Several hours later.
“Ruan Zhan Ruan Zhan Ruan Zhan!” Xiao Xia shouted in a sobbing voice, having awakened from the boundless darkness.
“I’m here.” Someone answered her. She looked over in the direction of the sound and saw Ruan Zhan sitting perfectly fine on the bed across from hers. Although his face was extremely pale, he didn’t seem to be a ghost.
“Am I dead or are you still alive?” She was extremely bewildered, temporarily unable to distinguish reality from fantasy.
“We are both still alive.” Ruan Zhan said dully.
“I want to feel your hand.” She had to verify that he wasn’t the scholar’s ghost here to trick her again.
Having heard her calling his name in her dreams, he realized she still had a conscience and thus granted her request.
Xiao Xia grabbed Ruan Zhan’s wrist with all her might. She felt the warmth of his skin and her own pulse before finally feeling at ease. She felt that his aloof expression and emotionless tone, which she normally hated most, had suddenly become adorable.
“You’re hurt?” Looking at his pale face, Xiao Xia was once again worried.
This was all because of her. Otherwise, this man would still be peacefully making a living in his bar while picking up chicks. Although his clothes were neat and his expression calm, she saw rather serious wounds on his skin from the bites of the water imps. She was also certain he had encountered even greater threats after she was sent out of the water. She didn’t know how he resolved things but he must have paid quite the price, and even risked his life.
“It’s alright, it’ll get better.” He downplayed it.
“I’m sorry for getting you involved in this.” Xiao Xia saw his tenacity under his gentle appearance and felt some admiration. A hint of goodwill developed. However, she recalled what had happened prior to her losing consciousness and asked with some lingering fear: “But you didn’t come up for a long time after throwing me ashore. Afterwards, that scholar’s ghost turned into your appearance to trick me, and I thought you were dead for sure.”
“That’s because you embarrassingly fainted from fear and didn’t see how things turned out.”
Oh, this guy! His cuteness didn’t even last for a minute. Why was she even worried about him? Let him be choked to death by a ghost!
Seeing Xiao Xia scowling at him, Ruan Zhan achieved his goal. Who said anger was a bad emotion? It all depended on the situation. At this moment, it allowed Xiao Xia to swiftly recover from the terror of a few hours ago. He had called Wan Li and heard the whole story. He had to admit he was moved by Xiao Xia’s courage in going to help him, especially considering her timid nature.
“Then what on earth happened to it, Mr. Brave?!” Xiao Xia seethed. She was now certain they had been victorious. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be perfectly fine. She really wanted to know how it happened. Therefore, despite doing her best to ignore that “hateful person”, she ultimately couldn’t keep it up.
“It will never threaten anyone ever again.” Ruan Zhan paused, “Actually, it’s gone, annihilated by the bloodwood sword.”
“There was no choice. No ghost can escape the bloodwood sword, especially since the stone word that has been suppressing it all this time was helping too.” Ruan Zhan recounted the main parts of the events to satisfy the curious kiddy. But despite him making it sound easy, Xiao Xia could imagine the dangers involved.
“What’s going on with that wooden sword? It can turn big or small.” Xiao Xia asked hesitantly. She had never seen such a magical object in her life, and thought they only existed in movies. She really wanted to take it for herself.
“The bloodwood sword is a sword made of bloodwood.”
“You don’t say!”
“Bloodwood comes from a tree that is now extinct, and is only found in legends.” Ruan Zhan explained a little more. “It’s said to grow in places of extreme yin and drinks the blood of passing creatures as its nourishment. Because its branches are blood red, it bleeds if any part of it is injured. It is a most evil object, but if refined with spells, it will become exceptionally good at subduing evil.”
“Using evil to subdue evil?”
“You can put it that way. As for this item, my father inherited it from his master. It’s unclear how old this dharmic tool is.”
“So you don’t really know how to use it, right? I feel like you were just waving it around randomly.” Xiao Xia would never give up the opportunity to give him crap.
Ruan Zhan didn’t mind it. “That’s right. Using this sword is a little beyond my abilities. It was lucky this other sword was there. Only thus were we able to keep our lives.” As he spoke, he walked to the window and took a deep breath of the fresh air from the river. The feeling of suffocation from several hours ago was swept away.
Only those who faced death would truly understand the value of life.
Last night after entering the water, he had searched for the scholar’s resting place the entire time. Normally, destroying it would largely reduce the vengeful spirit’s powers, or even completely subdue it. However, it was too well hidden and he hadn’t been able to find it. The ghost had sensed the danger and hurried back, and its complete form had been a huge threat to him.
“I think I’m somewhat to blame for this matter. I hadn’t considered all the possibilities, and even came here uninvited. I practically harmed you.” When the life-threatening danger was mentioned, Xiao Xia immediately criticized herself, no longer pettily attacking Ruan Zhan. “I almost got you killed.”
“It’s the opposite. You saved my life. If you hadn’t brought the bloodwood sword over, I definitely couldn’t have gotten away.” Ruan Zhan graciously commended Xiao Xia’s minute contribution, never expecting his words to cause problems for him down the line.
“That’s not it.” Xiao Xia shook her head, a little embarrassed. “It was a female ghost holding a baby, no a baby ghost, who led me there. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have known where you were.” She told him what she had experienced. “Do you know who they were?”
“I do now. Remember that stone box? That was what held the scholar’s body as it sank into the river back then.” Ruan Zhan didn’t know how to describe it. “There were many heads and a beating heart inside. You saw it too.”
Xiao Xia nodded, still unsettled in her heart.
“Those heads were the victims of the Ye Estate case back then. That vengeful spirit captured their souls using their heads, keeping them as slaves. Li Jing Ming’s family were the same, apart from father and son.”
“What do you mean?” The unexpected news startled Xiao Xia. “Are you kidding!? Doesn’t that mean Li Jing Ming’s family were already dead?”
“That’s right.” Ruan Zhan was completely emotionless. “This was why Li Jing Ming kept saying they were acting weird. They had already been killed that night when they moved into the Leaf Garden. However, that vengeful spirit used foul magic to keep their souls in their bodies to do his bidding. However, this couldn’t last long. Even if Li Jing Ming hadn’t made a move, after seven weeks, forty-nine days, they would still have died.”
“But why did it let Li Jing Ming and his son off? Did it really want Li Shu Lun’s body? Also, was that heart Li Jing Ming’s? Doesn’t piercing it like we did mean we killed him?”
“I didn’t have time to ask whether it wanted Li Shu Lun’s body, princess. However, it is very possible. As for that heart, did you think it could still be placed back inside Li Jing Ming’s body after it was taken out? In reality, the moment he felt that “chill in his chest” that night in the inn, he was also already dead. He just didn’t realize it. This is because that vengeful spirit had transformed into his heart to stay inside his body. It predicted that Li Jing Ming would definitely find someone that can deal with ghosts when he noticed strange happenings at home. This way it was easy to control him, and this sort of possession is hard to be noticed. Only with caution comes success! Hmph, as expected of a scholar. He failed to learn any benevolence and righteousness, but knew plenty of tricks. He was much stronger than those evil ghosts that cry bloody murder.”
“You’re praising it!? Really!?”
“Those are the facts. I’ve already said it had become a “fiend”, and not just as simple as a mere half-fiend. It was even able to leave its remains in the river to cultivate its wicked sorcery. Luckily we were one step ahead. If it had succeeded, we could only pray to the heavens for help.”
“Was it using that heart to cultivate?”
“Evidently. I don’t know what it was cultivating, but it definitely had to do with that heart. Have you seen a heart still beating after leaving the body for so long? Especially with such strength and abnormal evil? It contained the most important part of its powers. Therefore, only by “killing” that heart could it be eradicated in a stroke of luck.”
Xiao Xia didn’t speak. She knew Ruan Zhan’s analysis was correct, but was still incredibly disappointed. She had wanted to save Li Jing Ming this entire time, which was why she persisted despite being frightened so many times. Who would have thought it was a wasted effort from the very start. It turns out the one she wanted to save wasn’t one that could be saved at all.
“Why did it insist on harming Li Jing Ming and his family? Did it have some deep grudge in its past life?”
“There wasn’t some deep grudge. It harmed people because it wanted to. It wanted others to suffer a worse fate than its own.”
“In the end, we still weren’t able to save Li Jing Ming.” Xiao Xia lamented. “He begged me, and I had also promised him.”
“At least you saved Li Shu Lun.” Ruan Zhan comforted her. “Trust me, he will get better. Furthermore, it was only because you were determined to see this case through that the many enslaved spirits were freed. Isn’t that a good thing? Don’t only help people. Ghosts sometimes need help as well. It’s not good to discriminate.”
The last part got Xiao Xia to smile.
“Did you know? That female ghost was the Lady Ye from back then, and all the people that died from the Ye Estate. You should know they had good intentions last night. In fact, they wanted to help you so they could also be freed.”
“It’s more like they wanted to help you, which was why a supporting character like myself could make an entrance.”
“It’s fine as long as things worked out in the end.” Ruan Zhan turned to the window again. The darkness around the river this morning had dispersed. They had probably all gone back to where they belonged. This made him feel the trip was not in vain.
“Actually, I had felt very sympathetic towards the scholar’s plight. But although he was framed back then, his actions afterwards were too excessive.”
“That’s right. Going against the heavens won’t result in a good outcome. Was it luck or coincidence that we were able to exterminate it? We can only say unreasonable existences will never be able to remain for long. Fate had merely borrowed my hands this time.”
“So this means that everything is over?” Xiao Xia suddenly felt helpless after hearing Ruan Zhan’s account of how the scholar’s ghost was exterminated. “What about Li Jing Ming? Was he pronounced dead?”
Ruan Zhan nodded. “I spoke to Wan Li on the phone earlier. The moment the bloodwood sword pierced the heart last night, Li Jing Ming passed away.”