Fanfiction: Mo Yuan and Shao Wan - Chapter 74a (Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms 三生三世十里桃花)

Chapter 74 - Part I

written by kakashi
edited by Panda

After carefully wiping the thin sheen of sweat off his brow, He Jing (河静) let his eyes wander around his home with quiet pride. It had taken him the better part of three days to be satisfied, but it finally looked sufficiently welcoming and festive. The sèung héi decorations were in place on the room furniture and the main door. With his own hands, he had collected red peonies from the fields and arranged them in eight pretty vases, five of which he had borrowed from the neighbors. At an auspicious date two days ago, the grandma from across the street had installed the bridal bed. Ever since, the bedside lamps had been kept burning. A plate of dried longans, lotus seeds, red dates, persimmons and a sprig of pomegranate leaves were placed on the new red bedsheets. They were of the best quality silk, embroidered masterfully with dragons and phoenixes in gold threads. The truth was, the sheets had cost way more than He Jing should have spent, but as soon as he had set eyes on them, he had felt it would be inauspicious not to buy them. Overspending a little to assure his bride would feel cherished and welcome from the very beginning seemed appropriate to him.

Now that his hands were resting, He Jing felt his nervousness rise again, worse than before. He took deep breaths, hoping it would calm him down. Soon, soon, he would go to the bride’s home to fetch her. Should he go outside already to await the others in the procession? Or was it bad form to go out too early? He knew everything there was to know about the three letters and six etiquettes, but as time progressed, he had discovered there was an agonizing amount of little things to make decisions about, things nobody had given him any guidance on.

The door to the courtyard suddenly banged open and He Jing jumped in skittish fright, but it was only his uncle who appeared, smiling broadly. “He Jing, relax!” the stocky, always sweating man laughed at the distraught state of his nephew. He smelled strongly of alcohol and He Jing suddenly wished he could have partaken in the drinking. It might have made things easier. Or maybe the opposite?

“All the guests are here,” Uncle Ying Ming informed him, “the banquet is ready too. She Luse’s parents have been very generous, all things considered. You are blessed!”

“Thank you, Uncle,” He Jing said, “should I go outside now?”

Ying Ming laughed again. “Impatient, are we? Sure, sure, go outside and pace there until it’s time. We wouldn’t want your new carpet to become threadbare before your wife has even had a chance to step on it!”

He Jing felt a wave of gratefulness. “Thank you, Uncle,” he said with a very deep bow. “For everything.”

Uncle Ying Ming shook his head, gesturing for him to rise. “Don’t be silly, He Jing. It was the least I could do. I was not around much after your parents passed. I am grateful I could make it up to them by arranging such a prosperous marriage for you! I feel my brother smiling at me from the heavens.”

He Jing bowed again before he quickly left through the front door. Someone had lit a couple of red lanterns outside. The assuring warmth of their glow calmed him down a little and once again, he felt a wave of immense gratefulness engulf him.

Never would he have thought it possible that he, of all people, could be this blessed one day.

He looked back on very difficult times. He had lost both his parents to bandits five years ago. The vagabonds had brutally slaughtered them for a purse of coins and a bit of jewelry, heirlooms his mother had taken pride in. The image of the mutilated bodies of the two people he had loved the most in the world were forever edged in his memory; even a long and difficult period of grieving had not patched the hole in his heart that had formed after the loss.

His father had left his only son with a small house - and a crushing debt. Apparently, he had gambled away a respectable wealth in his free time. That had almost saddened He Jing the most, that his father, whom he had felt close to, had carried such a burden and had not trusted him enough to confide in him. He Jing had not slept much after becoming the head of the household at such a young age. He had let all the servants go to save money, had sold the house and had moved into a much smaller two-room abode in a poor part of town. He had worked in various professions, day and night, to be able to pay back his father’s debt. Thanks to his talent for words and letters, he had eventually been able to take over as a scribe, a well-respected and well-paid profession.

Things had decisively looked up. He Jing had much enjoyed the work, it suited his temperament well. He found a sort of peace in his small life, and in the cultivation of virtues and the maintenance of ethics. Even though there was a uncomfortable certainty in the back of his head that this would not, could not last, he had felt gratefulness for his quiet, almost happy life - until someone had crushed and forever crippled his right hand.

It was hard not to despair. He had not even been able to stop the stranger from defiling and killing the daughter of the teahouse owner, however hard he had tried. There were many in the town who indirectly blamed him for the incident, because the stranger had come to their town to get money from He Jing, money his father owed him. He Jing still heard the man’s cruel laughter, her miserable cries, and the sounds of his bones breaking. He tried to shut out the images of what he had witnessed, but this, too, was forever edged in his memory.

By that time, He Jing had come to the conclusion that Fate was testing him. If he wanted to pass the test, he had to persevere. He had to accept Fate’s challenge and overcome it - until Fate came up with a new test, the final one being death. Once the agony from his broken hand had lessened a little, and once he had been able to think straight again, he had reorganized his life entirely. First, he had tried to train himself to write with his left instead, but however much effort he had put into it, his writing had remained crooked, imprecise, too large, altogether unsuited for the services he had been able to provide before. Eventually giving up on the idea that he would ever write again, He Jing had adjusted to become a merchant.

He knew that his father had stored many books and scrolls in his absent Uncle’s house. Until then, he had not found the time to look at them, but since it was the only thing in his possession, he got himself access and started sorting through them. Even though he got very sick in between, likely from catching an illness in the unheated, damp house, he eventually started to sell books from a cart in one of the merchant streets. For a long time, he was not successful at all. What his father had left him was of little value and there already was a bookseller in town, a man by the name of Suan Long. He Jing felt instant and thorough dislike for his competitor, a feeling that was clearly mutual. Suan Long even paid some money to five ruffians to topple over He Jing’s cart, trample around on his goods and beat him bloody.

But again, He Jing did not accept this setback. He made sure to identify the most sought after items in Suan Long’s supply, and, ignoring the more disgusting variants, made sure to sell the same immodest illustrated stories that the lesser educated craved for - at a much better price. From the money he made this way, he was soon able to rent a small store, and later concentrated on buying and selling the kind of books that he liked the most: philosophy and strategy.

Again, his life had started to feel wholesome. That made him think about taking a wife, knowing that marriage was one of the main ways to cultivate virtue. By coincidence, his wayward Uncle had returned from his long travels about the same time that thought took root, and immediately showed himself eager to play the part of the parents in the matchmaking process. Not long after, He Jing had found himself engaged - as it so happened to a known beauty, the almost bankrupt wine-maker’s daughter She Luse.

The wedding itself went by in a flash of noise and colors. Losing his almost debilitating nervousness as time progressed, He Jing started to feel happier and happier, almost delirious from good fortune.

He should have know better.

He realized instantly that Fate was testing him again when he lifted his bride’s red veil in their bedchambers and saw the hate and disdain in her dark eyes.

That night, on their wedding night, He Jing’s wife left the house to share the bed with another man. He smelled him on her when she returned in the morning, a soldier’s smell, leather, sweat, and woodfire smoke.

He Jing said nothing. Maybe, he thought, she just needed time: it was certainly not easy for a person to be plucked from her life to be given to a complete stranger. With time, He Jing thought, they would probably be able to build a home together full of friendliness, love and harmony, just as he knew married life should be.

“Give me money,” was one of the first things She Luse said to him on the first day of their married life.

“We do not have any to spare,” He Jing replied. It was the truth and he had no interest in financing another man’s pleasures.

“You despicable man,” she hissed at him.

For someone who did not know him at all, she sure had a bad impression of him, He Jing thought. Again, he decided to say nothing. It was a bit unusual, but he felt strangely detached from this situation. He only felt curiosity: How would Fate try to test him next? He endured her horrible temper. She refused to cook for him when he came back from his long days in the store. She left the house in the dark and returned in the early hours of the morning. The smells she brought with her began to vary. She deliberately did not clean herself after her exploits and left stains on their marital bed for him to find.

When her stomach started to grow, people congratulated the happy couple and expressed wishes for it to be a son. She Luse was very good at keeping up appearances. In front of her parents, his uncle and the few friends they had, she played a happy wife. She would even link her arm with his when other people were near, a brazen display of public affection. He Jing watched the interactions between people around him and thought it all seemed like one of those plays they performed at the teahouse.

When she developed complications during her pregnancy, He Jing spent more time with her at home. He got her things he thought she would like: pickled cucumbers, salted fish, other things his friends’ wives recommended. He saw no reason to be unkind to her, especially since nothing she did had any impact on him whatsoever.

“You are such a good, caring husband,” people said to him, looking envious. He sometimes laughed at this.

She took what he brought her, without a single word of thanks. In fact, she spoke only if it was necessary and mostly to express her displeasure. Soon, she got depressed and would not leave the house at all, staying in bed all day and all night. He Jing cooked for her, trying to find out what she liked since she refused to tell him.

One time, at night, he woke up because she pressed her hot, soft body against his. “You are not impotent, are you,” she purred. “Let’s do it.”

Her hands went to his manhood and started to rub and pull it. He grew hard quickly, despite his shock at her sudden advances. The feeling of a woman’s body against his aroused him strongly, he had no money for courtesans, not even the cheap ones. He sometimes took care of his urges in the long, solitary nights, but it never filled the hole in his chest, the loneliness he felt, fed by the growing knowledge that he did not belong here.

That night she wanted to use him, he felt hate for her for the first time. “Get your hands off me,” he said with a voice he almost did not recognize as his.

“Why are you always so mean to me,” she had cried. “I am only trying to make you stop neglecting me.”

It was a rather elaborate plot that Fate was confronting him with this time, He Jing thought, as he held this sobbing, pregnant woman in his arms, it had many layers and some were unexpected. So he was to be the villain in this? Indirectly at fault for her destructive actions? Feeling encouraged by his kindness, she took his shattered hand and guided it to her wet folds, rubbing herself against his fingers, even trying to use them to penetrate herself. Without a word, he pulled his hand away, wiped it and got up. Even if he knew this was a test, he did not have to let everything happen to him.

“I will sleep at my uncle’s,” He Jing informed his wife and left the house.

“You must divorce her,” Ying Ming urged him soon after, “you have every right. Even if she’s with child, throw her to the wolves.”

He Jing shook his head. She was too pitiful, a plaything of Fate, thrown into his life to torture him. Her belly was getting bigger, she cried often, and her beauty was already slowly fading, despite her youth. However, that night, deep inside of him, a simmering anger awoke. It scared him, because he knew he would not be able to control it if it ever broke out.

A few months later, She Luse gave birth to a healthy son. She did not even look at him but turned her face to the wall and closed her eyes. He Jing held the tiny, quivering human life in his hands and brushed aside the evil thoughts of giving him to an orphanage. “Hé Qiáng (河强),” he welcomed the newborn, “may your life be blessed.”

He Jing bought a cow the next day to have milk for his son. The cow was rather old, but it was sturdy and even though the milk was often watery, the baby grew steadily. He Jing changed diapers and carried the boy everywhere, in a crate on his back.

“Where is She Luse?” people asked in the beginning.

“She is resting,” He Jing explained, “it was a difficult birth.”

People stopped asking after a while, but he knew they talked behind his back, about what a weak, pathetic man he was. The illusion of a happy life was disintegrating fast now, the cracks were visible to everyone. It did take a few weeks for her to heal from the pain of childbirth, but then, his wife started to venture out during the nights again, leaving him alone with the always crying baby. His Uncle started to behave strangely, urging him with much vigor to cut the root of evil and abandon his family, trying to plant evil thoughts into his head - but He Jing knew what he had to do. He politely reduced his interactions with his only living relative and continued to care for his child and ignore his wife.

The second child was a miscarriage. He Jing cleaned up all the blood and comforted his sobbing son. Their third child, a daughter, died from a fever before she was one month old. He Jing buried the little body behind the house and prayed to her unlucky spirit every day. He felt much sadness at the plight of humans, even the tiny ones.

Not much later, he came home one evening, the now almost too heavy Hé Qiáng asleep at his back, and found a stranger pushing into his wife from behind. She was bent over their bed, her skirts pulled upwards, her legs spread apart. The man’s fat bottom quivered with every thrust and he had not even taken his pants off properly. He was a pathetic caricature of carnal lust, and his grunting sounded like it was coming from a man who was trying to shit but was suffering from indigestion. His wife, aware of his presence, turned her head to look at him, a leering expression on her face. She was obviously waiting for his reaction, had probably staged all this just for that, but he would not and could give her one. He knew his face showed nothing when he turned around, shut the door, and went to his favorite teahouse to read.

He Jing felt happy when his son was old enough to start his education under him. At the beginning, he thought his son just needed a little more time, but soon, he had to admit to himself that he was a very slow learner. He could not concentrate and made many mistakes. Thinking it may be his teaching that was to blame, he spent some money for a private tutor, but alas, Hé Qiáng wasn’t talented at all. The boy was about eight years old when his mother - or rather, Fate - realized how else she could try to torment He Jing. Suddenly, she started to develop an interest in her child and went all out pampering him. She gave him masses of sweets that made his teeth rot and his body grow round and she showered him with smothering motherly affection that the poor child soaked up like the desert starved for rain.

That day his son said “I hate you” to him and meant it was the day He Jing first heard that voice in his head. “You blithering fool,” it roared, “when will you start taking revenge! The humiliation! Don’t you know who you are?”

The voice scared him so much, He Jing ran to the top of a nearby mountain until he almost collapsed. It did not help. The voice stayed and it would whisper or roar or laugh or curse, whenever it felt like it. People said he was losing his mind and shunned him completely.

When their son was fifteen years old, She Luse became ill. She developed severe headaches, had difficulty coordinating her muscle movements and became increasingly disoriented. But even when she no longer remembered her own name, she still remembered to hate He Jing.

“You are even too craven to to throw me out!” she raged at him during a more lucid moment.

“No,” He Jing said quietly, “I made a choice to keep you. If you are part of Fate’s way of testing me, throwing you away means I fail.”

She died shortly after, a miserable, pitiful death. He Jing hoped her tortured soul would find rest in the afterlife, even though he doubted it. After a huge fight with his uncle about how he was to blame for his own mysery, Ying Ming had disappeared from the face of the earth. Hé Qiáng wore white for three full years and did not speak to his father unless he had to.

“Why do you blame me for your mother’s misfortunes?” He Jing asked him one evening, when the world felt particularly brittle and unreal.

“You never said anything,” his son said, hate flaring up in his eyes, “you should not have remained silent.”

“Silence is a weapon,” He Jing explained, “and as sorry as I am for her suffering, I refuse to be blamed for what is clearly Fate’s cruelty.”

He Jing’s life had been lonely, but ironically, it became even lonelier after She Luse’s death. Of all tribulations, this one he did not know how to overcome. Working to beat poverty, changing his profession, ignoring people, seeing a child as a child, not someone else’s son … all this was a question of diligence and willpower, but loneliness? He found no remedy against it.

The strange episodes during which he could hear and see things that were not there increased in frequency and it took him a lot of concentration to keep the anger at bay. At fifty years of age, He Jing was often thinking about death, like one thinks about the comfort of a fire when walking through a cold winter storm. In death, he would find peace. “You idiot!”, the voice roared, “yes, die already! Can this miserable farce end?”

The day he saw her was a sunny day in early autumn. A slight breeze shook the colorful leaves from the trees and chased them through the streets in cheerful haste. He Jing had gone to buy some sweet buns from a vendor down the street and was returning to his store, when he saw a tall woman with midnight blue hair step out and swiftly walk away. The sight of her retreating back made his heart race.

He Jing hurried forward and into his shop. “Who was that woman?” he asked his son who was sorting some scrolls at one of the shelves, “what did she want?”

“Woman?” Hé Qiáng asked with a frown.

“The woman who just left!”

“That was a man, father,” Hé Qiáng said with the kind of shrug he always used when he thought his father was having one of his weird episodes.

“I certainly know a woman from a man,” He Jing snapped and went out to follow her down the street. Luckily, she had not gotten far but was looking at some silver hair ornaments at one the street stalls.

“Excuse me,” he addressed her, suddenly feeling very nervous, “have we met before?”

She turned around and as soon as she faced him, her beautiful eyes grew as round as mooncakes and her mouth flew open.

“By Pangu’s hairy balls,” she cursed, “is someone playing a prank on me?”

It wasn’t possible that he had met her, he surmised as he looked at her up close. She looked foreign and she was dressed differently than any woman he had ever seen. And yet, if he had not met her, why did she feel so familiar?

“So you do know me?” he asked, because her reaction seemed to confirm it.

She did not answer straight away but looked him up and down. “I get it,” she said slowly, “What’s your name?”

“I am He Jing,” he said and dipped his head in greeting, but only quickly, because all he wanted was to look at her and for that, he had to keep his head up. “I own the bookstore you just exited.”

“Ah,” she said. “A bookstore. Let me guess: you really do not sell forbidden erotica, do you.”

He Jing blushed. It was fitting that a woman like her would talk like this. “No, that’s my competitor Suan Long,” he stammered.

She nodded. “Let me guess again: you really only sell philosophical books, like that young man said?”

“That was my son,” He Jing explained. “He did inform you correctly.”

“You have children?” she asked and laughed, shaking her head. He noticed with fascination how her eyes slanted slightly upwards when she smiled. He even caught a glimpse of her teeth, wondrously white, small, and perfect.

“Yes, one son.”

“He doesn’t look like you at all,” the woman observed. “Plus, he wasn’t very friendly. You should have taught him better manners, all I did was ask for directions.“

“You cannot go to Suan Long’s shop alone,” He Jing said, quite horrified at the thought, “it is very dangerous for a woman.” Suan Long was well known to deal in other things than books on the side, mainly in women and children.

She furrowed her brow. “A woman?”

He looked at her again, surmising she must be one of those travelling warriors he had heard about, judging by the way she moved and the alertness in her demeanor, though she must be hiding her weapons somewhere. “Even if you are well trained in martial arts,” he added. “It is no place for a lady. It’s not in a good part of town!“

“You can see I’m a woman?” she asked, frowning again.

“It is very obvious you are a woman,” an extremely beautiful woman, he added in his head.

She took a step towards him and he held his breath. “Is this one of Donghua’s pranks after all? You can tell me now. Your act is perfect though, you almost had me fooled.”

“There is nobody by the name of Donghua here,” he informed her, his voice suddenly hoarse and dropping down to a whisper. He blamed it on the closeness. Her scent filled his senses, an exotic, flowery smell, stirring an almost memory and a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach.

“Hmmmmmm,“ she made, scrutinizing him up close. “This is too strange. Should I alert someone I wonder? This can’t be good.“

“My insanity is of no danger to you,“ He Jing explained quickly, “the opposite really. I feel much calmer than usual.”

“What, calmer? Is that even possible,” she snickered. And then, she shook her head again. “I’m almost scared to admit what it must mean. If this is no prank, it must be … fate.”

That made him become instantly wary. If it was Fate, it was another test. He did not want this woman be a test.

“I will accompany you to Suan Long’s shop,” he said quickly.

“Did I say I’m going there?”

“I assumed.”

“Ha, and you assumed correctly. I am looking for a rare piece of the finest erotica that was traced to this very town by one of my informants.”

“A shame you are not looking for a philosophical text,” He Jing said, “I would have liked to help you.”

“I never quite understood your fascination with that subject,” the tall woman said, “where to?”

He gestured with his hand and they began walking down the street. People murmured hostile greetings from left and right, eyeing him with hate and his companion with curiosity. He paid them no heed, he was used to being stared at, plus, all he was interested in was her.

“So tell me, He Jing, what is it you have to endure?”

Her question was far too intimate and just as strange as everything else about her and yet, talking to this stranger felt like talking to an old friend. “My marriage was a living hell, my son hates me and nobody wants to talk to me because they think I’m insane.”

She chuckled. “So… it’s a love trial? That doesn't seem to suit you. I wonder when they will look for true talent to write them instead of just giving the task to the first Star Lord that comes along.”

“What is your name?” he asked her, deciding it was best to ignore her strange ramblings, just like he often ignored the voice in his head.

“My name? My name is of no importance,” she smiled. “I still cannot believe that I met you here and that you are this talkative and friendly. Oh, do they perhaps write in guest appearances and someone thought it's funny to make me meet you? I will have to ask Donghua after all.”

“Is he a friend of yours?”

“Often,” the beautiful woman said and flashed him another smile. Her overall amusement was pleasing, even if he felt that part of it was directed at him. He did not mind being teased by her though.

They reached Suan Long’s shop far too quickly for his taste; he could have talked to her all afternoon. The owner’s eyebrows shot up when he saw He Jing. “What are you doing here?” he hissed, before he became aware of his companion. “Oh, I did not see you there, Young Master. How can I help you?”

The woman motioned Suan Long closer and then whispered something into his ear. “No!” Suan Long exclaimed in mock outrage, “we do not sell this!”

The woman sighed. “Do we really need to lose time with this,” she said, “in the end, you will take me to the backroom anyway and will get an exorbitant amount of money for a few scrolls. I’d rather go drink tea at the teahouse than go through all the motions of "But I swear we don't have it!" ten times.”

She put her hand into her sleeve and pulled out a purse, full of coins by the sound of it. Indeed, not much later, Suan Long had “remembered” he had a copy of what she was interested in in the back. After the purse had exchanged hands and the scrolls had disappeared into the broadly smiling woman’s sleeve, they stepped out onto the sunny street again. He Jing pulled a face. He really hated that slimy man.

“He offered me very young boys,“ she said, wrinkling her nose in disgust, "there is a nice place in hell for people like him. Well, then I better…”

“Can I invite you to some tea at the teahouse,” He Jing breathlessly said.

She scrutinized him once more and his heart started to beat in joyous excitement when she said: “I suppose you can?”

He walked beside her again, leading the way, throwing her glances from time to time when he thought she wasn’t looking. But of course, she noticed. “What are you looking at?” she asked.


With surprise, he saw that she blushed almost imperceptibly. “You have a very smooth tongue,” she said, “unlike someone else I know.”

They reached the teahouse he frequented and he took her to his favorite table, upstairs, a bit to the side, with good light for reading. When she was seated in front of him, he could not help but drink in the sight of her. The word 'Beautiful‘ did not do her justice. She was magical.

“A smooth tongue,” she said with a smile, the light dancing in her eyes, “but no good manners at all.”

“Please accept my apologies,” he said, “but I beg you, allow me to look at you. Never in my life have I seen anyone like you. I… cannot stop.”

She laughed, but she sounded a bit shy. “How could I refuse such a simple demand. Look all you want. I won‘t even charge you any money for it.“

He Jing spent the rest of the afternoon looking and talking. He looked at every facet of her, at how she moved, swallowed, breathed, laughed, cocked her head, shook her hair back, tipped her fingers against her lips, smiled, scratched her head, pressed her lips together, scowled. He talked about banal and not so banal things with her, tea drinking, the type of snacks they served here, the plays they performed, about the weather, the change of seasons, the harshness of life, about why philosophy had value (in his opinion). He was utterly enchanted. He knew after a short while that he could not let her go, because the emptiness and loneliness would be unbearable after she was no longer in front of him. He knew with absolute certainty that she was what he was missing, that with her, a life full of friendliness, love and harmony was possible and that without her, living was not living but mere existing.

When the darkness fell, she became visibly restless. Sudden panic made him stand up.

“What is it?” she asked. “Do you need to leave? I guess it’s late.”

“Can you stay here?” he asked back. “With me.“

She seemed surprised, fascinated, then alarmed. “I shouldn’t even have stayed this long. Donghua might scold me horribly. Who knows what part of this I messed up by just talking to you, I‘m sure it’s against the rules!”

“Is this Donghua a relative? Your husband? Does he have a right to scold you?”

She lifted her eyebrows. “He scolds me even though he has no right at all.”

“So you have no husband?”

She shook her head. “Oh no. No husband.”

“I am a widower,” He Jing hurried to explain, “I do not have much, but it is sufficient for a modest life. If you would stay, I would make you very happy.”

She got up and he feared he had angered her, but saw no such emotion on her face at all, only something that, strangely, could be fear. “This feels altogether too ominous,” she said with a shudder. “I refuse to take part in this Celestial play, I’m leaving.”

“You will not stay with me?”

“You may not remember, but in another life,” the beautiful woman said solemnly, “we are enemies and you despise me. Thank you for the tea.”

She stepped back and neatly put the chair in front of the table. “I better make sure I ascend soon myself, or I will be at a grave disadvantage the next time we meet.”

He Jing stepped around the table and took her hands in his. At their touch, a thrill raced through him, painful yet exciting. “You are saying we will meet again?” he asked with urgency. Should he kiss her? He wanted to, very much.

“Not here,” she said and gently removed her hands from his. “In another realm and probably on a battlefield. Soon.”

“You say the strangest things. Yet, I cannot bear to part from you. I am afraid that this test, I might not be able to master.”

She pressed her lips together. “But you will. You master everything.”

And with that, she was gone. One moment, she stood in front of him, the next, he looked at the empty air. Immediately, the memory of the encounter started to fade, as if a fog had been conjured up in his brain, only leaving him with a dull agony in his heart.

“Not much longer and I will be free,” the voice in his head said, loud and clear. It sounded very, very satisfied. be continued... 

Chapter 74b