Ruan Zhan was gone the entire day again. Xiao Xia guarded the unconscious Wan Li as though she was protecting her most precious treasure.
Every few minutes, she would sprawl onto the bed and examine him, hoping for some miracle. However, after waiting the entire day, not only was there no miracle but his breathing was getting weaker and weaker. It was even sporadic at times, and there were several times she couldn’t even hear it, making her legs weak from fear as she thought he might have already died.
The sky was now completely dark and her watch indicated it was already nine. There were three more hours left for Wan Li, making Xiao Xia’s nerves almost collapse from worry!
Was there anything more tragic than watching someone extremely important get closer to death bit by bit while you could only watch helplessly in fear?
“I’m here to pick up the bride!” A voice rang out.
Xiao Xia was no longer afraid after everything she experienced. However, that voice had come too suddenly and she was startled. Raising her head, she saw the black cat had appeared at some point. It sat leisurely on the windowsill, looking mockingly at her.
“What makes you think I’ll definitely go?” Xiao Xia retorted angrily.
“Then you can watch as he dies!”
The schadenfreude in its voice enraged Xiao Xia. She threw the candleholder on the table at the black cat without thinking, forgetting the candle was still in it. There was a flash of fire and the black cat meowed in surprise. It leapt from the window to one of the chairs as the candleholder flow out the window.
The room immediately became dark. Only the glowing green eyes of the cat remained suspended in the air, staring viciously at Xiao Xia!
Xiao Xia glared back at the cat, doing her best to appear brave. Ruan Zhan had said that despite its malicious nature, it wasn’t a supernatural being. It could speak and express emotions due to the expert Gu caster controlling it. This meant that it was a window for that person’s intent and words, and its eyes also transmitted everything to that person.
It was rather like a tool, though it was much more powerful than the advanced gadgets currently available. Moreover, it could be used to refine that murderous, formless Gu. Yet this cat seemed to work very well together with its master. It seemed able to understand human speech. Perhaps it had been a messenger for many years, so it probably wouldn’t be used to refine Gu poison.
“Meow.” The unexpected attack angered the black cat a little. Its malicious nature was stimulated. After Xiao Xia adjusted to the darkness, she could see the black cat arching its back under the moonlight, seeming about to pounce.
“Looking to get punished again?” Xiao Xia looked disdainfully at the black cat, venting her anger randomly based on a guess. Unexpectedly, her words really made it stop. “You disobeyed your master last time and tried to dig out my eye. Didn’t that force him to run over invisibly? What ended up happening? What kind of punishment did you get? If you aren’t afraid, you can come try it again!”
“Meow….” The black cat cried out again. However, this time its voice was filled with unwillingness and defeat.
“Get lost! I’m going to change into the wedding dress. If I find out you were peeping, I’ll dig out your eyes!” Xiao Xia vented her helplessness and resentment onto this hateful and malicious cat.
The black cat paced back and forth, seeming very angry at Xiao Xia. Yet after hesitating for a while, it ultimately didn’t dare to be rash.
It leapt lightly onto the windowsill and half-turned towards Xiao Xia. It suddenly laughed. “Come quickly!” It said before leaping down to the first floor and waiting silently by the octagonal building’s door.
Humans were the only creatures that could laugh in this world!
Xiao Xia recalled these words for some reason. Perhaps because the cat’s laughter was so weird and sinister, giving her the chills.
She slowly walked to the bed and stroked Wan Li’s face, forcing herself not to cry.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to save you!” She muttered, deciding to give it her all to save him.
Wan Li didn’t show any reaction but his breathing became more urgent. He seemed to be feeling something, but wasn’t able to move or say anything.
“But you’ll have to take care of my parents for me!” Xiao Xia forced a smile and said before standing up firmly. Wan Li didn’t have much time left. There was no time to tarry.
She rubbed her eyes and pulled out the wedding dress bundle from beneath the bed. Then, she found and lit another candle. The candleholder had been thrown out by her so she used the melted wax to fix the candle onto the table. She had hidden the wedding dress upstairs in the afternoon. She had really hoped she wouldn’t need it, but it seemed there was ultimately no avoiding it.
She shook her head, shaking off the negative thoughts in her mind. Then, she swiftly changed while also being on guard against peeping toms. However, the tribal ornaments were too complicated for her and she struggled to put everything in place. She was covered in sweat from anxiety.
She stood by the table, lifting up the copper mirror to make it easier to put everything on. Yet when she saw her own face, which was slightly flushed from anxiety, she felt her mind go numb. Then, her movements no longer seemed to be under her control.
What was happening?
She didn’t know. She only knew she wasn’t able to control her movements anymore.
What was going on?
She didn’t know. Her mind was completely conscious. She could see and feel, yet couldn’t direct her own body. It was like being trapped in a dream, or perhaps like sleep paralysis. Regardless, her mind was conscious yet her body couldn’t move. Well, that wasn’t quite accurate. “She” was moving, yet it was due to some invisible force and not due to her own will.
In the mirror, “Xiao Xia” slowly took off the messy wedding dress, revealing her underwear and beautiful body.
She had an excellent figure. It wasn’t thin on top, plump on the bottom with a flatter chest like that of a stereotypical Asian woman. Instead, it was full and shapely, alluring and sexy, one that would make any man have a huge nosebleed.
She seemed to be admiring herself in front of the mirror, yet the expression on her face was that of shock, unease and fear. She wasn’t able to do anything else. Only her eyes could move as she looked around, afraid of encountering some perverted ghost.
Luckily, she didn’t remain half-naked for too long. “Her hands” once again put on the wedding dress, starting from the innermost layer. Only then did she realize that she had put it on wrong from the very beginning. No wonder she couldn’t get it to fit properly!
A few minutes later, the wedding dress she had struggled with for so long was successfully wrapped around her body. The complicated ornaments were also put in place. Even those embroidered shoes had automatically slipped over her feet as though they were alive. Her swollen right foot didn’t feel tight against the shoes. Everything fit perfectly, as though the outfit had been custom-made for her and awaiting this moment for many years!
She involuntarily took a step and approached the mirror.
The reflection of a tribal bride immediately appeared. The already delicate and pretty features seemed even more beautiful under the candlelight, adorned by the outfit. “She” stroked her own face, seeming very satisfied with herself. She smiled happily.
Xiao Xia wasn’t even able to control her own facial muscles. Seeing “her” happy and expectant appearance, a vision suddenly appeared in her mind…
“Ah Nan, this is a love drug. I won’t force you. You can decide for yourself.” A young girl was speaking. Her fair, delicate hand held an azure little porcelain bottle.
Xiao Xia recognized the girl from the vision at the shrine who had been ringing a bell and dancing.
A man’s hand reached out from beside the girl, taking the bottle without hesitation.
“No, Ah Nan. You have to think it through. I’ll do my best to give you form, but unfortunately it’ll only be at night. You’ll be just a like a medicinal spirit. Furthermore, I don’t need you to repay me. If you really can’t love me, please leave.”
The man called Ah Nan didn’t speak. He merely raised the bottle, using his actions to express his decision.
The girl stopped him once again. After hesitating a long moment, she finally took out a black porcelain bottle from her robes. She sighed and said, “My master left this behind. I don’t know the formula, and it’s the only bottle remaining. I’ll give it to you now. You have to keep it safe. If one day you no longer love me, just dip the claws of a black cat into this powder and eat it. This will dissolve the love drug Gu. That way, you won’t suffer the punishment for your change of heart.”
“You might as well keep it. I won’t need it.” Ah Nan finally spoke. “I will accompany you forever, in life and in death.” Xiao Xia didn’t recognize Ah Nan’s voice but felt it was extremely familiar. There seemed to be an obstruction in her mind that prevented her from putting things together.
“Accompany me forever, in life and in death!” The girl muttered, seeming both sad and happy.
She didn’t take the medicine back, but put it in a secret compartment inside the shrine. Then, she poured a bowl of water and handed it to Ah Nan. He dumped the powder from the azure bottle into his mouth and took a sip of water, swallowing everything down.
“Ah Bai, I will accompany you forever, in life and in death!” Ah Nan once again swore. He turned around.
At that moment, Xiao Xia was a little disappointed. She had thought Ah Nan would be someone she recognized, but unfortunately it wasn’t the case. His face was very unfamiliar. He wasn’t that young, but he was a pretty boy through and through!
“Meow….” A cat’s cry sounded out, seeming exceptionally piercing in the night.
Xiao Xia was startled and the vision faded. She also regained control of her body.
She once again returned to the bedside. She first attached a fanny pack around her waist and then hesitated over whether or not to put the bloodwood sword inside.
She naturally felt safer with it by her side. However, if the other party was human instead of spirit, the bloodwood sword might get snatched away or destroyed. This sword was something Ruan Zhan’s father left for him, and was also an extremely useful tool. She had to keep it safe. Yet if she left it behind, although nothing supernatural could touch it, it would be terrible if someone stole it!
In her anxiety, she had a flash of insight and recalled a place…the secret compartment in the shrine she had seen in her vision.
She hurried to the second floor and focused her intuition on her surroundings. After confirming she wasn’t being spied upon, she went to the secret compartment.
Xiao Xia followed the movements of the girl called Ah Bai in her vision and then held her breath. In less than five seconds, there was a click and the compartment slowly opened.
It turned out the visions were of real events that happened in the past! Did they have anything to do with the matter at hand? What was that young girl Ah Bai trying to tell her?
The outcome was unexpected but also within her expectations, making Xiao Xia space out for a few seconds. Yet she realized this was no time to think about things. She hurriedly put the bloodwood sword inside and returned the shrine to its original state.
“Meow…” Another cat’s cry sounded out, its tone telling her to hurry up.
Xiao Xia was startled, acting like a wrongdoer afraid of getting caught. She hurriedly wiped the sweat from her brow and went downstairs.
There, the black cat was waiting impatiently. Seeing Xiao Xia come out, it turned and darted into the forest. Xiao Xia knew it was leading the way. She didn’t say anything and followed closely behind. This time, Xiao Xia knew it had to take her to that “groom”. Therefore, she wasn’t afraid of losing it and didn’t have to scramble along like last time.
Besides, with her injured foot she wasn’t able to run anyway. She could only limp along behind it.
In the silent forest, the only thing she heard apart from the cries of birds and bugs were her own footsteps.
Step, limp….step, limp….
As she walked, she suddenly realized something was wrong. The sound of her footsteps weren’t so simple anymore. Although it was still a soft step followed by a heavy one, no more and no less, there seemed to be a duplicate pair. Listening closely, there seemed to be an extremely slight lag in between.
Xiao Xia turned her head in shock. There wasn’t anything behind her and the sound had also stopped.
She continued to walk. The footsteps almost perfectly in sync with her own were still there. It was like something was following her. It walked whenever she did, and stopped whenever she did!
This made Xiao Xia involuntarily lose confidence. She felt like an innocent sacrifice being sent to the altar. Who knew how many demons and fiends waited to kill her along the way!
She continued to listen behind her as she walked, and felt those footsteps were growing louder the further in she walked. It was as if there were more and more things following her, and they were getting closer and closer!
She slowed her steps and whirled around once again!
This time, she finally saw what was behind her. There wasn’t anything corporeal. Instead, they were clumps of bright will-o’-wisps that shone ghostly blue. Although they bobbed erratically, they had formed a single-file line behind her. There were around five meters between each one and she couldn’t tell how far back they stretched into the darkness. She just felt the line was very long!
“Well, there has to be a procession for the bride!” A voice suddenly sounded by her ear. She couldn’t see who was speaking but felt he was blowing cold air against her face. This meant that the thing was very close to her, yet she had been completely unaware!
She leapt backwards in shock, flailing her arms yet hitting nothing but the air!
A sinister laughter rang out, over and over again. Those will-o’-wisps also leapt about as if mocking her actions.
A bridal procession?
It was clearly a funeral procession!
What was waiting for her up ahead? Was she going to be the bride of a dead person!? A ghostly bride!?