The Ghost Slayer hears the commotion behind him, and twists his wrist, swinging his blade at the ghost face. He turns around, and is almost blinded by the gigantic flaming sphere. For a moment, he can’t see where Zhao is, and in sheer desperation, he shouts urgently, “Yunlan!”
As he is distracted, ghost face doesn’t dodge, but lets the blade slash right on to the mask. Strangely, the Ghost Slayer hesitates, and retracts his blade, which slides right over the mask. It seems he doesn’t dare break the mask, and dodges aside.
Ghost face guffaws, and whooshes forward like a huge cloud of black mist, rushing towards Zhao. The long cape swirls, and absorbs the Samadhi true fire. The ghost face stands in front of the pillar, facing Zhao, and the spirit beasts hide behind and surround the pillar.
Zhao takes a closer look at ghost face, and calmly says, “that Bifang chicken even boasted that its fire can burn the Monkey King, but it couldn’t even burn your crappy cloak, you must be an important figure.”
The ghost mask turns to emotionless, and stares at him, “I don’t want to hurt you, Guardian, you better stay out of this.”
With one hand in a pocket, one side of his shoulders tilts upwards. There’s no need for street talk, his figure already looks very much like an experienced gangster. He humphs insincerely, “wow, I’m scared to death.”
The Ghost Slayer hurries forward and pulls Zhao behind him, his blade blocking in front. The protectiveness in this gesture is too apparent, and Zhao looks at him with confusion.
Ever since the creepy ghost face appeared, the Ghost Slayer hasn’t been acting normally.
But now is not the time for that. Zhao stands behind the Ghost Slayer and fumbles around in his pocket; he says, “perhaps the pillar is really afraid of fire… no, the pillar suppresses and imprisons all spirits within it, I suspect it’s afraid of anything that flows, including water, fire, and even the wind. It’s just that normal wind, water and fire are all too weak, perhaps?”
The frighteningly huge eyeballs on the ghost mask twitch, staring at Zhao, “Guardian, being too smart will get you in trouble. It’s been so many years, but it seems you never learn.”
The Ghost Slayer bellows with a horrifying voice, “if you dare touch one hair on him, you will regret crawling out of ‘that place’.”
Ghost face cackles, “you?”
The Ghost Slayer waits for the laughter to end, and calmly says, “try me.”
The ghost mask distorts, and ghost face springs up like a gigantic bat, spreading its wings and swooping down towards the Ghost Slayer’s menacing blade.
At the same time, Zhao runs towards another direction, and a crowd of spirit beasts rise up from the ground. He shoots all of them down, one by one.
Ghost face’s eyes sparkle, and doesn’t care that the Ghost Slayer hacks its back open, leaving a foot-long opening, and black blood starts squirting out over a foot high. It chases after Zhao at all costs.
The density of the spirit beast horde rapidly surges, reaching the level of a train station during the New Year. Zhao’s kick lands on the face of a beast, and who knows if his leg hurts.
The beast falls back, and Zhao steps on its shoulder. The long whip suddenly emerges in his hand, and swirls towards the ghost mask.
For some reason, the Ghost Slayer is afraid that the mask will come off. He is astonished by Zhao’s attack, and almost uses his scabbard to block the whip…
Luckily he remains sane, and restrains himself.
And though ghost face is immune to gunshot, it seems to fear the whip. It jumps back seven metres at an instant, out of the reach of the whip.
Zhao suddenly smiles silently.
Ghost face senses something wrong with this expression, but it’s too late, as it turns around… with an explosive noise, a streak of lightning comes crashing
down from the Nine Heavens, sucking the spirit beasts round the pillar into a storm of spark. They are quickly cooked and light up in flames.
The fire from the sky scorches the entire Pillar of Nature.
Nobody can stop it in time.
Zhao opens his hand and a thunder god talisman shatters into ashes.
The cunning, the evil, the filthy and the sinful are all subject to thunder and lightning as punishment from the Heavens. The spirit beasts are inherently filthy creatures, so summoning lightning here is easier than usual.
Zhao thinks he isn’t infuriating enough, and says with an annoying voice while dusting off his hands, “this story teaches us not to be a show-off, unless you enjoy death by lightning.”
As he finishes, the pillar begins shrinking like a melting glacier. The lightning fire explodes into a hundred metres of intense flames, reaching up to the sky. Amidst the thundering blows, a blazing cyclone surrounds the pillar.
Countless obscured faces flash across in the light of the fire, and quickly disappear. In the depths of the earth comes a vigorous quake like a heartbeat; it’s like he really called out the spirits and souls of the mountains and rivers.
Ghost face leaps towards Zhao all of a sudden, but luckily the Ghost Slayer isn’t paying attention to the burning “Artifact” at all. His blade heavily clangs against the giant axe.
Surprisingly, ghost face isn’t going for Zhao, it turns back with a creepy smirk and says beside the Ghost Slayer’s ear, “he ruined my plan, and you’re happy? Let me tell you, he must know a lot more, it’s just that he hasn’t told you.”
The Ghost Slayer turns his wrist, the blade vibrates with vigour, and a hand comes off of ghost face. But it doesn’t seem to care, and rushes back a few dozen metres faster than the eye can see. The surviving spirit beasts scramble to catch up.
The blood-stained sleeve flickers in the wind, and with a screeching howl, ghost face says one last phrase, “you better watch your back!”
The group vanishes into thin air.
Zhao’s face lights up in the blazing heat, and as the Ghost Slayer looks at his profile, he panics: what did ghost face mean by “he knows a lot more than he said”?
Zhao turns around and says, “Your Honour, give me a hand with your sleeves.”
A familiar smokescreen rises up, and Zhao releases Wang. He holds out a scruffy piece of paper talisman, “call him, see if I can summon Sang Zan’s soul.”
Wang’s eyes widen.
Zhao urges, “quick, do it before the fire burns up!”
Wang floats mid-air and shouts towards the pillar something that Zhao doesn’t understand. The talisman shatters, and turns into a soft breeze, gently bringing Wang’s words towards the blazing pillar. Wang cannot leave the smokescreen, but she stands as close to the edge as she can.
The usual depressed expression of the girl turns into one of great anticipation.
The Pillar of Nature continues to shrink, and the fire gradually begins to wane. The sparkle in Wang’s eyes eventually darkens, but as the flames are about to burn up, a shadow of a man emerges in the ember, looking from afar.
From Wang’s expression, it’s clear who this man is.
Zhao takes out a Guardian talisman, and flicks it with his fingers. The talisman shoots up and floats mid-air, and he says to Wang, “go talk to him, if you want you can go inside the Guardian Order.”
This isn’t necessary: as Sang sees Wang, he freezes shortly, and then he walks out of the flames and enters the Guardian Order. The two vanish, and the talisman flies into Zhao’s watch.
After a long time, the last flame burns up, and only a battered ritual site remains; the pillar is nowhere to be seen.
Zhao walks ahead slowly, and kicks around on the ground. He finds a small octagonal rock, it’s thicker at the top and narrower at the bottom, like a wedge. He takes it out of the mud, and throws it to the Ghost Slayer, “your Artifact, catch.”
The Ghost Slayer catches, and examines the small rock that appears ordinary. He puts it next to his ear, and listens closely: soft sobbing is heard from within, it’s incredibly feeble, and not violent at all. But the sound leaves a mark on the heart: a mark of despair.
Wang’s hopeful voice comes from the watch, “they… they are all freed, aren’t they?”
“No,” the Ghost Slayer replies, “still inside. The Guardian said the pillar is afraid of anything that flows, but that only applies to the parts of the pillar that formed on Earth. This is the true form of the Pillar of Nature, and it can’t be burned.”
Zhao smirks, “yea, I was just bullshitting, who would have known that bastard was so easy to fool. I find that people who like to hide behind masks are usually idiots.”
The Ghost Slayer says nothing to that comment.
“Oh,” Zhao adds, perhaps intending to make things worse, “of course I wasn’t referring to you, Your Honour.”
The Ghost Slayer knows Zhao is probably pissed about him not willing to answer his questions. This fearless jerk was making a deliberate insinuation.
The Ghost Slayer can neither laugh nor cry, but the next second, he realises perhaps Zhao only said that after what ghost face said. On one hand, he wants to lighten up their relationship, and on the other hand, he is implying that he won’t think too much about what ghost face said.
The Ghost Slayer’s heart sinks: this man is the best of his kind. He can’t help but feel like… the secret will come out soon.
Wang shouts and asks anxiously, “what can you do to release them? Can you let them rest in peace?”
She finally draws the attention of the two.
“He is bringing the Pillar of Nature away, so the restriction on the souls will be lifted naturally. When they want to, they can come out. If they don’t, it’s because they don’t want to. Besides themselves, what’s left holding them back?” Zhao pauses, and says with profound meaning, “what happened all those years ago, wasn’t it because of someone’s heart?”
Zhao takes out his phone and sets the time on his watch, “you are the same, aren’t you? You silly girl.”
Zhao quickly say, “oh yes, I want a thirty-thousand-word reflection, and I’ll cut your annual bonus in half. Think about what you’ve done Wang Zheng comrade, you will join the internal training at the end of the year. I will ask Zhu Hong to find a body, wear it and go to the lessons.”
She stays silent for a moment, and says softly, “from the beginning, there was not a thing I could have done, was there?”
Zhao suddenly smiles, “you stupid girl, now you realise.”