“We’re arranging a marriage!” This was the first thing Ruan Zhan said after getting back.
“Who are you marrying?” Wan Li was baffled. “Are you following Yang Mu You’s example? Did some tribal beauty catch your eye?”
“It’s a wedding for you and Xiao Xia.”
“That….well I’m very willing. I just don’t know if my little bride will agree.” Wan Li tilted his chin and smiled at Xiao Xia as he spoke.
“Alright, I agree. But what’s the plan?” Xiao Xia knew Ruan Zhan wouldn’t just randomly say something like this. It must be part of his strategy to defeat Guan Zheng. Therefore, she responded without thinking.
“We can’t wait for him to come. We have to lure him out. That way we’ll have the initiative. We must be able to choose the time, location and outcome.” Ruan Zhan said.
His Gu had erupted a minute ago once again. The pain wasn’t the only issue. It also meant his control was slipping. Therefore, he had to quickly deal with Guan Zheng.
Waiting for the best opportunity would only allow their powerful opponent to come armed to the teeth. There was no benefit to it. Forcing him to make a hurried move, without any time to arrange traps, would give them some advantage. This was like in martial arts, where speed is king. Therefore, they had to be quick and seize the initiative.
“But Guan Zheng is no fool. Will he take the bait?” Xiao Xia was worried.
“He’s not just no fool. He’s actually very shrewd. Otherwise, he couldn’t have set up such a ruse. Perverts usually all have high IQs.” Wan Li laughed lightly. “However, his urge to possess is too strong. Despite knowing it’s a trap, he will still step in it. He definitely wouldn’t allow a repeat of the situation where a woman he has his eyes on tries to marry another man. He would rather die. Might as well grant him his wish.”
“That’s right. However, he will still make careful preparations. We must do the same.” Ruan Zhan said. “We’ll see who has the last laugh.”
“If he ends up being a pussy and doesn’t come steal the bride, shouldn’t this wedding count?” Wan Li asked half-jokingly. “It that’s the case, you’ll have come as Miss Yue and will return as Mrs. Wan. We can’t make false vows in front of the god of all things after all. Otherwise, we’ll enrage the heavens.”
Ugh, this guy!
Xiao Xia wanted to respond. Her mouth hung open for a while but she finally let out a long sigh and didn’t speak. Her head almost dropped to the floor in helplessness. She really couldn’t do anything about him. The more important the moment, the more he joked around. Even if the sky collapsed he would probably use it as a blanket.
“Don’t look at him. He can’t be your groom.” Seeing Xiao Xia look towards Ruan Zhan, Wan Li explained. “He must play the role of the trump card.”
Ruan Zhan couldn’t help but meet Xiao Xia’s gaze for a second, but he immediately looked away. “I found a treasure in the woods. Can you guess what it is?”
“What a coincidence. Xiao Xia and I also found a treasure. We can play a guessing game to pass my last night as a bachelor.”
The wedding was set for the next evening.
There were only three people present: the groom, the bride and the witness.
This was a strange wedding. Apart from “seeking the bride”, they didn’t know what other customs the Su Su tribe had for their weddings. They could only proceed with a perfunctory Chinese wedding.
The red tablecloth and relatively sumptuous food was brought over from the village by Ruan Zhan. The groom and the witness were in t-shirts, jeans and sneakers. Only the bride was dressed-up a little with a thin layer of makeup and wearing the wedding dress of memories and embroidered shoes Witch Doctor Ah Bai had made.
“Are you purposefully trying to attract me?” Wan Li looked Xiao Xia up and down. Her face was fair, her eyes bright and her lips glistening and tender. “Didn’t expect a lass like you to be quite something when you dress up.”
“Obviously. I was always someone loved and adored by all! Besides, even if it’s fake, this is still my first time being married off. I naturally have to treat it more seriously.”
“Don’t you say a word!” Wan Li took a step back. “Your image is immediately ruined the moment you speak. So fierce! Ah Zhan, what say you?”
“It proves that she is without a doubt Xiao Xia.” Ruan Zhan let out a rare smile. “It also proves she hasn’t been possessed or replaced by someone!”
He had noticed Xiao Xia’s beautiful appearance, but he wouldn’t look a second time. Not only did it make his heart thump wildly, it also made him feel a stab of jealousy.
This fake wedding had been arranged by him. It was just a trap, but seeing her linking arms with another man, smiling charmingly, still made him feel a little uncomfortable. Even if that man was his best friend.
The first time he met her, he didn’t think he would fall in love with such an immature woman. Therefore, he didn’t put his guard up and caution his heart. Yet once she boldly barged into the deepest parts of his thoughts and put him at a loss, it was too late for him to resist.
He didn’t know what he loved about her. Kindness? Sincerity? Passion? Innocence? Silliness? Regardless, she had caused his heart to melt.
“That’s true.” Wan Li interrupted Ruan Zhan’s state of mind. “I’d feel uneasy if she acted gentle and shy. Looks like men truly are scumbags!”
Ruan Zhan was going to reply when he suddenly felt something wasn’t right. His hairs stood on end. It wasn’t fear, but rather excitement and vigilance.
They were currently on the third floor of the octagonal building. However, they had taken apart the bamboo bed and brought the altar upstairs. Apart from the stuff prepared for the wedding in the room, sitting on the altar was a statue of the god of all things, borrowed from the devout village chief’s house.
The statue was carved from blackened wood. It was very blocky, and looked like a shield at first glance.
“Let’s begin. The weather is changing.” Ruan Zhan surreptitiously signaled Wan Li with his eyes.
Wan Li understood. He pulled Xiao Xia by the hand towards the altar. Feeling her hand trembling, he gripped it tightly and gave her a warm smile, lessening her nervousness.
“Do we need to do the kowtows to heaven and earth, to our parents and then to each other as husband and wife?” Wan Li asked in a relaxed manner, taking a glance out the window.
Outside, the sky had turned completely dark. There was no moonlight. The sky was a turbid, reddish-brown that gave a heavy sense of pressure. It was as if the world had shrunk until only the silent forest was left, like a green ocean. The octagonal building was a lonely island within the endless waves.
“No need for such ceremony. It’s enough as long as the two of you love each other.” Ruan Zhan took a few steps back as he spoke, standing at a preselected position. From there he could observe all the windows while facing the door.
He had just gotten in place when a gust of wind started blowing.
It had started very abruptly and didn’t come from a specific direction. Instead, it seemed to be coming from everywhere at once. Furthermore, it wasn’t the comfortable breeze of a summer night. It was sporadic like breathing, sometimes strong and sometimes weak. Sometimes it was like someone blowing in your ear while sometimes it was fierce enough to cause the dust, leaves and grass on the ground to swirl around.
“Is there a need for such spectacle? Like the passing of dragons and tigers spawning rain and wind.” Wan Li grumbled quietly.
Ruan Zhan made a shushing gesture. He drew a symbol in the air and Xiao Xia felt a wave of dizziness. Then, footsteps rang out.
The newcomer walked firmly and cautiously, as if not wanting to be discovered. However, his steps rang extremely clearly in Xiao Xia’s ears. She knew this was caused by Ruan Zhan’s Sound Revealing Talisman. This sort of talisman supposedly amplifies the tiniest sound manifold. As for how many times louder, it depended on the spirit power of the person who drew it. During their preparations today, she had helped Ruan Zhan sprinkle the talisman ashes downstairs.
The bamboo stairs let out a suppressed creak. The person had clearly passed through the first floor and was starting up the stairs!
Xiao Xia reached into the wax pouch slung across her shoulder and gripped the object Ruan Zhan had given her tightly. Her heart was about to leap out from her throat and she didn’t even dare to breathe loudly. She looked over at Wan Li and Ruan Zhan. One looked relaxed as if he was playing hide and seek. The other looked calm and unperturbed, as if uncaring of the imminent danger. She couldn’t help but curse herself for being useless.
The creaking rang out continuously as the person slowly reached the second floor.
He stopped there for a moment as if in disbelief that the altar had been moved. He also seemed surprised that there were no traps on the first two floors, and lingered there unwilling to advance.
After around five minutes of silence, a rustling sound was heard. It sounded like something was crawling along the ground. Then came the sound of disorderly footsteps. He was clearly casting a spell to scout the way. This happened three times as the person confirmed there was truly no danger. Then, he slowly walked up to the third floor.
He stopped cautiously at the door once again, seeming to be peeping through the cracks of the bamboo door. Yet when he saw that Wan Li and Xiao Xia were kowtowing to the god of all things, seeming about to complete the ceremony and become lawfully wedded, he suddenly pushed the door open fiercely and practically charged inside.
“No longer afraid?” Ruan Zhan’s mocking voice rang out.
“You think I don’t know it’s a trap? But what would I be afraid of?”
It was really Guan Zheng!
Despite having known this, Xiao Xia still found it hard to believe at this moment. Although she had never liked him, she always thought he was an upright person. She had greatly admired him. Now, this impression was completely overturned.
As the saying goes, one may know a person for a long time without understanding his true nature. One can never judge a book by its cover!
Who would have thought an overly-righteous lawyer who worked at a non-profit law firm without caring about money and status was actually someone who used despicable and filthy means to seize wealth, rob others of love and slaughter innocents. He was scum who even killed his own parents!
“You knew it’s a trap?” Ruan Zhan asked despite knowing the answer. “Then why did you still come?”
“You clearly know. Didn’t you use this to lure me out?” Guan Zheng sneered coldly and looked towards Xiao Xia.
“It’s fine regardless why you came. Anyone who shows up is a guest!” Wan Li joked. “However, if you’re here to attend my wedding, please stand to the side. My wife and I are about to finalize the process. It’s weird if you stand in the center. It’s like you’re offering yourself up as a sacrifice.”
It was still fine when Guan Zheng didn’t look at Wan Li. The moment he did, he recalled Wan Li acting all kinds of intimate with Xiao Xia and recalled him claiming to be her boyfriend. His anger immediately flared. He swung his hand and flung a green orb at Wan Li while quickly throwing another at Ruan Zhan with his other hand.
Wan Li didn’t expect this sudden move and was struck instantly. Before he could cry out, the green object exploded with a crack that blew a gaping hole in his chest. Blood splattered everywhere as he immediately fell to the ground. Ruan Zhan was a little further away but he was also caught off-guard. He cut a sorry figure as he dodged, rolling all the way to the inner corner of the room. As if injured, he tried to get up several times without succeeding.
“Far too lacking!” Guan Zheng glanced at Ruan Zhan, repeating Ruan Zhan’s words to Huang Bo Heng that day. This revealed his petty nature without a doubt.
“Wan Li!” Xiao Xia screamed and pounced over next to him. She had been standing further inwards, but had run out to examine his injuries. Since Wan Li had fallen towards Guan Zheng, she practically ran right in front of him.
Guan Zheng wasn’t going to stand on ceremony and pulled Xiao Xia over. He placed her under his control.
“Let go of me! You bastard, pervert, homicidal maniac! Let me check on him! Let me go!” Xiao Xia cried and screamed without taking a breath.
Guan Zheng ignored Xiao Xia’s desperate struggling and said disdainfully. “I created those explosives with vines and the will-o’-wisps of corpses. It can be as hard as I want it to be, and burrows into the flesh to explode, causing rapid decay. He’s dead for sure!”
“You can’t kill him!”
“You can’t kill him!” Xiao Xia and Ruan Zhan’s voice rang out at the same time.
“Why not? No one can take away what’s mine. Anyone who tries will die!” Guan Zheng gritted his teeth and looked at Wan Li.
Wan Li writhed in pain on the floor, unable to cry out. Guan Zheng looked down at him from above, admiring his rival in love’s tragic state. Xiao Xia suddenly fell silent and dropped into his arms as if she had fainted.
Guan Zheng instinctively wrapped an arm around her, but as his arm made contact he felt something wasn’t right. Her slender waist should have been soft and warm, yet something was pressing painfully against his arm. He thought it might be something she had wrapped around her waist, but was shocked when he looked down.
The cute girl he was obsessed over was twisting and shrinking, like a deflating balloon that soon withered and shriveled. The weight in his arms also lightened and the beautiful wedding dress vanished without a trace, leaving behind a vine.
“You can control plants, right? So can I.” Ruan Zhan’s cold voice rang out from next to Guan Zheng. His limp form was no longer in the corner. It had also been a vine.
Before Guan Zheng could respond, the vine in his hand suddenly started moving. It slithered up his arm and onto his body like a snake. As Ruan Zhan moved his finger, it started winding around his body and swiftly constricted, wrapping him up like a package.
At the same time, something pulled hard at his legs, making him fall to the floor. Wan Li had also turned into a vine that bound his legs securely.
“I said you were like a sacrifice, right? Do you realize it now?” Wan Li’s voice rang out from Guan Zheng’s other side.
“Where is Xiao Xia?” He yelled.
“Right here.” On the altar across from him, Xiao Xia was looking at him loathingly. “You disgust me. You’re still trying to harm people at this stage!”
“Impressive. So it was an illusion!” Guan Zheng laughed sinisterly as he lay on the floor. “I knew it wouldn’t be so easy to deal with you guys, but I still thought my ambush had succeeded. So be it. It wouldn’t be fun if it was too easy.”
He laughed loudly, an incomprehensible spell contained within his laughter. Before the sound faded, he actually rose into the air.