To help Xiao Xia block the pursuit of the two stone people, Ruan Zhan had no choice but to switch the bloodwood sword to his left hand and point it at them. By the time he transferred it back to his right hand and pointed it at Yang Mu You, Yang Mu You had already stood up like a puppet on strings.
“Your bloodwood sword is useless against me. It can deal with spirits, but not with the corporeal!” Yang Mu You said.
“Is that so?” Ruan Zhan raised his brows. “Then why didn’t you leave immediately? Why didn’t you dare have your dogs bite me?”
“You…do you really think your seal has trapped me in this skinsuit?”
“Your powers are profound. I’m not hoping for that.” Ruan Zhan didn’t hesitate at all. “However, I’m also not planning to harm your skinsuit. Just harming your soul is enough. If you are fine, and also unafraid of the bloodwood sword, why not have your soul come out and leave?”
“I’m waiting. Aren’t you doing the same?”
“You’re waiting to escape. I’m waiting to kill you. It’s not the same.”
“What’s the difference? I’m not focused on temporary successes and setbacks. However, you should know you’ve made a lifelong enemy. A very formidable enemy!”
“I wouldn’t have come if I feared you!” Ruan Zhan was completely unafraid, not giving an inch of ground.
Yang Mu You smiled sinisterly. “Then before we act, let me analyze the situation for you. It’s true that you’ve injured my spirit root, making my powerful abilities beneath even yours. However, there are four people here, and it’s three against one. If you use the bloodwood sword to harm me, the other two will take the opportunity to attack you. Although they are possessed by spirits, their true form is that of stone. They are strong and hard to destroy. Fine, even if you are also possessing a stone person’s body, what chance do you have in a two on one?”
“I’m betting on your selfishness, betting that you’re anxious to flee with your soul and find a dark place to recover. The longer you remain injured, the greater the damage to your powers. Therefore, I just have to keep you locked down.”
“Then how about this? I’ll hide in this skinsuit while the two brothers attack you first. Once they’ve killed you, I’ll go treat my wounds. Although the damage would be great, it’s better than wasting away here.”
“If that was an option, you would have done so already. Since you know about the bloodwood sword, you should know that if its wielder’s power reaches a certain level, it will become harder than steel, and can penetrate through anything including flesh and even stone!”
“Do you believe your powers are sufficient?”
Ruan Zhan curled his lip, his manner disdainful and formidable. “To be honest, I don’t know. Let’s gamble and see. How about it. Do you dare?”
Caring about someone is a weakness, but it is also a very great advantage. This was because it can make one drop everything to protect that person, raising one’s courage and abilities. Yang Mu You was different. He only cared about himself. Although it seemed like he had no weaknesses, it made him cowardly and afraid to go all in. This was what gave the weaker Ruan Zhan an opportunity.
“Fine, then let us wait. You’re planning on wasting away my powers and striking when I’m at my weakest. But do you think I will just sit and wait for death? Do you think an ordinary person like Wan Li can block my subordinate in destroying your body? Without a physical form, wouldn’t you be as good as dead? Unless you plan on possessing this stone body for the rest of your life? Will Yue Xiao Xia remain safe in this domain of yin? This is my territory, you know?! Although my spirit root is damaged, you guys won’t have it easy either. How about reconsidering it? We can both take a step back. As long as you agree, I swear to let the three of you leave safely.”
“So that you can heal up, recover your strength and find another opportunity to kill us?” Ruan Zhan said coldly.
He couldn’t be any clearer that if he didn’t eradicate this spirit this time, they will never have peace in the future. At the least, he had to damage his spirit root to a certain extent for them to have some breathing room.
“We’re both cultivators. Why won’t you believe me?”
“No need for useless words. This is a great gamble where everyone is a chess piece. You and I as well.” Ruan Zhan was actually very worried about Xiao Xia and Wan Li. However, he remained calm on the surface. “We are keeping each other in check, neither of us able to move. However, I’m keeping the most powerful piece here by myself along with two lackeys. Which side do you think has the advantage? If we really lose to you, we can only accept the will of the heavens.”
“You’re willing to see your delicate flower wilt before her time?”
“She’s going to be fine.” Ruan Zhan hesitated for a moment before saying slowly.
He had no choice but to leave her to suffer various dangers and frights. Although his heart ached, if he didn’t do so, she would die even more tragically if Yang Mu You’s abilities recovered before his own were unsealed!
“Can’t we come to an agreement?”
Yang Mu You finally became speechless. This battle of words had thoroughly laid out his weaknesses.
His face was ashen, his body swaying like a stick in the ground. He didn’t dare move due to the threat of the bloodwood sword, but also didn’t dare leave with his soul. He also didn’t dare leave with his body because he didn’t dare gamble on whether Ruan Zhan’s powers were sufficient to harden the bloodwood sword and penetrate his shell to harm his soul.
They thus stood in confrontation. Yang Mu You tried to figure out how to escape and planned his future revenge. Under Ruan Zhan’s calm exterior, he was worrying about the safety of the other two people.
Xiao Xia didn’t know what Ruan Zhan wanted her to go do but she ran as instructed. She knew she was powerless and had weak yang energy. If she insisted on staying, she would only make things difficult for him.
She stood thinking in the field of flowers, figuring that Ruan Zhan must want her to meet up with Wan Li. But where was he? The situation was a mess back there and she hadn’t been able to communicate with him. She was also worried about his safety since he was facing three enemies by himself.
Would his soul be captured and refined? Regardless, his physical body must be kept safe so there would at least be some hope for him. She thought this and planned to look for Wan Li, but realized the scene before her had changed.
What used to be a field of flowers had changed to a huge clearing in the middle of a dense forest. Xiao Xia stood in the center of the clearing. In the direction of the black stone building behind her was a small hill surrounded by piles of weirdly shaped stones.
It had become night at some point and the pale moonlight shone downwards, making the scene even more eerie and sinister. Xiao Xia looked towards the dense forest and realized the trees mostly looked threatening, filled with ominous shadows under the moonlight. There were even flecks of green lights that flashed.
They’re just will-o’-wisps! Xiao Xia comforted herself.
She didn’t know where Wan Li was supposed to be, but she figured since he was protecting Ruan Zhan’s body he should be in a hidden location. Therefore, she mustered up her courage and walked to the left where the forest was thickest.
Her bare feet stung as she walked. She knew it was from the roots and rocks. She felt things scurry across her legs and she knew they were unknown bugs. She also knew that there were most likely all sorts of creepy crawlies waiting in this primordial jungle and she was terrified. However, she had to harden her scalp and proceed. This was because she knew Ruan Zhan and Wan Li definitely needed help.
A cold wind blew and the surrounding thicket rustled. Bird cries that sounded like sobs rang out from the forest, making Xiao Xia even more nervous. She stopped for a while before continuing onwards. Suddenly, her foot caught on something and she tripped. She lowered her head and saw it was a vine.
She let out a breath of relief, but that vine suddenly changed slowly into a pale arm that made its way up her ankle.
She cried out in fright, the sound especially mournful in empty clearing. However, she couldn’t worry about this at the moment and reached around wildly. When her hand closed around a sharp stone, she smashed it downwards without thinking.
She used a lot of strength and since that weird hand’s texture was similar to withered wood, she ended up nailing it to the floor. The weird hand struggled and squeaked like a mouse. Xiao Xia stood up and ran for it. She ran until she reached the edge of the dense forest before she could no longer hear the hand’s cries and confirmed it hadn’t pursued her.
Despite this, she realized she had run in the wrong direction. In her haste to escape, she ran directly away from the small hill when she actually intended on going to the left. She hesitated a moment before entering the forest from here to avoid that weird hand before circling back to the left. She could check if Wan Li was in this direction while she was here.
The withered leaves carpeted the forest even more densely than in the clearing, making crunching noises underfoot. It was as though something was following behind her. She didn’t dare turn around, but under the moonlight there was only her own shadow and those of the trees.
This made her relax a little, but before she took a few steps something grabbed on to her sleeve.
She stood frozen for a while before forcing herself to take a look. Only then did she realize it had just been caught by a branch. She hurriedly brushed it aside. This forest made her exceptionally nervous. She wanted to find Wan Li as soon as possible and thus started walking faster. However, she kept getting caught on branches. She impatiently brushed them aside every time and saw the forest start thinning in front of her. She seemed to have walked out of the forest onto a mountain path, but there was still no sign of Wan Li. It was certain he wasn’t in this direction. At this time, she got caught on something once again.
She flung her hand back heavily in irritation and the branch sprung loose. However, it seemed to latch onto her arm at the same time. She swung again, but felt this branch seemed to be cold, smooth and delicate. It didn’t feel like the warmth and roughness of wood.
She instinctively looked at the shadows on the ground. She was still alone.
“Ghosts don’t have shadows.” A voice sounded from behind her.
Instinctively, she crouched and covered her head. In this position, she happened to see a pair of legs slowly move in front of her. It wore embroidered shoes, but they were white and had holes in them. A toe bone was sticking out from it.
The feet weren’t touching the ground!
She clutched the amulet on her chest and refused to look up. However, the feet in front of her took a step back. Slowly, a head lowered itself. It had bent over to look at her.
Long, black hair, a skull and eye-sockets shining with flashes of light.
“I’m a ghost. I don’t have a shadow!” She grinned.