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    Chapter 81: The Divine Aid Contract

    Speaking thus, Shi Liuli suddenly gripped An Zhi's wrist tightly, her expression grave. "When your hair turned entirely white and Jiaomiao's silver tresses became green, you were already half a divine demon. Later, when you made that bet with Jiaomiao, you willingly offered your divine bone to her from the moment the wager was set. Now, you are a complete demon."

    The wind danced among the tree branches, softly brushing against the hair at his temples.

    Suddenly, An Zhi felt a sharp pain in his forehead. He grunted, clutching his head with both hands.

    Shi Liuli had her back to him the entire time and didn't witness this occurrence.

    An Zhi's headache intensified, as if a colossal force was attempting to burst through his skull, causing an unbearable pressure.

    He crouched down, still cradling his head.

    "It's him!" An Zhi's ears were met with an unfamiliar male voice, its owner furious as he bellowed, "He's the one who spread the false information, ruining us and leaving us destitute!"

    An Zhi wondered, "What false information?... How did it harm them?..."

    A vivid image flashes through my mind like a bolt of lightning.

    Whispers of the wind filled An Zhi's ears as he stood on the rooftop, gazing at the cityscape painted in shades of blue and purple. With a downward glance, he saw bustling traffic on the roads and hurried pedestrians passing by.

    Suddenly, his waist was gripped firmly, sending him into a whirlwind as he was scooped off his feet.

    It was Wen Yan.

    An Zhi pushed Wen Yan away forcefully. Dark circles shadowed his eyes, now dry and devoid of their former brightness. His once-clear almond-shaped eyes were now bloodshot and parched, as if he hadn't had a proper rest for days.

    His heart pounded fiercely—thump! thump!—each beat echoing loudly in his ears, almost intrusive, heightening his anxiety and restlessness.

    He gritted his teeth and said bitterly, "Wen Yan, I thought I could forget what happened when we were kids."

    Wen Yan gently patted his back, soothing him. "I know everything. It's just that your funds have been tight these few days, making you overly anxious, which led to these nightmares. It won't be long now. The Qin family will soon collapse, and you'll make a fortune. The Qin family will be yours."

    An Zhi asked, "But I've planned for two years and waited for two years. Why is there no sign of the Qin family crumbling? Do you know how many creditors are knocking on my door every day? Yet, I still have to pull myself together and go to work, not letting anyone see my exhaustion. I'm so tired... Lately, during the middle of the night, I see a man in a black trench coat with phoenix-like eyes. He asks me why I've become like Jiaomiao. He tells me to let go and follow him... But who is Jiaomiao? And who is he?"

    As he spoke, he crouched down, hugging his head with both hands, hiding his cheeks under his arms.

    Plop, plop—his tears fell one by one onto the ground, mixing with the soil.

    Wen Yan said, "Anxiety can induce illusions. That man doesn't truly exist. Our time hasn't come yet, but it's drawing near."

    Two years prior, An Zhi had noticed signs of the Qin family's impending bankruptcy. Together with Wen Yan, they shorted the Qin family's stocks while publicly promoting the illusion that the family was flourishing, misleading the masses into buying Qin stocks.

    Bankruptcy was inevitable, but it required patience – two long years of waiting.

    Two weeks after their rooftop conversation, Wen Yan.

    In the dead of night, the dark-clad man with phoenix-like eyes appeared before An Zhi as scheduled, advising, "After shorting the Qin family, many will lose everything and might even take their own lives from the blow."

    An Zhi, gripped by fear, wrapped himself tightly in his blanket. "Can I really convince the public that the Qin family will stand strong on my own in such a grand scheme?"

    The man replied, "This is no different from what Jiaomiao did to you back then."

    An Zhi asked, "Who is Jiaomiao?"

    The man didn't answer, instead saying, "Come with me. I don't wish for you to fall into darkness."

    "I don't understand what you're talking about," An Zhi said, lying back down and covering his head with the blanket.

    Another sleepless night had passed.

    Just as An Zhi was about to freshen up and head to work, a shocking newsflash erupted – the Qin family had gone bankrupt, their stocks plummeted, and those who heavily invested in the Qin family's shares lost everything, leading some to commit suicide by jumping off buildings.

    Upon hearing this, An Zhi's ears rang with an earsplitting roar, his mind instantly going blank. The cup filled with water slipped from his grasp.

    After a moment, he propped himself on the sink, laughing maniacally while tears uncontrollably streamed down his face.

    Laughing and crying alone, the scene was bizarre.

    Finished laughing, he turned on the faucet, splashing cold water on his face to regain composure.

    Yet, he couldn't quell the excitement surging within him; he mustn't let it overwhelm him, turning him into a madman. With the Qin family's stocks in his possession, better days were yet to come.

    But... but why did he feel such profound sorrow? The tears wouldn't cease.

    For whom did these tears fall?

    He couldn't tell.

    Lost in thought, he lowered his head and stepped under the relentlessly cold stream of water flowing from the faucet.

    For a moment, he straightened up, feeling significantly more clear-headed and less overwhelmed by his emotions.

    Ticking... The droplet from An Zhi's hair fell into the washbasin.

    Suddenly, the man appeared, asking, "Don't you feel any guilt? They all died because of your selfishness."

    An Zhi gazed at his reflection in the mirror, his demeanor dispirited, his eyes devoid of luster. He chuckled indifferently, "It's their foolishness."

    With a heavy heart, the figure said, "It's happening again."

    An Zhi clenched his back teeth and shouted, "You should be asking them why they turned me into this, not questioning me! Isn't this what you all have always wanted?"

    The figure vowed solemnly, "I won't allow you to sink this low. I'll put an end to you myself."

    An Zhi scoffed. "I'm waiting for you, my illusion. Haha."

    ...

    "Hey, have you guys seen the top news story today?"

    "The Qin Group has gone bankrupt. How could such a big event escape attention?"

    "You know, I have a friend who read an article that painted the Qin Group's future as bright as daylight, backed by reputable institutions. My friend fell for it and invested all his assets in the company's stocks. Then came the crash, and not only did he lose everything, he even ended up in debt. This morning, he took his own life. His entire family doesn't know how they'll survive now."

    "After this scandal breaks out, I bet there will be more suicides to come—"

    "Sigh... Life is so unpredictable. The Qin Group seemed to have a bright future back then; who could have guessed it was just a facade..."

    In the parking lot beneath the company building, An Zhi's car windows were down, allowing him to hear every word clearly.

    As the people dispersed, An Zhi murmured to himself, "Is it all my fault? Yes, it's all because of your foolishness."

    He had assumed that blaming those who blindly trusted him and those who aided him in this scheme would suffice to alleviate his guilt. However, he still felt an intense sense of self-reproach.

    At the same time, he was excited by the fact that he had executed this plan and was the mastermind behind it, causing a burning sensation in his lungs and making it difficult to breathe.

    "Breath... Breath..." He took deep breaths, filling the car with the sound of his labored respiration.

    "You still feel guilty for them," the voice of the person with the dark phoenix eyes suddenly echoed from the passenger seat.

    An Zhi was startled.

    After a moment, he composed himself, leaning back into the leather seat of the driver's compartment, closing his eyes gently, appearing relaxed as if dozing off. He lazily said, "Get out—"

    The figure suddenly reached out and choked An Zhi's neck.

    An Zhi remained lying on the seat, slowly opening his eyes to meet the phoenix eyes with his almond-shaped ones. He spoke calmly, "You're my hallucination. If I die, you'll perish too."

    "No. It's that if I die, you'll follow," the figure replied.

    An Zhi didn't believe it and chuckled. "Am I your hallucination then?"

    The figure released his grip and said, "That year when you fell into the water, you were already dead. It was because I bound you with a Divine Aid Contract that you could continue living here. If you turn demonic, I'll kill you just like I did in your previous three thousand reincarnations." The chilling threat came out as a gentle persuasion from his lips.

    An Zhi recalled how the driver not only threw a glass at his mother but also stabbed him in the heart with a steel rod prepared under the passenger seat, yet he appeared unscathed in the hospital.

    He had thought it was just a horrifying dream. And he still did now.

    He chuckled. "I don't read novels."

    With a flush at the corners of his eyes, the figure declared, "I'm not an illusion of yours!"

    Fixing his gaze on the man's crimson, brimming eyes, An Zhi said, "Then how do you... vanish like that?" Before he could finish his sentence, the figure disappeared before his very eyes.

    He remarked, "Just as I thought—"

    After that, the oppressive weight on An Zhi's shoulder vanished. Could he finally sleep in peace?

    No.

    In the depths of the night, he often dreamed of those he'd driven to suicide coming back to haunt him for retribution.

    There were countless ghosts, gradually engulfing him.

    He awoke drenched in cold sweat and terror.

    Half a month later, archaeological findings were unearthed in City S, necessitating the construction of a museum. The company An Zhi worked for was among those bidding for the project, and he was the designer who won the favor of the client.

    The night before his business trip, he received a message from Wen Yan, which prompted him to enter the "Killing to End Killing" game.

    --------------------

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