even feel something was missing from her mind.

After mistakenly pushing Lil’ Tong over for no reason, she could only apologize repeatedly, saying she had been momentarily careless. Lu Yan didn’t blame her at all, and seeing that Xiao Xia was about to cry from worry, she even comforted her. This made Xiao Xia feel even guiltier. Wasn’t she supposed to help the mother and son? Why did she choose to harm them instead. Luckily Lil’ Tong only got a slight bruise on his knee. She wouldn’t know what to do otherwise.

Because of this matter, she was gloomy the entire way back. In a rare display, Wan Li and Bao Da Tong didn’t bicker at all, chatting with her together in an attempt to distract her. She didn’t want to spoil the mood and did her best to forget the matter. However, she couldn’t understand what was wrong with her. The scary Lil’ Tong no longer appeared in her mind. It was instead only filled with the cute Lil’ Tong’s hurt and aggrieved look. It was so pitiful, seemingly denouncing her cruelty.

“Back on topic, do you think this matter will be easy to handle?” Wan Li asked Bao Da Tong.

Bao Da Tong smiled bitterly and shook his head. “It’s not just a question of whether we can summon the man called Zhang Zi Xin. The harder part is how to help Lu Yan and her son.” He had guessed correctly. Lu Yan hadn’t been officially married to Zhang Zi Xin. In the eyes of the law, he wasn’t her lawfully wedded husband.

Lu Yan and Zhang Zi Xin were childhood sweethearts. However, because both their families didn’t approve of their relationship, the two eloped to this city after Zhang Zi Xin got accepted into university. Because Lu Yan failed to get into university, she did unskilled labor to maintain a living while helping Zhang Zi Xin with his tuition.

After he graduated, he became a reporter in the city. In his sophomore year, his parents passed away due to an accident. Therefore, he used his inheritance to purchase a house in the city, preparing to get married after the mourning period was over. Lu Yan waited excitedly. She was finally about to get married. Then, Zhang Zi Xin suddenly said he had to go do an interview for an exclusive story, and had to leave for a few days. Since they were to be parted for a some time and their marriage was at hand, the two of them had a night of passion.

Then however, Zhang Zi Xin never returned!

At that time, Lu Yan was already pregnant with Lil’ Tong and she refused to follow her parents’ wishes to abort the child. She wanted to leave behind proof of Zhang Zi Xin’s existence in the world. In their fury, her family severed ties with her, leaving her to live a hard life raising Lil’ Tong by herself.

“Did you sense any ghostly aura in her house?” Xiao Xia recalled the uneasy feeling from the dark hallways. “I mean…is Zhang Zi Xin present?”

“Her location is bad to begin with. Along with how old, dark and sparsely inhabited it is, the yin aura is very heavy.” Bao Da Tong said seriously. “There truly was some abnormal aura in her apartment, but that isn’t enough to prove anything. Such places attract unclean influences to begin with. It isn’t certain yet that Zhang Zi Xin is lingering nearby.”

“Do you think this matter might just be her wishful thinking?” Wan Li said. “After all, he is merely missing. It’s unclear whether he’s dead or alive. From a legal perspective, he can be declared deceased after being missing for five years. However, the situation is still uncertain. From a psychological perspective, it’s not impossible since both mother and son are a little unstable.”

“No, Zhan Zi Xin must have died.” Xiao Xia said gloomily. “Lu Yan loves him so much. She can definitely sense it.”

“I agree with Xiao Xia.” Bao Da Tong continued the conversation. “Two people who are extremely in love will have some spiritual connection. This is without any question.”

Hearing Bao Da Tong’s words, Xiao Xia’s heart thumped as she immediately recalled Ruan Zhan’s name. She didn’t know why she would have such a large reaction. His gentle yet cool face surfaced from the depths of her mind, filling her heart with pain.

Where was he? Why hadn’t he returned yet? Did he forget about her? Was he caught up with something, or some woman, back home?

“Since that’s confirmed, how are you planning on summoning his spirit?” Wan Li’s words interrupted Xiao Xia’s flight’s of fancy, saving her from crying out in heartache.

“Here’s the thing. Under normal circumstances, people enter the cycle of reincarnation soon after death and start life anew. However, some with strong reluctance or resentment will enter an abnormal state that makes them linger in the human world. The length of time varies. Some will remain for several months, others a few years. Some even for millennia. Over time, some cultivation starts developing naturally. If they purposefully cultivate, then they would be even more impressive. The kind ones among them will help humans with their difficulties while the evil ones cause calamities. As Daoist cultivators, it is our job to guard against the appearance of the latter and keep the human world safe.”

“We don’t know when Zhang Zi Xin died, and whether he has some cultivation.”  Wan Li said quietly.

“There’s a chance he might have died five years ago already, which means he should have some power. However, if Lu Yan is right in that she can sense him but is unable to see or communicate with him, not even in dreams, then there is only one explanation: his spirit was either harmed as well, or he has been placed under some sort of restriction!”

“That was clearly two explanations.” Wan Li grumbled.

“Fine, fine. I won’t argue with you.” Bao Da Tong shrugged. “In short, Lu Yan’s matter is extremely abnormal. If I’m not mistaken, this is no longer a simple case of communicating with the dead.”

“Is an evil spirit involved?” Xiao Xia asked.

“I’m not sure yet. It’ll depend on the results of my investigation. However, it won’t be possible today. That place’s yin aura is dense. Our sudden appearance caused the yang aura to flourish, which would have scared anything there into dispersing. Especially since our good buddy here has especially vigorous yang aura, practically one in ten thousand.” Bao Da Tong pointed at Wan Li.

Wan Li didn’t retort, feeling a little unsettled. Why couldn’t Lu Yan’s matter be as simple as Bao Da Tong’s previous cases? Could they really have encountered another evil spirit? Why did he feel like there was some formless curse surrounding them?

The three no longer spoke, driving straight back to the bar. When the arrived, Xiao Xia was the first to enter. She wasn’t in a good mood and didn’t linger downstairs, heading straight up. She had moved into the bar due to Miss Sun’s matter last time. Although there didn’t seem to be any danger anymore, she still hadn’t moved out.

She wanted to stay in a place where he had lived before. That way it felt like he was close by. Perhaps she was subconsciously waiting for him to return.

The bedroom lights were on. Xiao Xia frowned, scolding herself for forgetting to turn them off. She had been taught that being wasteful was a disgrace. She pushed the door open and entered, wanting to toss her backpack onto the bed. A man’s figure immediately entered her line of sight without warning.

Ruan Zhan! He was back!

The surprise was too sudden. She had just been longing for him and he had appeared the next moment. Was it an illusion? Xiao Xia wasn’t able to think or breathe. She walked forward mechanically, subconsciously reaching out to stroke his face. The warm skin beneath her palm told her he was real!

She wanted to speak but her voice caught in her throat. She remained silent, as did he. The two looked at each other, their gazes intertwining. The room was silent enough for them to hear each other’s heartbeat and breathing. It was as if the world had shrunk to this space, with only the two of them!

The fierce attraction and strong rejection caused the atmosphere in the room to become tense and ambiguous. Ruan Zhan desperately told himself to shift his gaze and feet, but wasn’t able to do so. He couldn’t stop himself from drawing closer and closer to Xiao Xia. Their time apart hadn’t caused him to forget her in the slightest. Instead, her impression had been carved even deeper into his bones!

He involuntarily reached out and touched her hair, subconsciously lowering his face towards hers. He didn’t know what he was doing and was merely being guided by his heart. As for Xiao Xia, her mind was a complete mess.

Was he going to kiss her? It seemed like it. But why would he do that? When had their relationship taken such a leap forward? Or was he just pleased at the long-awaited reunion? She felt her breath grow short and the air being squeezed from her lungs. Seeing his face getting closer and closer, her vision started getting blurry.

She really wanted him to kiss her, so she slightly puckered her red lips. Yet at that moment she was unable to breathe. She felt her legs go limp and collapsed unconscious into his arms. She had encountered horrifying things and had experienced terrifying pursuits, yet she rarely passed out. Her mind was indescribably stubborn. Yet the second before the kiss she longed for arrived, she actually fainted ignominiously!

Those were her annoyed thoughts right before she lost consciousness.

Ruan Zhan caught Xiao Xia and held her tightly.

What was he doing? If Xiao Xia hadn’t fainted “in the nick of time”, he would have committed a grave mistake. If he kissed her, was he going to wipe her memory once again? Frequently erasing or altering someone’s memory was harmful. Just like how Xiao Xia’s body was so slow to recover despite only experiencing it once. He knew that period of memory had been engraved too deeply in her mind. Furthermore, she had already realized when he started erasing her memories and her mind resisted fiercely, resulting in an unclear psychological effect.

The last thing he wanted to do in the world was to hurt her. He would rather die countless times, suffer all the pain in the world, rather than hurt her in the slightest. But in truth, he was indeed hurting her!

While she was sick, he secretly watched her every night. When he was far away, he dreamt of her. He had hesitated for quite a while and prepared himself mentally before returning to this place. Yet the moment he entered the room, he knew she had moved in again. He was considering whether or not to leave when she suddenly barged inside.

She truly was an impetuous lass. From the moment they met she had been barging in when he least expected it, making him unable to mentally prepare himself!

Emotions ultimately trumped reason when it came to the heart!

“If you really can’t control it, just love her!” Wan Li’s voice sounded by the door. “You’re making it painful for everyone this way.”

Ruan Zhan didn’t speak. He merely picked Xiao Xia up and gently placed her on the bed, pulling the covers over her.

“It’s impossible to compare which type of pain hurts more.” Wan Li spoke again.

Ruan Zhan still remained silent, sitting by the bed.

“Don’t you think the two of you are being too excessive here?” Wan Li shut the door behind him, a little angry. “Even if Xiao Xia is dense enough to not realize it, I still have feelings for her. As for you, despite knowing she loves you, you insist on pushing her away. This makes it impossible for me to thoroughly let go. Why do I have to be sacrificed as part of your love!? Do you have to use Xiao Xia to punish me just for stealing Nana from you?”

“A mere crush won’t result in too much grief.” Ruan Zhan finally spoke. “Therefore, I cannot allow her to go beyond that. That way, she won’t suffer. The pain she will feel would ultimately be lighter than thoroughly loving someone before losing them. As for you? I only care about her happiness. Your fate is none of my concern.”

Although he knew Ruan Zhan was just speaking callously while actually still being concerned about him, Wan Li was still speechless due to anger.

“Then what will you do? Just drag things out like this?”

“I am going to die. Wan Li, I am going to die. After I die, she will learn to bury me in her heart. Perhaps she might think of me occasionally, but she will have her own life to live. As for me, it’s enough for me to be able to watch over her.”

“Is that right, great saint of love!?”  Wan Li didn’t know what to say in his anger. “What if you don’t die? What if I put my worthless life on the line and prevent you from dying?”

“I cannot avoid it. Two great experts, both my father and Si Ma Nan, have foretold it. I can also sense it myself. I will not live past spring of next year.” Ruan Zhan said calmly, as if speaking about someone else. “Since it cannot be changed, there is no need to deny reality. Might as well make preparations in advance.”

“Then what are your preparations?”

“Very simple. I want to investigate my past. I want to understand why this is my fate! I will not allow the heavens to toy with me without resisting. I want to die enlightened.”

“I’m not interested in listening to you spout cliches. Say something more concrete.” Wan Li pulled up a chair and sat down, glancing at Xiao Xia. She showed no indication of waking up and was thoroughly unconscious.

Ruan Zhan told Wan Li everything about the bits he discovered in his home town, his own suspicions and the words Si Ma Nan had left behind.

“The night wind cycles, yin and yang poles, are you sure he is dead?” Wan Li repeated the words under his breath.

“I don’t think Si Ma Nan is deliberately trying to be mysterious. He must have his reasons for not saying it clearly.” Ruan Zhan frowned. “Therefore, if I wish to unravel this riddle, I need to get involved more with the supernatural. I don’t have any clues at the moment. There aren’t many people with strong spiritual powers in the world. It won’t be of use if he has hidden himself. However, if he cannot help but make an appearance, I would be able to find some traces through those kinds of events.”

Wan Li muttered to himself, thinking that Ruan Zhan’s decision was a desperate idea. “Well that works out. Bao Da Tong happens to be running some Occult Company. If you help him, won’t you be killing two birds with one stone? Did you know Bao Da Tong was here?”

Ruan Zhan smiled. “The two gossipy kids downstairs already told me.”

“You don’t mind him turning your bar to this state?”

“I will make it go back to the way it was.” Ruan Zhan turned and looked deeply at Xiao Xia. “However, I will have to move in to your place. Xiao Xia’s house doesn’t have a good aura. Things have been troublesome recently, so it’s safer for her to live here. No evil can enter this place.”

“Evil cannot enter? Perhaps. Safety though…are you sure it’s safe for her to work with Bao Da Tong?”

“Don’t worry.” Ruan Zhan patted Wan Li’s shoulder. “I don’t understand him either, but trust me, for him to come here out of the blue, there must be some reason he cannot mention. Furthermore, despite his mischievous nature, he is an upright person.”

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