Ruan Zhan turned his head to the side. He was just about to give a signal when he saw Wan Li’s eyes also staring at the valley entrance. “She really came!”
Ruan Zhan didn’t speak, afraid blood would spray out if he opened his mouth. He just tilted his chin towards Wan Li and used his eyes to signal him. He and Wan Li had fought countless times together since childhood and their rapport was extremely developed. Wan Li understood his meaning on the spot.
On the side, Guan Zheng saw that the two of them were silently transmitting information, as if cooking something up. Seeing Wan Li’s gaze focused behind him, his heart couldn’t help but tremble as he also looked over suspiciously.
A beauty dressed in red clothing stood quietly nearby, precisely guarding the valley’s entrance. She was wearing a strange ancient outfit, her face was snow-white and her eyes were glowing strangely. She was thin and forlorn, her bearing extremely cold. Just standing there gave off an overbearing chill.
“Another one here to seek death!” Guan Zheng blurted out, but realized his voice was lacking confidence.
In fact, that woman didn’t move or say a word. Her eyes drifted yet also seemed to be staring forward vacantly. Her gaze seemed to pass through the mountain walls and focus on a distant place. She ignored everything within the valley, but still gave off a certain feeling: as long as she stood there, no one can pass!
“Who are you?” Guan Zheng asked again.
“They’re going to escape!” The woman in red said quietly, “They are about to escape!”
Guan Zheng’s heart shivered, and he had a sudden flash of realization.
It turned out that Ruan Zhan didn’t escape to this valley by accident. He had planned to do so from the beginning. The battles within the octagonal building’s four-way formation and the forest was all to exhaust his strength and power, all to lure him here in the end.
He had met a man who, despite being young, had such meticulous and profound schemes!
Ruan Zhan had known that his skills were far inferior to him, so he chose to use such agile tactics. First he successfully severed the two vines in his sleeves within the four-way formation. Then, in the forest, he destroyed the drum he used to control creatures. Finally, he ran to this valley and exhausted all the vine-controlling Gu he had. This type of Gu insect had a time limit. After a period of time, it was no longer able to control plants.
He had calculated that once the “human cocoons” were completed, the time limit for those Gu insects would also be up. At that time, he would only be left with that black wooden stick as his only weapon. The many treasures he had painstakingly refined over the years had been destroyed one after the other by Ruan Zhan in a single night. How could he not hate him!?
He suddenly turned back to see Ruan Zhan chanting something under his breath. Then, he spat a mouthful of blood straight onto Wan Li.
Wan Li didn’t avoid it. Actually, he wasn’t able to do so anyway. The vines had already almost completely covered him. Therefore, Ruan Zhan’s blood directly splattered over the “cocoon’s” shell.
There was a bang and the vines around Wan Li started burning fiercely as if covered in oil. The flames swiftly spread across his whole body. From a distance, it looked like a massive fireball.
Xiao Xia was completely wrapped up at this time and couldn’t see what was going on outside. Only the tattered banner prevented the vines from squeezing her tightly, allowing her to still breathe. She was able to vaguely see the flames through the gaps of the vines. She didn’t know what was going on. She could only worry helplessly. Yet from the outside, Guan Zheng had seen things very clearly.
He was shocked. He didn’t expect Ruan Zhan to be so tough. He had come up with the idea of using his predicament of being tortured to the point of spitting blood to cast a bloodspell to escape! He heard from his master’s husband that Daoist bloodspells were several times stronger, but only required a little bit of external blood. Ruan Zhan had been struck to the point of spitting blood. That blood had come from the inside, and he had spat such a large mouthful. Although he hadn’t drawn any symbols and merely chanted the spell, it was still extremely powerful. It burned away the vines in an instant. It also didn’t harm the person inside them.
Guan Zheng was adept in witchcraft and Gu, and didn’t know any fast movement techniques. He could only sprint over as fast as he could to try and stop things. Yet the fire burned too quickly. By the time he arrived, Wan Li happened to get free. He leapt out of the hard shell in one go, forcing Guan Zheng to retreat.
Wan Li didn’t go after him. He raised the wooden bat covered with the talismans, and when Ruan Zhan spat out another mouthful of blood, he immediately swung at the vines around Ruan Zhan’s body. As if knowing he wouldn’t hurt the person within, he swung it with all his might!
With a crack, the hard shell around Ruan Zhan crumbled. A figure fell forward and was carefully supported by Wan Li.
“Can you still stand?” Wan Li asked with concern.
“I’m fine!” Ruan Zhan wiped the blood from the corner of his mouth, “I’m going to get Xiao Xia out. You keep an eye on Guan Zheng!”
Wan Li let go of Ruan Zhan and pointed the bat towards Guan Zheng who was several meters away. His face which usually held a sunny smile was now exceptionally stern. “Prepare to die! Your life will come to an end right here today!”
Guan Zheng had thought himself exceptionally powerful and hadn’t taken these people seriously this whole time. Yet now, under Wan Li’s denouncement which contained a hint of wild rage, he actually wasn’t able to respond.
He wasn’t willing to meet Wan Li’s gaze, and shifted his eyes towards Ruan Zhan. He saw Ruan Zhan resolutely lift the bloodwood sword with difficulty and directly split the vines around Xiao Xia, rescuing her. This signified that his plan to make human cocoons had completely failed!
This scene, this situation, suddenly spawned a sort of despair and resentment in his heart! Why did he always fail? He had been hated since birth. After finally being accepted by his master, she ended up becoming wary of him. After falling in love with a girl, she ended up being snatched away! He had endured countless, indescribable painful cultivation just so he could be in control of his affairs. Why did he always have to suffer the influence of others?
Wealth, he had plenty of. He was able to dominate all those who fought against him in the past. He directly killed all those who went against his will. But he wasn’t able to obtain a single one of the things he truly wanted: influence, the outcomes he hoped for, a woman, a family!
Why was it like this? Why was he the only unfortunate one? No, he won’t accept it, he wasn’t resigned! He will snatch it all back! If the god of all things wasn’t willing to grant him what he wanted, he would snatch it himself!
Thinking of this gave him a burst of courage once again. He still had one final treasure he had yet to use. Even if he couldn’t cut the weeds and eliminate the roots today, he could at least get away. So what if the woman in red was blocking the way? She looked so weak. Perhaps it was another of Ruan Zhan’s tricks!
If he could get away, these people would pay sooner or later!
“He’s going for the final attack. “ Ruan Zhan carefully observed Guan Zheng’s actions. He had caught his breath while Guan Zheng was spaced out. Enduring the pain in his body, he said loudly, “Activate the formation!”
At three in the morning, the valley was extremely silent and empty. There was only the sound of the waterfall. Therefore, Ruan Zhan’s shout rang clearly across the valley and left a lingering echo. It could be heard no matter where one stood.
Before the echo faded, he drew a symbol in the air and used the modified space-warping technique to send Wan Li and Xiao Xia to the top of the waterfall. He himself stood in place, to the left of the valley entrance.
As soon as Wan Li and Xiao Xia arrived at their positions, Wan Li pulled out a bamboo basket from somewhere. He put the things inside one by one onto a table-sized slab of limestone in front of the waterfall.
There was an incense burner, some incense candles, several talismans, a shoddily constructed wooden sword and that tiny embroidered pouch. It was the pouch Ruan Zhan had used to trick him back at the octagonal building, the pouch that was supposedly a sacred object from his master!
Seeing this situation, Guan Zheng was so angry that he was about to explode!
What were they up to? Capturing ghosts? He was human, the highest level of human, able to control the life and death of others. A great witch who could control people’s fates! It was already very magnanimous of him not to force everyone to kneel before him. Did he still need to take such an insult?
He laughed in anger and curled his lips arrogantly at Ruan Zhan. “Setting up the four-way formation again? Where are the talismans for your formation? Where are the people who will guard each side?” He glanced around as he spoke.
He saw Wan Li and Xiao Xia standing by the waterfall facing the valley entrance. Xiao Xia was still carrying the tattered banner. Wan Li stood by that large limestone as if ready to cast a spell. Ruan Zhan stood to the left of the entrance, his chest covered with spots of blood. He braced one hand against the stone wall while his other actually leaned on the bloodwood sword stuck into the ground. Behind him was the valley entrance where the silent woman stood. There was no one on the left side of the valley.
He wanted to roar with laughter because the four-way formation was missing a guard on one side. It clearly couldn’t be formed. Yet he wasn’t able to laugh. Ruan Zhan had surprised him too many times. He couldn’t be careless anymore.
He slowly pulled out the black wooden stick pinned to his waist and assumed a defensive posture.
“Since you’ve come, please assume your positions!” Ruan Zhan spoke again.
Guan Zheng’s heart quivered. He thought Ruan Zhan still had more reinforcements and hurriedly looked over at the other two cardinal directions.
Behind him, that woman walked a few steps forward, standing firmly in the westward direction. The formation had become more complete. Moreover, Guan Zheng finally saw that the woman was not walking, but had floated over without touching the ground. She wasn’t human. She was a female ghost! Ruan Zhan even invited a female ghost to help him guard the formation!
Ruan Zhan wanted to borrow the spirit power of a ghost?
The female ghost’s figure was perfectly formed. There was no way to tell whether she was human or ghost at a glance. She must have cultivated her soul for a while now. If this formation was activated, it would be stronger than the one in the octagonal building, especially if someone equally strong appeared to guard the north.
He looked to the north and saw it was still empty. However, one of the bushes there was continuously shaking.
“This is the last opportunity!” Wan Li said on the side. “If you don’t dare to free yourself, then please leave. I’m can still take the spot!”
The grass trembled for a while again, and it was obvious that the person inside was afraid and hesitant.
“Xiao Xia, you stay here. I will guard the north. ” Wan Li said loudly. But before he could take a step, someone emerged from the grass.
Bedraggled and shabby, who else could it be but the weirdo in the woods, Ah Wu?!
After recognizing who the person in front of him was, Guan Zheng finally laughed.
“Haha, Mr. Ruan, you are capable! You even managed to bring this piece of trash!” He said and turned to Ah Wu, “You suicidal thing. I let you off, but you’re going to come cause me problems? We agreed that I wouldn’t touch you as long as you never let me see you. But now that you’re helping my enemy, I swear to make you wish you were dead!”
“You’ve already made her wish she were dead!” Wan Li cut off the conversation, afraid the hesitant Ah Wu would be affected. “You’re pretending to be benevolent again! Old man, this is really disgusting.”
“What do you know!? She is the culprit in all of this and deserves to be punished!” Guan Zheng said sharply.
“Whether she deserves to be punished isn’t up to you to decide. Who do you think you are? God? The heavens? Or the god of all things?” Wan Li continued speaking, not letting him have any chance to traumatize Ah Wu. “You don’t have to scare her. No one is forever afraid, because no power lasts forever or remains unchanging. Besides, she’s only afraid of the mistake she made in the past. If she was afraid of punishment, is there any punishment crueler than what you’ve already done? Death in one blow is preferable to death by many cuts! Now that we all know what happened in the past, what else does she have to fear?! After so many years, hasn’t she suffered enough? As the saying goes, what greater good is there than to know one’s mistakes and repent!?”
As he spoke, he took a peek at Ah Wu and saw her straightening her back. Although her face was so dark her expression couldn’t be seen clearly, her slightly green eyes flashed with a determined light, and he let out a sigh of relief.
This formation wasn’t stable. Something could go wrong at either of those directions.
There was no need to explain Ah Wu’s appearance. Ruan Zhan had run into her on the way back from the chief’s house. In other words, Ruan Zhan had been trying to find her without success, but this time she took the initiative to find him.
She must have been watching Ruan Zhan secretly for a long time and felt he had a chance against Guan Zheng. This was why she would step up. For someone who suffered many years in the woods, for someone who had enough of this torment, he might be her only chance.
She asked Ruan Zhan to help her. Since Ruan Zhan had promised the village chief to do so, he agreed without hesitation.
Only after inquiring in further detail did he find out that the instigator of this whole affair was her. It was due to womanly jealousy!
She had been confirmed as a divine child together with Guan Zheng, and was accepted by the kindest, most powerful Witch Doctor within these woods as her apprentices. Yet before long, her abilities were determined to be a world apart from Guan Zheng’s. His powers were unimaginable while she merely had a bit of supernatural ability.
She envied him, but also feared him because of the cruel temperament he had since childhood. When their master died, they lived together in the octagonal building until they were fifteen years old.
They would become a Daoist Lord and Lady in the future, and were also Witch Doctor Ah Bai’s apprentices. The villagers were only respectful, and tread very carefully around them. Although this seemed glorious, it was also lonely and distant. Being dependent on each other, her feelings for this person who she once hated and envied changed, and turned into worship and adoration!
Yet she wasn’t beautiful. Therefore, despite having a crush on him for many years, she ultimately had to watch as he married another woman!
That tribal girl was very beautiful, making her feel very inferior yet also extremely resentful. When she learned that the tribal girl was in love with a young scholar, she felt the desire to ruin things.
For everyone else, it was a beautiful and tragic love story. Yet in reality, while the tribal girl did love that scholar, it wasn’t to the point of wanting to die. On the day of the wedding, Ah Wu had cast a spell, sending a water ghost to find someone to take its place.
She drew an invisible black pot-shaped thing on the bride’s back. When the bride was passing by the river, it ran out and sang “Tralala, tralala, the one carrying the black pot will replace me! Who is carrying the black pot?”1
The bride involuntarily replied: Me!
The moment she responded with that word, a tragedy that lasted over ten years began!
Ah Wu – was the instigator!