The stream wasn’t deep. It only reached Xiao Xia’s knees, allowing her to clearly see the woman on the bottom.
It wasn’t just her face that looked the same. Even her body was very similar. She wore a beautiful tribal outfit and on her feet were a pair of embroidered shoes only a bride would wear. Although the outfit was a quite different from Xiao Xia’s, it was actually also wedding attire!
“Tralala, tralala, Yue Xiao Xia, take the fall, teeheehee, teeheehee, Yue Xiao Xia, replace me!” She suddenly opened her mouth and started singing a tune. The familiar voice confirmed that this was indeed the woman she had seen in the water basin last night. It wasn’t an illusion or a different ghost!
The hands around her ankles were crossed at an impossible angle. As Xiao Xia stood stunned at the sudden appearance and the singing, there was a sharp tug and she fell into the water.
Although the stream wasn’t deep, things had happened too suddenly. Xiao Xia was a terrible swimmer to begin with. Therefore, by the time she sat back up, she was choking and coughing repeatedly, completely disoriented.
“Did no one tell you?” That female ghost’s head had stretched silently over from behind her and was now resting against her shoulder. It spoke quietly. “During the last phase of “finding the bride”, one of the bride’s good friends will secretly tell the groom where the bride is hiding. Look at the two of us, we look so alike. We’re basically twins! We’re more intimate than any pair of good friends.”
She looked as if she was lightly snuggling up to Xiao Xia. Any observer would definitely assume they were sisters whispering secrets to each other. Yet as the person involved, Xiao Xia felt as if she were carrying a huge sack of water. It was wet, cold and soft. She struggled to breathe as the weight made it impossible for her to get up.
“What do you want?” Xiao Xia finally managed to force out some words.
“I’m now going to tell the groom that the bride’s in the water!”
“Don’t even think about it!” Xiao Xia couldn’t breathe from the pressure yet her anger caused her to forget her fear. She used all her strength to try and get up but failed several times. The thing on her back felt heavier and heavier, and it was now even hard to turn her head!
“I’ve been beneath the water for so many years! It’s your turn now!” That female ghost let out a muffled laugh. “It’s so nice down here. It’s always so cool and refreshing, so clean. No need to listen to the clamor of the outside world. How nice it is to feel the gentle current every day. How nice!” She stroked the back of Xiao Xia’s head as she spoke, as though looking for a good spot to make her move. Xiao Xia felt her entire back was cold and clammy, with water droplets visibly condensing there. This made all her hairs stand on end but she wasn’t able to get free.
“Just stay in the water peacefully, ok? One year, five years, a decade, a century, unable to move. Let the gentle current corrode your flesh, let the fish and shrimp treat your body as food. Wait until the refreshing coolness becomes endless chill. Wait until the next unfortunate person arrives before you. Then, you can sing the tune to her.” She continued speaking with Schadenfreude. Her gentle tone became desolate and malicious, and the final words were cruel to the extreme!
“Tralala, tralala, Yue Xiao Xia, take the fall, teeheehee, teeheehee, Yue Xiao Xia, replace me!” She sang the tune once again. She increased the force on Xiao Xia’s neck as she did so. No matter how desperately Xiao Xia tried to struggle, she was still gradually pressed into the water!
The cold stream water slowly rose above Xiao Xia’s head, completely cutting off her breath and part of her hearing. Her face drew closer and closer to the bottom as her hands flailed futilely, grabbing wildly, and many thoughts flashed through her mind.
Was she never going to see her parents again? They would be so sad! How would Boss Pan react to her death? Was Wan Li ultimately unable to be saved? Would they meet in the other world? If he was there, perhaps the road to the underworld wouldn’t be quite as scary? Also, what about Ruan Zhan? What was that unfeeling yet fragile man going to do? He never became hers in the end, and would still spend his life isolated. He had the Yinyang Eye, so he would probably be able to see her. How would he treat her? Would he ignore her like other spirits while feeling a bit of pity? Or perhaps they could start a doomed relationship as human and ghost? Was there still an opportunity for her “villages encroaching upon the city” plan in the other world? What was it like over there? Was what Ruan Zhan said really true? Was death just the beginning!?
She never knew people would think about life and death so much when death was imminent. Fear? She was afraid, but her reluctance to leave this world overpowered everything. She didn’t know if this was the case for everyone else. Regardless, it was the case for her.
She had so many unfulfilled wishes. She had so many people she wasn’t willing to leave. Her best friend in the world was waiting for her to save him. She also had the loneliest man in the world waiting for her to warm him. She couldn’t die!
She definitely couldn’t die!
It wasn’t the will of fate, and it wasn’t passing due to old age. It was a ghost that was trying to kill her. No matter how scary it was or how powerful, she would still fight with everything she had!
This thought stirred her spirits. Although she didn’t get any stronger, her mind became much clearer. She immediately recalled those talismans folded in triangles that were in her fanny pack.
There wasn’t any special meaning in those shapes. It was just to differentiate between the different talismans. These ones would summon fire. They would summon those supernatural flames filled with spirit power.
She had fallen into the water earlier and was now being pressed into the stream. Theoretically, those talismans should be soaked and useless. However, her fanny pack was waterproof and Ruan Zhan’s powers were very strong. Perhaps it could rescue her!
Her hand moved almost unconsciously, reaching into the fanny pack. She immediately felt the edge of something. Although she couldn’t tell if it was a triangle anymore and the paper was waterlogged, the shape was still there. Perhaps it would work!
She gripped the talismans tightly in her hand. The thing pressing her down happened to be on the same side. Therefore, without having to think and merely relying on her senses, she turned her hand and stuck everything on that clump of coldness.
“Work! Work!” She desperately chanted in her mind.
There were a few seconds of silence, making her think it hadn’t worked. Then, she heard a muffled scream and felt the force on her head loosen. With a violent heave, she sat up in the water.
She sucked greedily at the fresh air and saw that the left side of the female ghost dressed in wedding attire was burning. She screamed and leapt around in the water. Before long, she turned from a beautiful bride into a skeleton dressed in tattered clothing. Then, just a burnt skeleton and finally a raincoat suspended over nothing.
It turned out she was that raincoat ghost!
Ruan Zhan hadn’t been able to kill her that day, and merely ruined her beguiling appearance and broke her power. She actually managed to escape and find her master, trying to gather her power once more. Although she had yet to succeed, she had more than enough to deal with Xiao Xia.
The raincoat ghost clearly hadn’t expected Xiao Xia to be able to resist under such circumstances. She had assumed Xiao Xia’s flailing was just her final struggles before death, and ended up being struck. Unfortunately the talismans had been soaked and lost some of their effectiveness. Therefore, despite Xiao Xia having used up everything at once, the spellfire was much weaker. It only managed to burn out the ghost’s true appearance before vanishing with a puff.
“I won’t let you get away. You must take my place!” The moment she got free of the talisman’s damage, she immediately shot over while screeching angrily. Her aura was extremely frightening and the raincoat billowed around her furiously!
Xiao Xia was startled. Before she could react, she was covered by the dark shadow.
She instinctively raised her hand to defend herself and thought she was done for. Unexpectedly, the raincoat ghost dropped from midair. Xiao Xia immediately realized she had been heavily injured by the talisman, despite not having been “killed”.
Yet despite this, she was still struck by the raincoat ghost’s assault. She felt a gust of chill wind brushing her face and her entire body felt frozen. She couldn’t control her own body and fell into the water once more.
This time she was face up in the water. She wore the beautiful wedding dress and those embroidered shoes as she stared upwards at the surface in despair!
She looked exactly the same as the raincoat ghost, and was now lying in the same spot and in the same posture. Apart from the clothes being different, it seemed the situation had still unfolded as expected: she had taken the raincoat ghost’s place underwater! She was the replacement after all!
She couldn’t move or breathe, but heard the raincoat ghost say smugly in a weak voice. “The bride is underwater!” She knew that the ghost had gone to inform the mastermind and the bride seeking game was finally over.
She had ultimately still lost!
She felt more and more strained for air. In a blur, she heard the raincoat ghost’s excited cries grow further and further until it completely faded. When she could finally hear nothing apart from the flowing water, she suddenly understood the raincoat ghost’s boundless solitude beneath the water. Then, she slowly closed her eyes!
She felt death approaching!
It actually wasn’t as scary as she imagined, apart from the suffering that felt like an instant yet also like an eternity. She felt darkness, silent yet warm darkness! She was all alone in the world. Although there was no danger, it was still a panicky feeling.
Was this death? But why wasn’t her soul looking down at everything from above? Didn’t those with out-of-body experiences claim that there would be a ray of light? Wasn’t it like a tunnel? Why couldn’t she see it? Was her soul confined in place? Did she really have to take that raincoat ghost’s place and become the next vengeful spirit? Was she also going to become a Gu afflicted ghost without any freewill?
This was much more frightening than death!
She didn’t want to be controlled like a puppet and used to harm other people! She didn’t want to be used, to become an accomplice to the evil person or ghost behind the scenes!
This thought made her start running in the darkness, trying to find the way out. The ground was soft underfoot. She didn’t know if she was stepping on actual ground. There was no sense of time and space, but she still didn’t stop running.
She just wanted to find the exit. Even if that exit led to hell, it was better than becoming a Gu ghost! If that happened, perhaps Ruan Zhan would be the one to kill her in the end. That would be worse than losing everything!
She ran wildly for a while. She didn’t feel tired, but there was also no progress. It was like she was running in place. Right as she was worrying, a huge suction suddenly came from the depths of the darkness. It seemed to be pulling her somewhere!
This made her start panicking. She was terrified that the mastermind was waiting for her in the dark!
At this moment, she was probably the only soul in the world that longed to go to hell!