Another week passed and there was still no news of Tao Xiao Chun. This clearly didn’t bode well, but how did she get harmed?
Tao Xiao Chun knew how to avoid Bloody Mary. Something unexpected must have happened. They had planned on retracing her steps in school, but the scope was too large and it wasn’t really a good idea.
Although everyone in the school was on high alert and nothing major had happened since, the shadow of danger was like a looming cloud that hung over their hearts. Who knew when something else would happen? Banishing it thoroughly was the optimal solution!
But how to do so?
As time dragged on, Xiao Xia’s imagination started running wild. She thought perhaps a Chinese sorcerer like Ruan Zhan wasn’t suited to exorcise a western entity. Therefore, she contacted Wan Li who was far away in Italy, telling him about the Blood Mary situation. She wanted to see if he could convince some bishop to perform some international humanitarian aid, or perhaps ask if garlic or silver crosses were effective.
“You can stop by the Vatican. Isn’t that a religious holy ground?” Xiao Xia suggested. Actually, she didn’t understand western religion at all, and only knew of rumors. However, if there was the slightest possibility, shouldn’t she give it her all?
Wan Li promised her.
He respected all sorts of beliefs and religions even though he himself wasn’t a believer. He could at least help investigate their point of view, and perhaps obtain some sacred objects that could help Xiao Xia.
“I have a friend in Italy whose uncle happens to be a priest.” He told her. “You’re lucky. The heavens send you hail when you’re craving ice. You have that fellow Ruan Zhan helping you on the inside, and a friend with vast networks like myself on the outside gathering information. You’d be letting yourself down if you don’t become the suppressor of demons.”
“All I ask is to not get suppressed by them.”
“Your director is quite the ruthless one, having you take on such a case again.”
Seeing Wan Li’s text appear in the chat box, Xiao Xia could only smile bitterly. What could she do? There seemed to be some dark fate that intertwined her with such matters. “It’s my own fault for being too capable!” She transmitted her unease and helplessness through the keyboard to the faraway Italy. “The director even reminded me that I’m just a consultant. If we end up starting legal proceedings, I have to remember to charge twice. Once for the consultation and once for the lawsuit.”
“The old are craftier after all. Old horses are cunning and old rabbits are hard to catch. Oh right, how are you and Ruan Zhan getting along?”
“So so. But even though I try to remain unobtrusive, there’s still a bunch of women trying to kill me with their glares every day. I’ve actually already told them that Ruan Zhan just owes me which is why I’m staying there. I don’t have any special relationship with him.”
“Who would believe it when you put it that way? It just seems even more suspicious. How could someone steady like Ah Zhan owe a debt?”
“But I’m telling the truth! I saved his life last time during Li Jing Ming’s case. Therefore, he owes me.”
“Lady, be reasonable!” Wan Li didn’t know whether to laugh or cry over the internet. “Ah Zhan only got in trouble because he was helping you. Isn’t it proper for you to help him? Does that count as saving his life!?”
“He’s a man. Only the mentally ill would try to reason with a woman. Furthermore, the fact is that if I didn’t bring the bloodwood sword to him, he’d be sleeping with the fishes. As a lawyer, it’s my natural talent to make use of any advantages I have. Also, I didn’t force him to help me this time.” Despite her words, Xiao Xia did feel a little guilty. In the end, she had still accepted his help to banish this evil spirit.
“You feel very conflicted over this?”
“No one understand me better than you do.”
Wan Li didn’t respond for a long time. Right as Xiao Xia started wondering if something was wrong with the connection, a row of words appeared on the screen: “Actually, I really wish for you to force Ah Zhan.”
“What do you mean?” Xiao Xia was very puzzled. “Are you trying to cheer me up or criticizing me nicely?”
“Haven’t you felt it? Ah Zhan seems to be living in a cage of his own design. I want you to pull him out.”
Now it was Xiao Xia’s turn to remain quiet for a long time. He was right. Ruan Zhan’s living conditions were problematic. Even if Wan Li didn’t say it, she would still think it was strange. She felt that guy was sealing off more than just his abilities. But how did it result in his stubbornness underneath his gentle demeanor and his indifference under his amicable appearance?
“Did something happen in the past?” She asked.
“I think it has to do with his past. I’ve told you before, he was adopted when he was five. No one knows what happened to him before that. We don’t even know how he ended up in our town. The source of his abilities are also a mystery. His adopted father was a Daoist priest who was forced to make a more conventional living. I’ve heard my parents say that despite his dad no longer telling fortunes or performing geomancy for houses and what not, many people believed he was very capable. Prior to the communist victory, it was an area of the ultra-wealthy. Therefore, there were many who were targeted. Every day there would be those who committed suicide due to being mistreated, not to mention the many violent deaths. It’s said that when night fell, things got tragic. People got the chills just walking the streets. However, his dad would always come back drunk around midnight and wander the streets of our small town. The weird thing was that whenever the tip tap of his footsteps sounded out, it would feel much safer. The crying children at night were able to sleep soundly. Therefore, all the elders in our town said his dad kept them safe.”
“What happened to his dad afterwards?”
“He was already old when he adopted Ah Zhan. Therefore, he passed away when Ah Zhan was in high school. However, I heard his relatives saying that he died in a bizarre manner, kind of like a mystery. From these things, it’s clear that Ah Zhan’s past and upbringing was very different from others. It could even be called unique. His personality is also harder to understand. Even as his friend of many years, I also don’t know many of his secrets. The side people see is just a disguise. However, I am certain he really dislikes his special ability. It could be said he shuns it extremely or tries to escape it.”
“You mean to say that natural talent should be used, and that heaven’s gifts are always for a reason. You think he should use his abilities well, or at least not reject them?”
“From a psychological perspective, it’s necessary to be accepted by others and by yourself.”
“But I feel he’s very calm towards these things. What are you worried about?”
“That’s just on the surface. He actually hates it all and treats everything with indifference. He was like this at a young age which is why he sealed himself. I feel his abilities are awesome but he only used them twice before. Two and a half times strictly speaking. The half was when he wanted to use them but failed to save someone. Therefore, he felt even more bitter. Bitterness is an extremely, extremely unhealthy emotion, and is also the source of his unhappiness.”
“You make him sound…what’s your technical term for it….antisocial. But don’t you know it’s dangerous for him to get involved in these supernatural things?”
“Of course I know. I have faced such things with him twice. But saving someone is always a bitter process.”
“Do you really think shattering his peace is necessary? Although his calmness is just a front, your attitude doesn’t really seem like a psychologist’s.” Xiao Xia was very surprised. She never knew Wan Li was so emotional about Ruan Zhan.
“I’m viewing this as his best friend. I know I’m interfering, but I still want to give him a push.”
“You think I can help you with this?”
“Put it this way. In all this time, I’ve never seen him so helpless against someone.”
“It sounds like you’re mocking me.”
“A disguised compliment. Tell me, what would you do if you had his powers?”
“If I only had half his abilities, I would be letting myself down if I didn’t become superwoman or some dark heroine. I wouldn’t be like him, lost in his own world.”
“That’s why I always said you’re someone with a sense of justice.” Wan Li flattered Xiao Xia but she took it at face value.
“That’s right. Therefore, I promise I’ll help you. Of course, I’ll do my best to not let him take too many risks. You can rest assured.”
“What do you plan on doing?”
“Like you said, I’ll force him. Haven’t you heard of the saying ‘personality determines fate’? His personality is too passive. He’s warm and amicable on the outside but cold and indifferent on the inside. He also doesn’t feel much obligation to society or a sense of justice. He’s unconcerned about anything. He needs to be forced to display his abilities. Although we haven’t known each other for long, he’s also incomprehensibly bipolar towards me. However, I’ve realized a very important trait of his. He’s like water in a sponge. It’s always there as long as you squeeze.”
Wan Li almost burst out laughing when he saw this.
“However, I have a condition.” Xiao Xia spoke up. “I want you to tell me what happened in the past. At least, one of the cases.”
“It’s past nine over there. Do you dare listen when you’re alone in your office so late? I can tell you one of the things that happened when we were young. It’s not that scary but it’s still a little unsettling.”
“It’s fine, the building has a security guard.” Xiao Xia acted brave but still made a large cup of hot tea to keep herself from shivering.