Book 3 Chapter 2: Folklore

From its characteristics and purpose, the Flower Society could be called an illegal evil cult…this was Xiao Xia’s conclusion after looking through her limited information.

This made her rather curious. It would make sense if they were women from the countryside. But these were all formidable women who have been molded by society and their experiences. They’ve seen all sorts of things and weathered all sorts of storms. How could they be so thoroughly brainwashed, and believe such preposterous nonsense?

Women who were offered to gods?

This world has already become fouled. It was so polluted even humans disdained it. How could gods descend upon this place? Not only that, how could they marry a bunch of women who wouldn’t blink an eye at committing murder? She truly couldn’t figure it out.

However, in her opinion, the most efficient way to deal with problems was to go to Wan Li. Therefore, she treated him to lunch. After hearing her simple summary, Wan Li wasn’t the slightest bit surprised.

“Don’t you find it strange?” She asked.

“Why would I?”

“But, they are all…very educated, astute, and very, very powerful people. How could they get tricked?”

“Haven’t you heard that the stronger the person, the weaker they are? Otherwise, why is it that the more developed a place is, the more people there would be with psychological problems? Furthermore, an astute person isn’t necessarily mentally stable. Perhaps their bright appearances conceal weakness on the inside. People’s minds are rather complicated.”

“But they should at least have some self-awareness, right?”

“I don’t know about any self-awareness. I only know of self-aggrandizement.”

“Then what is going on here?” Xiao Xia was a little impatient.

“As the saying goes, to have no desires is to be strong. But humans all have desires, obsessions, greed, and demands. These could all blind them to the truth, showing them only what they want to see, making them fall for schemes. Many cults use such mind control methods, and the more upper-class you are, the more likely you’ll get led astray.”

“Is that so? Looks like I’ll have to be careful when meeting with Gu Yu Fang. It would be quite the injustice if I get dragged into the ditch by her.” Xiao Xia sighed. “How nice it would be if Ruan Zhan was here. He could go see if Gu Yu Fang has some black aura around her face. That way we’d know if she encountered something foul.”

“Do you think that scoundrel is omnipotent?” Wan Li burst out laughing, and looked thoughtfully at Xiao Xia. “Miss him, do you?”

“No.” Xiao Xia blurted out a denial but her face let her down by turning red. “I just want him to repay his debt to me.”

She wasn’t willing to miss Ruan Zhan but his image intertwined itself in her heart, thread by thread, unhurriedly, until it permeated her chest. Every time she was idle, his figure would flash into her mind, reminding her that there was such a man by her side.

But he had been gone for two months. Early fall had turned to early winter but there was no news of him at all. It was like he evaporated. In the depths of night, she would wonder if she really met this person, or if it had all been a dream.

Regarding the bloodwood sword he left her, she didn’t feel at ease no matter where she left it. Therefore, she would always carry it on her. She knew it was his treasure and she definitely couldn’t lose it. If a thief happened to pay her a visit and took a liking to this cute bunny candle, wouldn’t that be awful?

She figured that with his precious in her hands, he would have to come back one day for it.

“Repay the devil’s due?”

“None of your business. You’re straying off topic.”

“Fine, fine, we’ll talk about serious matters.” Wan Li changed the subject. “What you were saying made me recall a folktale.”

“What folktale?”

“The Fallen Flower Cave Maidens.” Seeing Xiao Xia looking clueless, Wan Li explained it to her. “When I was on honeymoon with my ex-wife, we went to the Zhangjiajie prefecture. We heard people there speak of Xiangxi’s four great legends. One of them was that of the Fallen Flower Cave Maidens. This story tells of some unmarried maidens in the tribes becoming afflicted with a sort of depression if they fail to find a partner once they come of age. They end up becoming kind of obsessed. According to the local stories, those girls end up offering themselves to gods and live in blissful fantasy. They are no longer moved by any man, and carefully preserve themselves, waiting for the god to choose an auspicious day to marry them. When that day comes, those girls pass away with a smile on their faces. The tribes’ people also assumed they had gotten married to tree gods or well gods. They don’t hold funerals for them, but rather weddings instead to bless the newlyweds.”

Xiao Xia was listening eagerly. Seeing Wan Li stop, she urged him on: “And then?”

“There is no more. It’s just a legend. I don’t believe it, but many of the locals do so firmly. I think your case is very similar to that legend. However, whether this legend is being used to brainwash them is something you’ll have to find out after carefully questioning Gu Yu Fang.”

“But…isn’t that too strange?” Xiao Xia was still unable to understand. “I can understand being swindled for money, sex or even marriage. As the saying goes, everyone makes mistakes. However, to say they are promised to gods? The mighty gods? That’s way too farfetched.”

“I don’t have global statistics, but according to our Chinese psychological studies, eastern women have a desire to be conquered. Furthermore, once they reach a certain age, they all have the mindset of waiting to be wed. This is the case no matter how successful the woman. Of course, this sort of attitude becomes a sort of panic to get married before a certain age. This frequently results in making huge mistakes. Of course, they might also have fallen into the hands of some master at mind control with ulterior motives, who gave them false guidance, making them unable to free themselves. If someone wrapped it up as superstition, and even used some science as part of the disguise, coming up with some illusions, it would make those who think themselves wise get hooked and caught. You know, many successful people possess another trait: stubbornness. They think themselves infallible. Therefore, once they make up their minds, they would be even more firm in their beliefs compared to normal people.”

“So pitiful.” Xiao Xia lamented. She was also a woman, and could understand that love was nourishment for their minds. No matter who it was, they couldn’t be forgiven for making use of this hallowed emotion.

“Don’t worry. If you’re looking to get married and can’t find anyone, I can marry you.”

“Then I want a prenuptial agreement.” Oh boy, this guy focused too much on his quality of life. He would always make a fuss about travelling towards the end of the year. He never planned things out either and spent as he went, using up all his money.

“No wonder they say not to marry a female lawyer. So calculating.”

The two looked at each other and laughed.

“But using people’s emotions like that is really vile.” Wan Li got back on topic. “There’s a case I’ve heard about before. Although it wasn’t related to a cult, it still proved that if a woman is dissatisfied emotionally, it is very easy for an obsession to form. Do you remember that old movie The Bridges of Madison County?”

Xiao Xia nodded. She knew it was a movie of middle-aged romance, very beautiful and touching.

“A middle-aged woman watched that movie many, many times, and also bought many books around that time period, immersing herself. Then, she started believing she was the female lead of that movie, and told everyone that it was her story. It’s a classic example of paranoid delusion caused by being emotionally dissatisfied with life.

“Can it be cured?” Xiao Xia’s kind heart was very sympathetic.

“It’s difficult for the serious cases.” Wan Li said truthfully. “Furthermore, you mentioned Gu Yu Fang might be involved with a cult. That makes it even harder to deal with. You should know people follow the crowd. If several people are firm in their beliefs, they are able to persuade many others, causing a snowball effect that grows bigger and bigger. In the end, falsehood becomes like the truth and everyone believes it without a doubt. That is what’s even more frightening.”

“Based on the evidence, the Flower Society seems to be, legally speaking, an organization, group, gathering or cult that uses and tricks others into dying. Therefore, Gu Yu Fang is in big trouble this time, unless we discover she’s also a victim.”

“The Red Flower Society? The rebels of the Qin dynasty?”

“It’s the Flower Society.” Xiao Xia hit him and told him to be serious.

“No matter what society it is, you’re going to help Gu Yu Fang, right?” Wan Li started worrying. “This matter is so twisted. Don’t go provoking anything supernatural again.”

“She’s at the least an acquaintance. I can’t just not care about her matter.”

“You’re really quick to forget past wounds after the scars fade.”

Xiao Xia didn’t speak, thinking of the faint scar on her arm. She then wondered if Ruan Zhan would come back if she were in danger.

“Forget it. I’ll go with you when you meet with Gu Yu Fang.” Wan Li was helpless. “What time did you plan on meeting?”

“Three in the afternoon.”

Wan Li looked at his watch. “Can’t you do it tomorrow? I’ve got a patient this afternoon.”

“No need to come with me. It’s not like she’s a ghost or a demon. If something really happens, I’ll definitely ask for your help.”

“Are you really ok on your own?”

“Oh please, this is my job. Am I so useless I can’t even do my job right? Don’t worry, don’t worry, we can keep in touch via phone.”

Xiao Xia spoke while waving for the check. She suddenly felt someone staring at her. When she turned, she saw a paper crane with red eyes on the table across from her, its head pointed right at them. Although it was just a piece of origami, its eyes seemed alive, making her shiver in extreme discomfort.

“What’s wrong?”

Xiao Xia used actions in place of words. She stood up and grabbed the crane, throwing it to the ground and stomping on it twice.

“How did a paper crane provoke you?” Wan Li was very amused by her childish actions.

“I just felt it was unpleasant to look at. Problem?” Xiao Xia raised her foot. Although the crane was smudged and disfigured, its eyes were still alive and staring. She heavily kicked it into an unseen corner.

Within that villa on the outskirts, Hong Hao Hao and a middle-aged man was looking at a basin of water on the table. The water’s surface clearly reflected the scene of Xiao Xia and Wan Li in the restaurant.

“She’s going to get involved.” Hong Hao Hao said with loathing. Hatred for Xiao Xia welled up in her heart for no reason.

“Precisely what I wanted.” The middle-aged man laughed cold and softly.

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