Field of flowers.
Within the center of the beautiful, diverse purple flowers was a black stone building. It seemed especially eye-catching, and was exactly as Gu Yu Fang had described from her dreams.
However, Xiao Xia could clearly feel she wasn’t dreaming or having an out-of-body experience. Instead, her real self was walking in this real place. Gu Yu Fang probably hadn’t been dreaming back then either. She had just been unable to tell since she was infatuated with her dream lover.
But why was it like this? How did she arrive in this unfamiliar place from her own bed? She had just awoken earlier and heard Ruan Zhan and Wan Li talking in the living room. She was about to get up and go find them when she felt a sudden dizziness before being sucked to this place.
Similar to her experience in the hungry ghost path, this place was also surrounded by darkness and there was no sense of direction. The greyish scene in the middle was the only thing that could be seen.
Without any other choice, Xiao Xia could only walk towards the stone house. Since they wanted to draw her here, she could only face it. Running wouldn’t do any good!
She realized she was barefoot because her tender feet hurt as it was pricked by the plants on the floor. This made her understand that this was no field of flowers, but merely an illusion. How could flowers not move when blown by the wind? How could they bloom so weirdly while releasing waves of a putrid scent?
She slowly approached the stone building’s side and crouched by the only window. She hesitated whether or not to go inside, or first take a peek before deciding. It was at this time she heard a strange noise from inside the building.
Xiao Xia slowly got up. Under cover of the vines on the window, she secretly looked inside.
The stone building’s size almost made her exclaim in astonishment. From outside, it wasn’t possible to see that it was so large inside. Although it couldn’t be called vast, it was still large enough that the opposite wall could only be vaguely seen.
A man stood with his back towards the window. The clothes on his body had all been completely taken off, but he wasn’t naked. This was because his body was wrapped in layers of strange bandages. He seemed like a living mummy at a glance. The ripping noises came as he ripped his bandages off.
Xiao Xia looked at this scene in surprise. She watched his unhurried and leisurely movements as he performed this action, as though he was enjoying this process. After unravelling all the cloth from his body, he turned around.
Yang Mu You!
Xiao Xia recognized the face, but she didn’t see a normal man’s naked body. There were only clumps of rotting meat that curled outwards like decomposing vegetables. She had to cover her mouth to prevent herself from crying out.
Yang Mu You didn’t seem to have discovered Xiao Xia’s presence. He bent over and opened a wooden chest. From within, he took out a fresh bundle of cloth strips that alternated between red and yellow. The strips were brightly colored. Yang Mu You affectionately stroked them delicately before finding one end and wrapping them on his body once again.
After completing all this, he stood up and let out a long breath, closing his eyes in rest. Xiao Xia only saw the colors of the strips around his body slowly grow faint. In the end, they became grey and white, the same as those he had just taken off. At this moment, he started taking them off again.
Then, he patiently repeated the process of winding and unwinding the bandages over and over. Counting the first time, he did this a total of over twelve times. Furthermore, as time elapsed, Xiao Xia realized in astonishment that the rotting flesh on Yang Mu You’s body was gradually healing. From its original rotted condition, it had become mere skin damage.
She had stood unmoving outside, watching everything blankly. She strongly felt those strips of cloth had been soaked in blood and other liquid! This meant that Yang Mu You’s body was absorbing those things!
Was he human or fiend? Was this healing or wicked sorcery?
She suddenly felt a stinging, itching sensation on her skin. Xiao Xia instinctively brushed at the spot with her hand, thinking it was a hanging vine. However, after brushing away a strand, she felt several more crawling onto her.
Turning to look, she saw they weren’t vines at all. Clusters of long, black hair hung from the eaves. They currently approached in waves to capture her. Several strands were already wrapped around her, causing an uncomfortable sensation to spread throughout her body.
“The thirteenth has come!” Yang Mu You’s voice rang out by her ear, so close it was like he was right next to her.
Xiao Xia was startled, but before she could react, the long hair pulled her up and threw her into the stone building through the window. She felt herself hit the floor and the pebbles beneath her let out rattling noises. They seemed to be laughing, yet also crying at the same time. She then felt something biting onto her skin, frightening her into immediately jumping up. She didn’t dare stand there with her bare feet and could only leap onto the closed wooden chest.
She had just landed when she felt something pushing at the lid from inside, almost launching her off. She jumped heavily several times. The lid had finally quietened down when knocking sounds started coming from the inside.
It had clearly been an empty chest. Why was there something making an endless racket?!
Xiao Xia stamped her foot heavily a few more times in panic. Yang Mu You watched with interest on the side. He didn’t understand how this woman made the introverted and melancholy Ruan Zhan love her so. In his eyes, her actions were idiotic and laughable. “No one has dared stand upon my soul-seeking chest before.”
“What is this damned thing?” Xiao Xia stood there and decided to stop being afraid. The wooden chest still trembled beneath her and the knocking didn’t stop either.
“Oh? It’s a haunted chest. The people inside have all been eaten by me.” He beamed, his expression extremely relaxed. It sounded like he was talking about something simple like eating apples.
Xiao Xia turned pale. “Eaten? You eat people? You…aren’t planning on eating me, right?”
“To be more precise, it’s not “eating” you. I merely want your blood essence.”
“Blood essence?” Xiao Xia recalled how the Flower Society members turned into black ash upon death. “Was that why you started the Flower Society?”
“Since your death is imminent, there’s no need for you to know.”
“It’s because my death is imminent, I wish to die enlightened. Could you be afraid that you won’t be able to subdue me, and that I’ll leak your secrets after escaping? Or are you afraid of Ruan Zhan?”
Yang Mu You narrowed his eyes, making the room immediately turn cold and filled with killing intent. However, Xiao Xia went for broke and found courage instead. She straightened her back and stood on the wooden chest. She even stomped with all her strength, making the spirits inside fall silent. “If you want my blood essence, you should at least offer a little compensation.”
“Ah, quite the reckless spirit. No wonder!” Yang Mu You’s beaming expression returned. “You are trying to manipulate me. Well, I can tell say that you were very successful. I’m extremely furious, because I’m not scared of whatever Ruan Zhan at all.”
“Tell me about the Flower Society and I’ll close my eyes and wait to be eaten.”
Yang Mu You didn’t speak. He gave her a curious glance. “You are a gutsy woman. If not for the sake of giving the youngster surnamed Ruan a blow, I might really have felt like letting you go!”
“No need for your false kindness. Just tell me how you did it.”
“It seems that you’ve got the admirable mindset of being willing to die in the evening as long as you glimpse enlightenment in the morning.” Yang Mu You mocked. “It wasn’t anything much. It’s just a place for me to find food. I wanted a lot of money for my plans. I also needed the blood essence of thirteen women to return to my original state. I wasn’t willing to search one by one. Therefore, wasn’t it easy and convenient to set up such an organization?”
“But those women all turned to ash. Was there a need to eat them up so cleanly?”
“Please don’t use your scientific methods to try and explain it. It’s a Daoist art.” He pointed towards the small round stone. “These fiend stones have been around since ancient times. They are capable of swallowing anything, let alone mere humans!”
“It’s more like wicked sorcery, right? Or perhaps you aren’t even human!” Xiao Xia was thoroughly angry, which completely overpowered her fear. She wished nothing more than to slap his fair and tender chubby face. “How were you able to accomplish this?”
Yang Mu You’s face turned cold before he laughed coldly. “You’re quite capable. You managed to anger me twice. Fine, might as well explain things to you clearly. You inferior people only know of ghost-built walls and invisibility talismans. You have no idea that true Daoist arts are capable of warping space itself, going from one place directly to another distant location. With such an ability, is there anywhere I can’t go? Is there anything I can’t cover up?”
So that’s how it is! So this was the source of the dizzy sensation she felt. She had gone from one place to another. This was also how Yang Mu You killed people. With this ability, was there anywhere he couldn’t go? Was there anything that he couldn’t cover up?
“What else do you want to know? It’s rare that I am so generous. I can tell you everything.” He looked outside the window. “However, it has to be before the sky turns completely red. At that time, you will have to become part of me.”
He laughed a high, cold laugh, making Xiao Xia’s heart pound wildly. She turned to see the grey sky already gradually showing some red.
“The youngster surnamed Ruan won’t be able to come. This place is in the mountains, thousands of miles away. He doesn’t know how to warp space, and cannot make it in time to save you.”