Although Wan Li couldn’t speak, he let out a muffled cry within his throat while blinking his eyes forcefully. His meaning was a firm refusal of Ruan Zhan’s actions. If this Gu really couldn’t be dissolved, Ruan Zhan was essentially giving up his life in exchange. They were best friends, so there was no way Wan Li would be so selfish!
“Unfortunately, I’m a selfish person.” Ruan Zhan seemed to have heard Wan Li’s thoughts. “I’m also a proud person. I can’t accept being unable to keep a promise I made. That would seriously hurt my self-esteem. For my emotional wellbeing, I’ll have to ignore your feelings.” He moved Wan Li’s foot over as he spoke, and cut a deep gash where the Death Gu had entered.
Wan Li couldn’t move or speak, but he could still feel. He started sweating from the pain.
“Endure it. Don’t be such a wimp!” Ruan Zhan pretended to mock him.
This Gu was very powerful. He had to make the cut deep for it to work. There also wasn’t time to help Wan Li numb the pain. Despite this, the wound only bled a tiny bit, unlike the torrent of blood that should have come out. This made Ruan Zhan involuntarily recall Huang Bo Heng’s corpse.
Who was the true mastermind behind everything? Was it Yang Mu You? He seemed to be the only suspect, but Ruan Zhan felt the methods didn’t seem to fit!
If there really was another mysterious person, this person was too powerful! Not only could he control plants and animals, cast Death Gu and Ghost Gu, he even used Huang Bo Heng as a false front!
Normally speaking, Huang Bo Heng was already very powerful. Unfortunately his opponent had been Ruan Zhan, and his fearful state during battle had made him seem rather lacking.
When they were attacked at the wilderness inn, the feeling had been completely different. Although Ruan Zhan had managed to resolve things that time, he felt that the opponent was merely probing them. It felt like a casual display of skill and not an all-out attack.
Huang Bo Heng had admitted to being responsible for everything. He didn’t seem to covering for someone, and didn’t seem to be acting under orders. He truly believed he had been the orchestrator of everything. From the looks of things, he had been the borrowed sword. The questions was: who was wielding the sword? What was the point of it all? Why did this person help Huang Bo Heng behind the scenes but abandon him in the end?
This made him recall a sort of Japanese puppetry technique. A skilled user could make a puppet accomplish his goals while taking any resulting damage. He felt that the opponent this time was using a similar method. However, this true mastermind had clearly trained this sort of manipulation technique to greater heights.
If his reasoning was correct, Huang Bo Heng was a puppet of the mastermind. This puppet wasn’t crafted from other materials, but was made using the corpse as the main ingredient. Moreover, there was a “heart” constructed with some sort of witchcraft!
Not only did that person bring Huang Bo Heng to “life”, he also made him think he had his own free will and motivations. Huang Bo Heng hadn’t realized he was a puppet at all. What an advanced technique!
He didn’t think that this matter had to do with the Japanese again. Japanese techniques mostly felt rather rigid. Yet this person’s methods were diverse and even exquisite. His schemes were also profound, unlike Yang Mu You, who was cautious yet arrogant. It made him feel this mastermind had no weaknesses and gave him no openings.
But what was the goal of the person behind Huang Bo Heng? How was this related to them?
He had given Huang Bo Heng such a lavish life. Was he living in greater luxury or did he not care about wealth? Was it Zhang Qun? No, impossible. From his analysis, Zhang Qun had already been possessed by Yang Mu You.
This matter had seemed to be clearing up, but with this turn of events it was once again a mess. They were back to square one.
The only key to this mystery was that weirdo Ah Wu. However, they couldn’t rely on this clue even if she knew the whole story. From Huang Bo Heng’s words, it seems she was very afraid and wouldn’t dare reveal the truth. Therefore, they had to rely on their own strength to peel off the layers of fog surrounding this matter before they could find the answer.
Ruan Zhan’s thoughts were chaotic but his hands never stopped moving. He cut a similarly deep wound in his own palm and mixed his blood with Wan Li’s. Then, he took off Wan Li’s clothing, leaving only his underwear. Using the mixed blood, he repeatedly drew a strange symbol from his foot to the top of his head.
After finishing his preparations, he took a deep breath and grabbed Wan Li’s foot. He stuck their wounds together.
“Don’t try to resist. It’ll put us in greater danger!” Ruan Zhan ignored Wan Li’s muffled protests. “If we both die, there will be no one left to keep Xiao Xia company.”
Wan Li was sweating from anxiety. He knew he couldn’t stop Ruan Zhan. He had never been able to talk him out of anything. Despite his indifferent exterior, Ruan Zhan was more reckless than anyone once his mind was made up!
He watched as Ruan Zhan sat cross-legged, the wound on his left hand still stuck to Wan Li’s foot. He closed his eyes and his lips moved. His index and middle finger on his right hand was extended, pointing between Wan Li’s brows. After a moment of stillness, he started making a pulling gesture.
Although there wasn’t anything material, Ruan Zhan seemed to be pulling very heavily. At the same time, Wan Li felt a threadlike object being pulled from within his body. Or rather, it was more like a snake hidden within his body. This “snake” writhed and wasn’t willing to leave, trying to burrow even deeper. Yet Ruan Zhan remained firm.
Wan Li suffered a lot during this experience. However, even if he didn’t want Ruan Zhan to give his life for him, he knew this matter couldn’t be aborted halfway. Otherwise, both of them would suffer harm!
Thinking of this, he no longer hesitated. He did his best to will the snake in his body towards Ruan Zhan. At the same time, he felt Ruan Zhan pulling even harder.
At this moment, if his soul could leave his body, he would see a black thread under his skin, moving from his head towards his foot. Under their combined strength, the black thread caused the skin to bulge as it passed by, seeming extremely eerie!
After some time passed, the “snake” was finally pulled out, making him involuntarily scream in pain.
As he screamed, he realized he was able to speak again!
“Must have been rough for a chatterbox like you to be unable to speak for two days!” Ruan Zhan was pale but his expression was extremely gratified.
He sensed that the Gu within Wan Li was completely grafted on his own body. In the end, he had preserved his friend’s life. In the end, he was able to accomplish Xiao Xia’s wish. She wished for Wan Li to be fine, so he gave her a whole and healthy Wan Li.
Wan Li stirred and sensed his body was a little stiff. He knew it was a temporary effect of the domineering Gu. Therefore, he slowly adjusted his condition and sat up after a while.
Seeing him recover rather well, Ruan Zhan relaxed. He spat out a mouthful of blood.
“Stop forcing it.” Wan Li saw Ruan Zhan standing up shakily and hurriedly stopped him. “Rest for a bit. We’ll check later to see how foolish your actions were.”
“Put on your clothes first.” Ruan Zhan struggled to sit on the bed and wiped the blood from his mouth.
“Afraid others will think we are…that? If that were the case, since I’m bigger than you, I’m definitely the top. You’d be the bottom!” Wan Li joked, but his expression was solemn. This was his nature. The more difficult and dangerous the situation, the more he wanted to joke around. It made him relax, which allowed him to think of solutions easier.
“If I knew you’d be so chatty the moment you recovered, I would have let you die.”
“I was planning to die. Why didn’t you mind your own business!? Are…you alright?”
“The Gu naturally became a little stronger after being grafted.” Ruan Zhan didn’t hide things from Wan Li. “However, I am able to suppress it for a while. We’re able to buy a little time this way.”
“Time? How long?”
“I don’t know.”
“You might drop dead at any time!” Wan Li put on his clothes. “That’s even worse than my situation. At least I knew how much time I had left.”
“I might not die for sure.”
“I’ve always hoped for the best while planning for the worst.” Wan Li furrowed his brows. “I knew you were going to screw me over at some point, you bastard. If you really die for me this time, I won’t be able to live properly for the rest of my life. This was really a dumb move on your part. I have no special abilities so I’m not a decisive piece in this matter. If you die, it means Xiao Xia and I won’t be able to escape the enemy’s grasp. You did your best to save me, but might end up killing all three of us. You’re normally so rational and calm, why so foolish this time? This isn’t worth it.”
“There are no rational people in the world. Reason only applies to things that aren’t so important.” Ruan Zhan said calmly. “If you died, what would be the point of winning? I want you to return as safely as you arrived!”
“You’re really pissing me off with those words. We’ve been friends for so many years. Why are you splitting hairs?”
“You don’t get it.” Ruan Zhan said. “The enemy is currently hidden while we are exposed. The entire matter is a mess. If you died, have you considered how much it would affect my mental state, and how sad Xiao Xia would be? We’d all be in a mess, and there would be even less hope of victory.”
“I don’t see how you dying would give us a better chance of victory.”
“It isn’t certain that I will die. Even if I did, I should still have the power to protect you since I wasn’t an ordinary person in life. Therefore, no matter if I live or die, it wouldn’t affect things too much.”
“Were you thinking that dying might make it easier to solve this matter?” Wan Li glared at Ruan Zhan doubtfully. “I don’t know what happened while I was unconscious for two days. Is the enemy really that strong?”
“Just shut up. Am I some weakling?” Ruan Zhan raised his brows arrogantly. “No matter how strong he is, I wouldn’t be so lame as to kill myself! I’m just saying that in case I really kick the bucket, it won’t affect you and Xiao Xia. I can still protect you guys.”
“Won’t affect?” Wan Li retorted. “Do you think Xiao Xia wouldn’t be sad?”
Hearing her name, Ruan Zhan felt a trace of reluctance in his heart. However, he forcibly suppressed that sort of emotion. He didn’t have too many opportunities to make choices in this matter, and didn’t have the qualifications to feel weakness. His only choice was to face death. This was the best allocation of resources. Even if he died, he would still be the best defense against the enemy. He had at least this much confidence!
“If someone has to die this time, then just let her grieve once.” Ruan Zhan looked calmly at Wan Li. “Do you trust my father’s words?”
“He said you will definitely encounter calamity due to your curious nature. However, he also said you will live long. See, everything has come to pass as predicted. You’ve encountered calamity, but there was a way to resolve it and you will live a long life.”
“What do you mean?” Wan Li was a little confused. He kept getting the feeling that Ruan Zhan was leaving behind his last words.
“I also trust my father’s words. His predictions have never been wrong before. He said I will encounter a ‘calamity of threes’.” Seeing Wan Li’s confused expression, Ruan Zhan explained, “As you know, I was born on the third day of the third month. The ‘calamity of threes’ means that before my thirty-third birthday, I will encounter a huge calamity that I am unlikely to avoid. Unless…”
“Unless what?” Wan Li asked urgently. He had extreme faith in Ruan Zhan’s father. If the elder had truly said this, Ruan Zhan might really be in huge trouble!
“It’s nothing. Now’s not the time to discuss this.” Ruan Zhan stood up. “I’ll go check on Xiao Xia. Then, we can discuss our next step.
Wan Li opened his mouth but his question remained unspoken. He watched as Ruan Zhan went downstairs. Although he knew they were still in danger, he was completely stunned by this “calamity of threes.”
He understood Ruan Zhan’s meaning. He was saying that since he didn’t have long to live anyway, they had to leave someone by Xiao Xia’s side who could protect her. Otherwise, she would have to grieve over losing both the men important to her.
He was the same age as Ruan Zhan. Wasn’t next year his thirty-third birthday? Ruan Zhan’s father had passed away while he was in high school. He had actually kept this to himself for so many years! It turns out there was such a large mountain weighing on his heart. The one with a blade hanging above his head was actually Ruan Zhan! Wan Li had called himself his best friend. He was really unworthy!
No wonder Ruan Zhan never let anyone get close. No wonder he didn’t accept Xiao Xia’s feelings. It turns out he didn’t want to form any emotional attachments. He didn’t wish to have anyone suffer if he wasn’t able to avoid his fate.
Ruan Zhan mentioning it now was probably to give him a heads up! He wanted him to take good care of Xiao Xia. He was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their happiness.
“Is there a need to be so noble!?” He muttered. Although his tone was light, his expression was extremely stern.
At this moment, he understood that Xiao Xia hadn’t just melted Ruan Zhan’s heart. He loved her! He just kept it inside and never said anything!
As he thought of this, he made up his mind. Just like how Ruan Zhan did everything to save him, he would also help Ruan Zhan. Otherwise, what was the point of having friends!
He would help him! He had to help him!
However, the danger at hand still had to be resolved first. There was still over a year until Ruan Zhan’s “calamity of threes”. There was still time. The current matter was more pressing. However, Wan Li kept getting the feeling he knew who the mastermind was. Before he fell unconscious, he seemed to have seen that person’s face.
But for some reason, he couldn’t remember. Whenever he tried he would get a piercing headache. It was like an eggbeater inside his head. Was it a side-effect of the Death Gu?
He cradled his head as he racked his brains, but it was still no use!
It was after midnight. Wan Li had managed to survive, but Xiao Xia was currently experiencing another vision.