With the sound of splitting air, the bloodwood sword descended!
Yet this time it didn’t just slice across. Instead, it stabbed downwards, nailing the fiendish vine firmly to the floor. The fiendish vine immediately stiffened in pain. It became like a wooden rod and made creaking noises. Someone merely listening would assume the noise was coming from an old door being opened.
However, despite Ruan Zhan sparing no effort in throwing out the bloodwood sword, he had still moved after Guan Zheng. One end of the fiendish vine had already wrapped around Xiao Xia’s waist. It didn’t immediately stop after being nailed to the floor. Instead, it constricted tightly around her, pressing her against the tattered banner. She was practically hugging the tattered banner, as if trying to become one with it.
So this was her idea to protect herself.
She was of average height with a slender waist. If she tucked herself in, it was completely possible to hide behind the metal banner which was half as tall as a person. She figured it would be a piece of cake for the fiendish vine to wrap her up, and even pull her apart. Yet the tattered banner was made of an unknown metal and possessed incredible spirit power. The bloodwood sword and the annihilation seal were also treasures of the Daoist world. They definitely couldn’t be damaged by a Gu-controlled plant. Besides, even if it was used to capture spirits, it still deterred fiendish objects. Even if the fiendish vine wasn’t a spirit, it was definitely still wary of the tattered banner.
Therefore, she just needed to stick close to the banner. Getting hurt was inevitable, but at least she wouldn’t be strangled to death!
Things turned out as she expected. The fiendish vine wrapped around her waist a step before Ruan Zhan could act. She felt her body being swiftly constricted and there was a painful pressure against her lower back. Not only did it not release her after being pierced by the bloodwood sword, it constricted even tighter as if in pain. The final bit of air was squeezed out from her lungs. The tattered banner dug into her ribs painfully.
At this moment, she sensed the cold metal banner’s surface heating up a little. It also started vibrating slightly, as if unhappy about being tied up like this. The fiendish vine around her loosened. Then, Ruan Zhan’s bloodwood sword arrived. The fiendish vine struggled a few seconds more before falling to the floor. It squirmed in place before swiftly withering, becoming a dried husk!
Xiao Xia finally made it through this attack!
However, before she could catch her breath and rejoice at her plan’s success, Guan Zheng once again directed his attention towards Wan Li.
The fireball suddenly pushed towards Wan Li. Luckily, Wan Li and Ruan Zhan had been prepared. With the cross-shaped talisman and the whirlpool talisman on Wan Li’s chest, the fireball was unable to swallow him up. Despite this, it still drew closer towards him. It had almost made contact. Although the fire was being repelled outwards, the sparks still occasionally blew back against his skin. Even some of his hair was being singed.
“Catch!” Ruan Zhan cried out while taking out two talismans.
Wan Li grunted in acknowledgement. He suddenly raised his arms, not worrying that the fireball might crash into him.
Two black objects streaked through the air and stuck to Wan Li’s arms. Then, he swiftly put his arms back in front of his chest, forcing back the fireball that was about to strike him just in time.
“Extremely effective. It’s no longer hot!” He smiled smugly, not noticing that Xiao Xia’s heart had almost leapt out of her throat.
Those talismans were unusual, with white words drawn on black paper. They were extremely striking. After they stuck onto Wan Li’s arms, he became completely unafraid of the fire’s heat. He pushed out towards the fireball. Even when the flames licked at his hands, he didn’t show the slightest bit of pain. The paper talismans also didn’t catch fire.
“Flameward talismans!” Guan Zheng cursed in vexation.
“I’m not that powerful.” Ruan Zhan was unexpectedly frank. “I was the one who conjured that fire, so my talismans can naturally ward it off. Therefore, if you’re able to cast your own fire spell, he would be done for. Unfortunately, someone immersed in darkness for so long cannot cast fire, unless you can conjure hellfire!”
“Well, he’d have to go to hell first!” Seeing his situation improve, Wan Li lost no time in provoking Guan Zheng again. “Let’s send him on his way!”
Guan Zheng glared angrily at Wan Li. However, he also understood that if he couldn’t come up with something, his situation would become more and more difficult. The vine in his left hand was nailed in place by the bloodwood. This treasure was truly impressive. He had secretly tried several times to withdraw the vine, or even break it in two, but wasn’t able to. Although his right hand seemed to be attacking Wan Li, it was actually being held fast by him. His biggest threat was Ruan Zhan, who had drawn a protective barrier, preventing him from using telekinesis to attack again.
His powers were more profound than Ruan Zhan’s, but Ruan Zhan was rather tenacious. Every time he increased his strength, it would force out some of Ruan Zhan’s potential. He remained unable to suppress him. Now with his hands tied up, he would definitely be at a disadvantage if Ruan Zhan attacked.
He had just thought this when he saw Ruan Zhan walking over. He approached step by step, the same way he did several minutes ago. However, Ruan Zhan’s manner seemed more imposing, a bottomless depth within his eyes. This made Guan Zheng involuntarily feel a little flustered. This was the first time in so many years he started to doubt whether he could win, and even whether he could retreat in one piece!
What should he do?
He was no longer able to hold the advantage one against three. The glaring crimson talismans drawn on the four walls were also starting to protrude. The red ink started trickling down like tears and even the air started heating up!
He knew this was a sign the four-way formation was completely activated. If he remained inside and couldn’t break out soon, he was definitely in for a bad time!
He quickly made a decision and decided to sacrifice the soldiers to preserve the chariot. As Ruan Zhan drew closer, Guan Zheng hurriedly chanted a strange spell. There were two snapping sounds and the red vines he controlled dropped from each sleeve. He abandoned the weapons he cultivated on the floor.
The fiendish vines seemed to have been parasitically attached to his body. The moment they dropped, they seemed to have lost their vitality, immediately withering to two lifeless ropes.
Xiao Xia was still doing alright. With the bloodwood sword keeping the vine pinned, she didn’t suffer any force. The same couldn’t be said for Wan Li. He had been wrestling with his vine. With the sudden lack of resistance, he almost fell over.
Things happened too unexpectedly, forcing Ruan Zhan to cover his companions. Guan Zheng took the opportunity to escape the encirclement and reached the fourth side of the four-way formation, where the statue and the old embroidered pouch rested.
He was a little apprehensive of this side. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have picked the more difficult directions. He wasn’t afraid of the wooden statue. After so many years, the only thing he believed in was his own strength. However, he still felt some complicated guilt and shame towards his long-deceased master.
Although she had only taught him for three years, he had experienced motherly love from Witch Doctor Ah Bai, something he had never felt from his insane mother. She had taught him to unleash his potential and taken care of his meals and lodging. She had loved him like he was her real son.
Therefore, despite not being of the Su Su tribe, he had arranged his weddings according to their customs. He remembered where his master had hidden that wedding dress. Therefore, he had wanted Xiao Xia to wear it to her date with death and become his ghost wife! All this indicated that he probably longed to be his master’s son in the depths of his heart.
Those three years were the happiest of his life. Even now he still remembered her gentle hand caressing his head, saying that there were many incredible gifts within that could protect many people and keep the peace.
He knew he had let down his master’s expectations. If she was still alive, she would probably feel hurt and disappointed. Yet if she had been present this whole time, he wouldn’t have managed to reach this step. He wouldn’t have undergone such torture for the sake of controlling everything he loved and hated, cultivating the Gu technique that left others wishing to die.
Despite this, he was still a little afraid. He had personally witnessed his master’s divine gifts before. That wasn’t something he could ever hope to achieve. He knew that in the weeks prior to his master’s death, she already developed misgivings towards him. This was because he had used a very cruel method to kill a small dog for no reason. Actually, that small dog had been his favorite. Yet this dog which always tagged behind him had run towards Ah Wu for a piece of meat and ignored his summons. Therefore, he had killed it! He could never condone the slightest betrayal!
He was afraid of that tiny embroidered pouch. He was afraid that was his master left behind could suppress or kill him. Therefore, he would rather attack the other three sides and didn’t go for this one. But now Ruan Zhan had forced him into a dead end. He could only grit his teeth and reluctantly face this challenge!
He braced himself, tensed up his body and started chanting silently. He surrounded himself in a layer of black aura. Like a large, black leather ball, he exerted all his strength and charged over!
However, his strength met nothing but air. There wasn’t the slightest resistance! He immediately realized he had fallen for Ruan Zhan’s trick. There was no remnant divine power here. Ruan Zhan had lied to him and made use of his state of mind to scare him off from this final side!
This little bastard dared plot against him like this. He definitely won’t let him off!
He thought viciously, yet he wasn’t able to pull back his strength. As the bamboo door was broken down, his charging force prevented him from using any magic. He could only tumble down the stairs, tumbling himself dizzy, until he crashed into the bushes outside the front door.
“Look at Classmate Guan over here with the stomach bugs. He actually used so much strength to charge through nothing!” Wan Li roared with laughter. “Ah Zhan, you’re really good at fooling people. You really knew how to psyche him out.”
Because he mentioned the stomach bugs, Xiao Xia hurriedly looked around for the small snake that had fallen to the floor. It had already died long ago, and now lay there like a small piece of charcoal.
“In the end, he still managed to run out of this formation!” She sighed.
“It’s fine. At least he lost three of his magic treasures.” Ruan Zhan said, glancing at the two fiendish vines and the small snake.
“Shall we pursue?” Wan Li put on his t-shirt.
“Obviously. Now that it’s come to this, only one side can come out alive. However, we don’t need to rush. He’s now back in his element so he definitely won’t leave. He must be waiting for us downstairs.”
“Then why don’t we let him wait.” Wan Li ran to the altar and pulled out a wooden bat they had prepared in advance. He stuck the talismans from his arms onto the bat, which was already covered with talismans.
“If he becomes impatient, he will lead his “army” upstairs. We won’t have as much space to maneuver.” Ruan Zhan looked at Xiao Xia. Although her face was pale, her attitude was firm. “Things will become even more difficult downstairs. Prepare yourselves and we’ll head down!”
He picked up the bloodwood sword with his right hand and grabbed Xiao Xia’s hand with his left. He walked downstairs without looking back, leaving the enlarged tattered banner for Wan Li to carry.
“How come you get to hold the girl’s hand while I’m left to carry this metal thing? You think it’s a hassle to shrink and grow this broken flag, but don’t think it’s a hassle for me to carry it around?!” Wan Li grumbled and followed Ruan Zhan downstairs.
The moment they walked out the building, they felt something was wrong.
Although the mountains were breezy and carried scents far, it still shouldn’t be possible for them to only smell an indescribably fishy scent while hearing abnormal rustling all around. This made them feel as if they were being watched by frightening things in the darkness.
This feeling made one’s scalp turn numb. It was rather unsettling!
However, Ruan Zhan’s expression remained the same. He merely put Xiao Xia behind him protectively and continued to walk calmly into the trees, completely ignoring the strange atmosphere around them. He walked until he reached a clearing surrounded by large clumps of vines before coming to a stop.
“What are you playing at? Come out!” He said coldly.
“Impressive. You stepped inside despite clearly knowing it’s a trap.” Guan Zheng walked out from behind a tree. Perhaps because they were in the woods he was most familiar with, but his face no longer looked bedraggled. Instead, it held some disdain and cruel intent.
“If I hadn’t come, you would have ushered your things into the bamboo building. It’s best to leave Witch Doctor Ah Bai’s spirit undisturbed.” Ruan Zhan once again mentioned Witch Doctor Ah Bai. Even in the darkness, he saw Guan Zheng’s expression change.
“You won’t fool me twice!” Guan Zheng was extremely furious.
“Is that so?” Ruan Zhan retorted. He raised his hand and flung something towards Guan Zheng’s face.
Guan Zheng instinctively caught it. After taking a glance, he cried out lightly and flung the object to the floor. It was an embroidered pouch, the same one that acted as one of the formation’s sides!
“You!” Guan Zheng thought he had been fooled once again and was humiliated and angry. “You don’t have any of my master’s belongings. Don’t play such pointless games!”
Ruan Zhan didnt speak, throwing over two more objects instead.
Guan Zheng wasn’t able to react properly, dodging left and then right. Yet when he finally realized Ruan Zhan was playing psychological games, he no longer moved, allowing a small embroidered pouch to land on him.
There wasn’t anything here that his master left behind. Apart from the wedding dress, she hadn’t left anything, and that wedding dress was currently on Xiao Xia. He had lived in the octagonal building for many years, and combed through everything with his master’s husband. He had never found anything. Ruan Zhan was using his guilty conscience towards his master to humiliate him.
“Where did you get so many pouches? Did you buy them from the village?” He tried to act a little more carefree.
“Aren’t you afraid? Don’t you have a guilty conscience?” Ruan Zhan said mockingly. “Those with a clear conscience aren’t afraid when there’s a knock on the door at night. I’ve done nothing unconscionable, so there’s no use in arranging so many wandering ghosts!”
“You’ll only know whether it’s useless after you experience it!” Guan Zheng said in a very slow tone.
This voice made Xiao Xia feel indescribably threatened. Then, she heard whispers coming from all around them. She felt her hairs stand on end. Turning around, her heart almost stopped.
She knew from this moment on, they were at a disadvantage.