There was a bang and debris trickled down from above.
Ruan Zhan, Wan Li and Xiao Xia instinctively stepped backwards and looked up.
A small hole the size of a bowl had appeared in the roof. A vine had lowered itself into the room like a weirdly long arm and lifted Guan Zheng up into the air.
“Are you the only ones who can make preparations?” He looked down at Ruan Zhan from above. “The spells you know are still far from sufficient!”
“Don’t panic! Stay in position.” Ruan Zhan ignored Guan Zheng’s arrogant hollering and instructed calmly.
Hearing his voice, Xiao Xia calmed down and firmly stepped back to her assigned position.
When she had felt dizzy a moment ago, she understood Ruan Zhan had cast a spell. Although the three had indeed been standing in front of the altar when the wedding started, the moment Guan Zheng arrived Ruan Zhan had used a modified version of the space-warping technique to move them to their arranged positions. What replaced them at the altar were the enchanted vines he had prepared in advance.
It was clear Ruan Zhan was truly a genius in the Daoist arts. During critical moments, he was not only able to come up with a good strategy, he could also unleash more of his potential. Without a proper teacher, he was able to merge his father’s past teachings with his own understanding.
Controlling plants and animals was a type of witchcraft, something Ruan Zhan wasn’t proficient in. However, he had used spells to supplement, along with the illusion technique he was very good at. This allowed him to create a false image that took advantage of Guan Zheng’s attitude. It actually fooled Guan Zheng and caused him to suffer a loss from the get go.
“However, our acting was pretty good.” Wan Li said unconcernedly. “We were just doing the voiceovers, but didn’t you still fall for it?”
Guan Zheng sneered coldly and started chanting again. A few seconds later, thumping noises rang out from the roof. The vines constricting Guan Zheng split apart piece by piece and fell to the floor, allowing him to quickly escape his restraints.
He hung furiously from the vine coming through the roof and flung his other hand out. A strange red vine shot out from his sleeve and swept towards Xiao Xia.
Xiao Xia didn’t move a muscle. Ruan Zhan had said as long as she remained in place, she could leave the rest to him!
The moment the red vine reached Xiao Xia’s waist, a black sword suddenly shot through the air and sliced the vine squarely in half. It was Ruan Zhan wielding the bloodwood sword.
That red vine seemed to be alive as it writhed in pain on the floor after being severed. The upper half curled up like a snake, the severed end pointed towards Ruan Zhan. The lower half fell from Xiao Xia’s waist and swiftly withered after wriggling a little.
“Petty tricks.” Ruan Zhan laughed lightly and stepped back into his original spot.
“Really?” Guan Zheng refused to admit defeat. “I’m taking her with me today. Are you able to stop me?”
“Don’t write checks with your mouth that your ass can’t cash. You should escape before saying anything. I won’t hand my wife over, no matter what.” Wan Li provoked him again.
“She isn’t yours. She will never be yours. Besides, I can easily leave whenever I want.” Guan Zheng was incomparably arrogant. “What can you do if I leave through the roof?”
“You can try.” Ruan Zhan was still cool.
“No need to try, you lot don’t have the qualifications. Did you truly think I fell for your tricks? I was just playing around with you.”
“Playing around at hanging from the roof like a sausage?” Wan Li laughed. “You really know how to play.”
Guan Zheng became enraged. He reached into his robes to pull out Gu insects, but before he could make the next move Ruan Zhan had already drawn a whirlpool-shaped symbol with his right hand, flicking it towards Guan Zheng before pointing at the ground.
Guan Zheng suddenly felt a strong force pulling him towards the ground. There was nothing to be seen, but he felt as if his feet were filled with lead. The force grew stronger and stronger, like there was an invisible whirlpool on the floor that threatened to swallow him. He was forced to grab onto the vine with both hands to prevent himself from falling.
He cried out and started chanting in a foreign language. The red vine from his sleeve also started shifting strangely. It tried to attack the three people below but was sucked away by the invisible force once it lowered itself. It was unable to reach its targets after repeated attempts.
Guan Zheng’s arms seemed no longer able to keep him from falling. He hurriedly blew a sharp whistle. The red vine seemed to understand his command and suddenly shot backwards. It pierced the roof like a third arm and temporarily held him in place.
The silent Xiao Xia felt goosebumps all over at seeing this. Although Guan Zheng was using witchcraft, his moves seemed especially weird and sinister. How did the gentle and kind Witch Doctor Ah Bai end up with such an apprentice?
Although she didn’t understand, she still knew that this was a life or death struggle. Ruan Zhan’s potential had yet to be fully unleashed. Therefore, in terms of absolute strength, he was at a disadvantage. Luckily he had made careful arrangements. Hopefully it was enough to make up the difference.
Guan Zheng was no fool and had naturally prepared as well. Now that the situation was in a deadlock, the outcome was uncertain!
Seeing Guan Zheng resolving his predicament by a little, Ruan Zhan decided to increase the strength of his spell. He drew the same whirlpool-shaped symbol with his left hand and pointed towards the floor.
Guan Zheng currently had the high ground advantage. He definitely couldn’t be allowed to free up his hands to cast his witchcraft. Ruan Zhan had to keep up the pressure or they would lose the initiative.
Since he had made up his mind, the whirlpool spell’s power naturally multiplied. The house creaked and cracked as the suction from the floor sucked in the loosened bamboo and building materials from the hole in the roof. It looked as if a gust of dusty rain was sweeping in. Before the debris could fall to the floor, it was flung away by the invisible whirlpool’s centripetal force. Hair and clothing were also flapping in the wind. They had to exert all their strength to keep their balance.
“Might as well come down. Otherwise, you’re going to end up like a sausage slipping out of its casing.” Wan Li said mockingly. “There’s still a young lady down here. It would be a disgrace if an almost seventy-year old got naked!”
Because he knew Wan Li and Xiao Xia were close, Guan Zheng found it exceptionally hard to stomach whenever Wan Li spoke. Especially since Wan Li’s remarks were so cutting, pissing him off immediately. He let go and fell to the floor. Due to the force of the whirlpool, he landed heavily with a crash.
With Guan Zheng back on the floor, he had lost the high ground. The situation was once again under Ruan Zhan’s control and things were proceeding as planned. He immediately withdrew his hands.
Once he stopped casting the spell, the suction also immediately vanished.
“Welcome to the four-way formation.” He said.
Guan Zheng climbed up looking wretched and exceptionally humiliated. Ever since he started learning witchcraft, he had never suffered such a loss. It was always him controlling others. When had it ever been his turn to be on the losing end? This spawned extreme hatred in his heart and his eyes turned red. However, due to his many years of cultivation, his face still remained very calm.
“He was right. You are someone who becomes stronger when you encounter a strong opponent. Truly, not easy to deal with. You actually managed to make me suffer a loss twice, without being able to retaliate.” He smiled. “But you also can’t do anything to me. Furthermore, I’m growing more and more interested. I initially planned on just taking Xiao Xia away and leave the rest of you alive. Since you don’t appreciate my kindness, don’t blame me for being inconsiderate.”
Before Ruan Zhan could respond, Wan Li started laughing first.
“Are you done? You don’t even need to rehearse your lies before spouting them? What’s more impressive is that long-suffering expression of yours. There’s no way you were going to let us off. We all know the outcome of anyone who crosses you. If you’re going to be a villain, just do it openly. We’d at least be impressed by your frankness. Hypocrites are the worst.”
“I don’t need you to judge me. You’re just a pretty-boy who makes money by chatting with people!”
“You’re making me sound like someone who works nights.” Wan Li continued to provoke him unconcernedly. Although Guan Zheng was an experienced person, Wan Li was confident in his ability to make him lose it and gain the initiative for his side.
This was what Ruan Zhan had asked of him. He wasn’t afraid of Guan Zheng attacking in anger. He was afraid of things dragging out. His plan had a time limit.
“At least I don’t have to force people. I’m confident in my ability to get fulfillment through other methods. You? What else can you do besides kill people? We know everything about you. No need to put on a sanctimonious appearance. It’s really quite disgusting.”
Guan Zheng glared at Wan Li and didn’t speak.
Although Wan Li was beaming, he was completely on guard. When Guan Zheng attacked his illusion earlier, he had witnessed it. It was extremely fast, and he might not be able to dodge even if he was completely focused. Therefore, he couldn’t be distracted.
“Since I’m so evil, what do you all plan on doing?” Guan Zheng squinted his eyes, his gaze flickering dangerously. He looked around before his eyes fell on Ruan Zhan. “Where’s the four-way formation that’s supposed to greet me? There’s only three of you!”
Ruan Zhan didn’t respond. He merely gestured with his hand. The wide-open door to the room slammed shut before them as if it was pushed heavily by someone.
Behind the door was the statue of the god of all things. There was a small embroidered pouch hanging on one side. The pouch was already quite worn, and it looked just like those pouches made by tribal teenage girls to express their affection.
Three people and one object guarding each corner. Wasn’t this a four-way formation?
This was what Ruan Zhan had decided to go with after pondering for a long time. Guan Zheng was very powerful. They couldn’t win unless they combined their strength.
His father had taught him many things that he just kept in his head as theories without ever applying them. This time, after considering their manpower, the environment, their opponent and many other factors, he ended up deciding to use this formation.
Unfortunately, the four-way formation required four people. They only had three, and he was the only one with powers. He had done his best to make up for it, hoping to wipe Guan Zheng out in the end.
“That’s the fourth point of the four-way formation?” Guan Zheng scoffed disdainfully. “I’m not even afraid of the god of all things. Did you think a piece of wood and a…what is that?”
“Something your master left behind.” Ruan Zhan responded.
Guan Zheng froze for a moment. The image of a beautiful, kind, fairy-like woman flashed across his mind. It actually spawned an indescribable sense of guilt in his heart. Yet it was just a fleeting thought and he swiftly recovered.
“It seems you guys know everything.”
“Of course. If there’s anything you’ve forgotten, I’d be happy to remind you. You’re an old man after all. I have no idea how you maintained the appearance of someone in his thirties.” Wan Li said.
“My master’s remnants are of no use against me either!”
“Is that so? Why don’t you try breaking the formation?” Ruan Zhan made an inviting gesture.
Before his voice fell, Guan Zheng suddenly leapt up like a frog, landing in front of Xiao Xia. He immediately flung out the same ball of vines he had used against Wan Li’s illusion.
He didn’t know how many traps had been arranged inside the octagonal building. However, he realized he had been too overconfident. Afraid it wouldn’t be advantageous for him to remain here, he hurriedly tried to head downstairs. Outside in the wilderness, there would be a large amount of plants and animals. He would be like a fish in the water. It wouldn’t be like the indoors where there wasn’t even a single tree. He was a child of the woods after all.
The four-way formation required someone to hold each of the cardinal directions. Looking at the blood-red talismans on each of the four walls, he knew they empowered the formation. Just having four people stand in place would be useless.
This wasn’t a formation that relied on physical means, but rather one of magic. It relied primarily on magic, sorcery, willpower and technique. To break it required breaking through one of the directions.
Of the four, Ruan Zhan’s side was undoubtedly the strongest. Although Guan Zheng believed his powers to be above Ruan Zhan’s, his pervious performance was sufficient to put him on alert. He didn’t wish to force things. After all, he wasn’t launching a desperate assault. He was just trying to relocate to better terrain.
As for the second side, despite Wan Li being an ordinary human, he had brute force and overflowing Yang energy. Furthermore, under his smiling expression hid extremely shrewd schemes. He also wouldn’t be easy to deal with. If he wasn’t able to break through within a few moves, Ruan Zhan would attack him from behind. That would be just as bad for him.
After thinking it over, Xiao Xia’s side was the only option. She was a weak woman with heavier Yin energy. She also had no powers. Although they would definitely have prepared for this, it was still undoubtedly the weakest link.
He didn’t mind if Xiao Xia’s physical body was destroyed. He wasn’t after that anyway. He wanted her soul to accompany him forever. As long as he didn’t let go, she would never be able to leave! Therefore, he decided to attack Xiao Xia’s side.
His attack arrived in a flash!
He had assumed Xiao Xia would undoubtedly die. Instead, she had reached into the bag slung across her shoulders. The moment Guan Zheng hesitated, she knew he would attack her. Therefore, she had already taken the object inside out before he even made his move.
The moment the object appeared, it swiftly grew until it was half the size of a person in the blink of an eye. Therefore, despite Guan Zheng’s attack having been fast, the ball of vines ended up striking the object in front of her.
It was a metal banner covered with streaks of rust. It shone faintly red and there was an amber talisman stuck to the pole. Guan Zheng knew Xiao Xia didn’t have the ability to wield an object with such spirit power. Ruan Zhan must have put a talisman there in advance that caused it to automatically expand once it was taken out.
Although Guan Zheng’s attack failed, the ball of vines struck heavily, causing Xiao Xia to take several steps back. She only stopped after slamming into the wall.
“Xiao Xia!” Ruan Zhan and Wan Li cried out at the same time. Ruan Zhan was even close to charging over from his position.
“I’m fine! Don’t worry about me!” Xiao Xia’s face was pale but she was stubborn. “He definitely won’t be getting out from my side!”
“The tattered banner?” Guan Zheng said in understanding. “A spirit-capturing treasure was actually used by you as a shield.”
“Did Si Ma Nan tell you about it?” Ruan Zhan was expressionless. “Unfortunately, you won’t live to tell him. After we kill you, he’ll be next!”