Ruan Zhan had just finished speaking when he formed a flaming handprint and sent it shooting towards Guan Zheng.
Guan Zheng didn’t dare take it lightly and hurriedly waved his hand. He spoke two strange syllables and the strange red vine in his sleeve appeared again. It swiftly curled into a clump, blocking the attack like a grass shield.
Yet the flaming handprint’s fire was no ordinary fire. It contained sorcery. Therefore, it didn’t fall to the floor and extinguish. Instead, it clung to the “grass shield”, burrowing inward before igniting.
Originally just the size of a palm, the fire swiftly expanded like a drop of blood in clear water. It ignited the entire shield which became a giant fireball hanging a foot in front of Guan Zheng.
That red vine writhed in pain and let out an ear-piercing screech. However, it didn’t disperse and remained there burning in place. Under Guan Zheng’s control, it also managed to block Ruan Zhan’s second and third flaming handprint.
This four-way formation was a defensive formation since Wan Li, Xiao Xia and the sacred object weren’t able to attack. In the end, Ruan Zhan was battling Guan Zheng by himself. The other two could only remain in place and watch Guan Zheng vigilantly.
Although Ruan Zhan’s several attacks had left Guan Zheng in a sorry state, they had still been blocked by him. Furthermore, after getting over his fluster at being on the back foot, he had started to counterattack.
He controlled the “grass shield” with his right hand, disregarding its struggling and wailing, as he lifted his left hand. Along with his strange commands, another red vine appeared from his other sleeve. It swished as it swiftly approached Xiao Xia. Based on its momentum, it wasn’t something an ordinary person could block. If she was really caught, it wouldn’t be a question of being pulled away. She might directly get crushed to death.
Ruan Zhan was startled. He hurriedly raised the bloodwood sword and went to help. However, he had just taken one step when he heard Guan Zheng’s cold laugh. He had already taken the opportunity in the break of attacks to thrust the fireball in his right hand at Wan Li. Furthermore, it was completely different from when he attacked Xiao Xia. If he had been fierce in striking at her, then he was even more ruthless when attacking Wan Li. In the blink of an eye, the fireball had arrived in front of Wan Li.
Wan Li cried out and dropped to the floor with a thump, narrowly dodging the blow. The fire was Ruan Zhan’s spellfire. It wouldn’t extinguish unless he willed it to. The fiendish vine was controlled by Guan Zheng, and it wouldn’t return unless he summoned it. Therefore, the fireball turned back and attacked Wan Li once again.
On the other side, the vine there had already reached Xiao Xia. Ruan Zhan’s bloodwood sword once again cut it in two. The severed end also withered as before while the other end shrunk back like a snake. It didn’t seem to have shortened after being cut. It still moved around agilely, and was long enough that its end couldn’t be seen. It was unclear how Guan Zheng could keep it in his sleeve.
After resolving Xiao Xia’s danger, Ruan Zhan’s figure flashed and he returned to his spot again. Since he had used the modified short range space-warping technique, he appeared to have teleported. He blocked off Guan Zheng who was trying to charge out from the position he had previously abandoned.
Guan Zheng realized his diversion had failed. He couldn’t help but become furious. After stepping back, he ruthlessly used his right hand to attack Wan Li.
Wan Li was immediately hard-pressed. He had merely been relying on his physique developed by frequently working out to dodge around and temporarily avoid injury. However, with the current situation, he wouldn’t be able to hold on for more than two rounds while maintaining his position if he didn’t get any help. Yet if Ruan Zhan tried to save him, Guan Zheng would immediately start attacking Xiao Xia.
Guan Zheng’s exceptional abilities allowed him to attack two directions at once, which actually suppressed all three sides. It was like a game of chess. One hand threatened Xiao Xia while the other dealt with Wan Li. If Ruan Zhan moved to help one side, the other would be harmed. This made him seem like a useless piece. Despite being strong, there was nothing he could do!
“Clothes!” Ruan Zhan called out. His right hand pointed the sword towards Xiao Xia as a defensive measure while he drew a cross in the air with his left.
On the other side, Wan Li didn’t respond despite having heard him. He merely dropped to the floor once again to avoid the fireball’s attack. Yet this time, he also shrugged off his loose t-shirt, baring his upper body. He instinctively covered his chest with his arms. As Ruan Zhan completed his motions, the fireball also turned in the air and struck its target!
There was a hum, a crack and a curse of pain. The fireball had been repelled several feet away from Wan Li. The burning flames blew backwards, avoiding Wan Li’s skin.
“What a guy! Treating your rival in love so ruthlessly. Really trying to kill me!” Wan Li looked bedraggled from dodging around. However, his expression was still at ease. He rubbed the outside of his arms. They had turned red and swollen, clearing having taken a heavy blow. “You’re pretty fucking strong. Luckily my bones are hard. Otherwise, they would have broken for sure!”
At this moment, the fireball was the focal point of their deadlock. It remained in midair next to Wan Li, unable to advance or retreat but it also didn’t drop. Wan Li’s hands were completely empty. However, there was a large red talisman on his chest that flared brightly. It resonated with the cross Ruan Zhan had drawn and froze the fireball and the flames in place.
“How could Ruan Zhan leave me empty handed against a villain?” Wan Li said unperturbed. “See this talisman? As long as it resonates with that cross, it’s enough to block spells of your level. As for these…” He flexed his arms. “These are enough to block any physical attacks. Therefore, you also won’t be getting out from my side. Switch sides, switch sides.”
Guan Zheng sneered and didn’t speak.
He had attacked twice. The first was blocked by Xiao Xia, or rather the tattered banner. The second failed due to the talisman on Wan Li as well as his physical strength. Did he really have to force things against Ruan Zhan?
He glanced towards Ruan Zhan and saw the latter watching him indifferently. No emotion was visible on his face. There was no smugness or anxiety, no excitement or fear. The calmness left him both vexed and impressed. He seemed to be observing a fish on a chopping board, not taking him seriously at all.
Guan Zheng felt humiliated. He hardened his heart and increased the power to both arms. He walked over to Ruan Zhan step by step. Since each hand was attacking one side, his body was currently wide open. Yet since Ruan Zhan had to help Wan Li and Xiao Xia, he was in the same boat. As Guan Zheng approached, both of them exposed openings to the opponent, as if about to engage in physical combat.
Wan Li and Xiao Xia had to endure the pressure coming from Guan Zheng while remaining in place. They couldn’t help at all and could only watch anxiously.
Although Ruan Zhan felt the opponent’s pressure as he watched Guan Zheng approach, he was still just as unperturbed. He gazed unwaveringly at his opponent.
Guan Zheng got closer and closer. When the two were within two meters of each other, he suddenly started laughing.
His laughter was sinister and malicious, and no hint of it showed in his eyes. However, it did twist his face. Especially his gaping mouth, which was pitch black. Even the teeth were black. At a glance, it looked like a black hole.
He took another step forward with difficulty, as if the formation’s pull had reached its peak. Then, he started vomiting. After retching a few times, he actually spat out a snake from his mouth.
The small snake was also black. It was around four inches long. The moment it left his mouth, it flew straight towards Ruan Zhan’s throat. There seemed to be nowhere to run unless he left his position.
Ruan Zhan remained unmoving, his hands still pointed towards Wan Li and Xiao Xia. He was unwilling to withdraw his hands to protect himself. He closed his eyes right as the small snake bit at his throat, seeming completely unconcerned!
As Xiao Xia cried out in alarm, the small snake stretched taut in midair. Under the lamplight and firelight, it looked like a bright metal rod hovering in the air, making hissing noises.
From Xiao Xia’s position, she could only see Guan Zheng cast the spell, but not whether the snake had bitten Ruan Zhan. The snake’s head seemed to overlap with the skin on Ruan Zhan’s neck. Ruan Zhan stood with his eyes closed. He didn’t move and neither did the snake.
She couldn’t leave her position and didn’t dare to speak, afraid of distracting him. She was incomparably worried. Wan Li was the same way.
She looked between Ruan Zhan’s face and Guan Zheng’s back, but couldn’t tell anything. An unknown amount of time passed like this that seemed to stretch for an eternity when she finally saw some hints.
The snake was still in place, but its taut body had slackened a little. Ruan Zhan’s eyes were still tightly shut but beads of sweat had formed on his forehead. His brows were tightly furrowed. Since Guan Zhen had his back towards her, she couldn’t see his face. She only saw his shoulders trembling slightly, indicating he was also exerting himself.
This meant the two of them were struggling against each other. Although it wasn’t clear if Ruan Zhan had been bitten, he was at least still alright! Since the two of them were focused on each other, Xiao Xia felt the pressure on her ease a little. The fiendish vine which had been pointed at her all this time had now moved away a bit. This gave her some room to work with. She should do something to help Ruan Zhan.
But what should she do?
She thought anxiously while raising her head to look at Wan Li. He seemed to have understood the situation as well and a smile spread across his face.
“Ah Zhan is fine.” He suddenly spoke. “Don’t worry, that snake’s venomous fangs are still a millimeter away from him. Don’t be afraid to speak. I just realized that they’re competing in telekinesis. They’re shoving the snake back and forth using their willpower. At this moment, they can hear us but neither of them can move. They are in a deadlock.”
“But…” Xiao Xia was still very anxious.
“I know, I know!” Wan Li raised his voice as if purposefully allowing the two to overhear. “I also want to help Ah Zhan. But look, that guy Boss Guan over there who’s raising parasites in his stomach has you locked down with that vine and me with that ever-burning fireball, preventing us from moving. If anything happens to us, Ah Zhan will have to split his attention to help. That way all three of us will be done for! Boss Guan’s calculations are exquisite. He won’t suffer any losses!”
“I do have an idea.” Xiao Xia understood what Wan Li was up to and also raised her voice. “I can keep myself safe. Can you?”
“Don’t underestimate me, ok? Your hubby is an incredible man!” Wan Li put special emphasis on the “hubby” part.
Guan Zheng had suffered a small disadvantage fighting one against three in their formation, yet he had immediately turned the tables. Wan Li was very impressed. Despite this, his decision to exterminate Guan Zheng hadn’t changed. The question was how they could help Ruan Zhan at the moment.
Although this four-way formation was guarded by the three of them, the majority of the pressure actually rested on Ruan Zhan’s shoulders. The reason Wan Li remained silent earlier was because he didn’t dare act without confirming the situation. Now he realized that if the deadlock continued, Ruan Zhan would be at a disadvantage. They had to do something while they were still evenly matched. After all, they had the advantage in numbers. There was no way Guan Zheng could multitask perfectly.
He basically knew what Xiao Xia was going to do. Speaking loudly was just to inform Ruan Zhan while also striking a mental blow at Guan Zheng.
“Listen up, Ah Zhan.” He said steadily. “Just relax and boldly lower the hands you’re using to protect the two of us. Focus on dealing with Boss Guan. We’ve already come up with a plan to protect ourselves. We’re going to do it even if you don’t listen. You’ll only end up hurting all three of us. Therefore, Xiao Xia and I are forcing you this time. You have no choice but to obey.”
He waited ten seconds to let Ruan Zhan digest the information and also cause fluctuations in Guan Zheng’s mind. Then, he started counting. This was a rapport he had developed with Ruan Zhan from when they were young. Normally when people counted down from three, they would attack once the count was done. Yet the two of them would start preparing from the first number, and then not move at all on the third. If their opponent moved, they could react accordingly and counter. If their opponent didn’t move, they would move while their opponent hesitated.
“Three!” Wan Li called out.
Ruan Zhan didn’t move but Guan Zheng did. This time, he chose to step back and once again attack Xiao Xia. This was because the first time he attacked Xiao Xia, he could tell from Ruan Zhan’s reaction that he was unusually concerned about her. This caused him to burn with jealousy. This also made him realize the weakness of this man whose powers were below his own for now but who he was still unable to suppress.
His powers were deeper than Ruan Zhan’s so he was able to withdraw from the deadlock unscathed. He merely ignored that snake, allowing it to fall to the floor.
The moment Ruan Zhan was no longer under pressure, he immediately withdrew the hand pointing towards Wan Li and hurriedly drew symbols in the air. He formed an invisible barrier in front of himself so he wouldn’t need to use telekinesis to resist if Guan Zheng attacked him again.
At the same time, his other hand still paid attention to Xiao Xia. Yet Guan Zheng was attacking Xiao Xia with all his might and he was too quick. Ruan Zhan could only take aim at the vine attacking Xiao Xia and fling the bloodwood sword over.