My sudden shout startled everyone into looking my way. Everyone except the two on stage! They still held hands tightly, looking at each other. Yet that fit neither the script nor reality!
She was either possessed or replaced. It meant that she was no longer herself!
I shock, I sprinted towards the stage, shoving aside the other performers as I rushed towards Nana.
Seeming to have startled the pair on stage, the two turned to look at me simultaneously. Only then did I notice their masks were made of white-painted wood. Apart from eyeholes, it was just a curved piece of wood.
This drew attention to the eyes under the holes. The moment I noticed, I immediately understood. The male lead was no longer the one from before, and the female lead was also not my Nana!
I rushed over but the two were even faster. Before I could reach the center of the stage, they ran off to the other side, hand in hand. That place led to the back of the stage.
“Bao Da Tong!” I ran after them while tugging at my collar. Underneath was a talisman he had given me. He told me the function was similar to a walkie-talkie. I just needed to call his name for it to activate, and he would know something had happened on my end! Once he got my message, we could pincer the two of them!
But when I followed their figures, I realized this was no longer backstage. It had become a twisting, maze-like dark hallway! There was a wall a few meters ahead. The two figures turned left at the wall and vanished!
I hesitated, not knowing if I should pursue. It was clearly an illusion and I didn’t know where it would lead. I might very well walk into the lake and drown. Bao Da Tong said that since Zhao Jiang died from drowning, his powers were stronger beneath the water. No matter how overwhelming my yang energy was, he could kill me if I was underwater!
But could I just let Nana be taken like that? When the two had run off earlier, the stage lights caused them to cast long shadows, indicating they were human. Whether they were being controlled or were under some enchantment, they were still human. I couldn’t allow any harm to come to Nana, whether in body or soul.
I no longer hesitated, rushing in the direction where Nana had vanished! Looking around at the wall, there was a path on either side. They looked identical, as if reflected by a large mirror. The two had gone to the left, but I had the feeling the two hallways were linked. If I went right, I would run into them from the front.
Therefore, I ran right, but saw no one after running for a while. This made me assume I had miscalculated. As I was panicking, a sudden knocking came from the wall.
The dark hallway had been quiet with only my own footsteps. The sudden loud knocking was indescribably thunderous. No matter how gutsy I was, my heart still pounded!
I looked to either side and suddenly realized the hallway’s layout seemed similar to our dormitory. Apart from being a little darker, as if it stretched into the depths of hell, everything else was the same. There were even rooms on either side, with numbers ranging from 201 to 203…
Knock knock knock…
The knocking grew louder, gradually messing with my sense of direction and distracting me from my pursuit. I also realized that despite having only run straight ahead, without turning or climbing any stairs, I had actually reached the fifth floor!
I slowed my steps, instinctively looking around. Room 505 was right in front of me! That was Nana’s room!
Was she inside? Or, was it just a trap?
I hesitated and finally grabbed the doorknob. No matter what, as long as there was the slightest chance, I had to save Nana!
The wooden door creaked sharply like an ancient metal gate. Then, a damp smell assaulted my senses. The room was very dark but a sharp ray of light shone in from the window. It was like a spotlight from the stage, making it hard for me to see clearly.
I stepped to the side, shielding my eyes from the glare. Dust danced under the beam of light, as if the room had long been abandoned. A figure stood by the window. I couldn’t see her face clearly, and could only make out a feminine form.
“Nana?” I tried calling out to the shadow.
There was no response. I crouched to avoid the light but immediately realized it wasn’t possible. It was like I was the lead actor on a stage. The spotlight followed me wherever I went!
“Nana!” I called again. This time, she made a muffled noise in response. Although it was just one word, the familiar voice made me immediately recognize her.
Since I had confirmed it, I no longer hesitated. I threw the stone I held in my hand this whole time towards the source of the light. There was the sound of glass shattering and the room immediately darkened. I was also able to see that the figure was Nana. Yet while she stood by herself, two disembodied arms held her fast while another covered her mouth!
“Let her go!” I roared towards Xiao Ling and the girl who jumped off the building as they restrained Nana. One was attached to Nana’s back while the other knelt on the floor, wrapping Nana tightly between them.
“Won’t…let go!” The two spoke weirdly in sync.
Without any other choice, I rushed forward with the peach wood rod. Yet I had only taken two steps when the ground shook, almost making me fall. The knocking sound started again. This time, it came from beneath my feet!
I ignored it, continuing towards Nana after steadying myself. Yet the shaking grew more violent. I suddenly felt the noise was filled with urgency, as I telling me to stop and also reminding me of something.
My mind flashed as I pretended to fall. After crawling for a bit, I looked up again and noticed that despite Nana standing properly, her feet never touched the floor!
It was a trap, as expected!
Without a word, I jumped up and rushed out the door, slamming it shut behind me. I heard Nana’s voice crying in the room, “Wan Li! Don’t leave me! “Wan Li!”
I gritted my teeth and forced down my desire to open the door again. I turned and walked down the other end of the hallway. Yet the moment I turned around, I saw that the hallway was no longer there. It was another room. I was surrounded by doors. I knew I had to pick one of them. I couldn’t just stand in place, so I randomly opened a door.
There was a wall behind it!
I was prepared for anything to appear: a hallway, another room, a sheer cliff, monsters, Nana or even Zhao Jiang. Yet I never thought it would be a wall. I calmed myself and started opening the doors in a clockwise direction. One by one I opened them, with the final one being the door I came in from. However, they all led to a wall. I was essentially stuck in the middle of a wall, and it felt like I was buried alive!
I started to panic. These were symptoms of claustrophobia and I desperately tried to remain calm. Yet thinking of Nana’s unknown fate, it was hard for me to do so while being trapped in place!
At this time, the knocking sounded again. I had never been so happy to hear that sound. Earlier, I had lost my rationality in my rush to find Nana. Now I realized this might be Bao Da Tong trying to communicate with me. I had to reach him somehow!
Listening carefully, I ran to the source of the sound and pounded heavily on the wooden door. The strange thing was that no matter how hard I knocked, it was as if I was hitting cotton. No sound came out. I hurriedly used the peach wood rod to knock lightly on the door. The resulting knock was like thunder!
Hearing my response, the knocking from the other side grew louder in excitement. It guided me to one side and stopped by one of the walls, before knocking three times. I guessed it wanted me to charge through, but I was facing what looked like a solid slab of concrete. How could I dare charge into it?!
“Wan Li, don’t leave me!” Right as I was hesitating, Nana’s crying rang out again from one of the doors. I know Zhao Jiang was trying to trick me with illusions, yet I didn’t know if I could remain calm when faced with Nana’s image. I might very well rush over mindlessly, and we’d all be screwed!
I didn’t want to be affected by the illusion again. I had to leave this place at once! I gritted my teeth and charged towards the knocking.
The pain of collision came as expected, but it wasn’t that of a wall. It was the pain of two people running into each other. Someone’s voice cried out in pain and we both fell down. Yet this time I fell onto something soft and it didn’t hurt as much.
Opening my eyes, I saw that I was lying in grass. Next to me was Bao Da Tong!
“Quick, save Nana!” I yelled before I even got up.
“I had to save you first. I can’t do it by myself!” Bao Da Tong was also very anxious. “You almost jumped to your death from the second floor window earlier!”
I froze before immediately understanding. The small auditorium had two floors, like a small movie theater. However, not many people would go upstairs unless there was a guest speaker. Zhao Jiang had used some formation to make me go upstairs without realizing it. Then, he used Nana as bait. If I had really rushed to save her, I would have fallen from the second floor!
Bao Da Tong must have realized something was up, but he wasn’t able to enter the formation. Thus, he had used knocking sounds to guide me. But how did we end up in the grass outside? If I wasn’t mistaken, this was twenty minutes away from the auditorium!
“Time and space move differently inside the formation. You had actually walked for a long time.” Bao Da Tong had been struck quite heavily, taking a long time to get back up. “But you could only see the illusion Zhao Jiang created, and couldn’t see me!”
“Where did Nana go?”
“She ran out with the male lead. I had to save you and couldn’t follow them, but I believe I can find them. Let’s go!” Bao Da Tong pulled me up, walking swiftly as he spoke. “The rest of the students only saw you chase after them like a madman. Then, the two of them ran outside with you in pursuit!”
So the others didn’t get pulled into this. That was good! Zhao Jiang probably didn’t want to make too big of a scene. It would be more difficult to achieve his sinister goals.
“Couldn’t you break the formation?” I was a little reproachful. His inability to break the formation and having to guide me had delayed things by quite a bit. This gave Zhao Jiang the advantage!
“I told you that water increased his powers!”
“What…” Thunder crashed before I finished speaking. Only then did I realize it had started raining at some point. That was why the ground was wet. I had been too worried about Nana and failed to notice I was completely soaked!
“The heavens really aren’t kind. What we feared has come to pass!” Bao Da Tong grumbled.
I didn’t speak, jogging behind him.
Our situation had truly become more dangerous. We had planned to remain on the defensive for the next two days. As long as we didn’t give Zhao Jiang a chance to use water, we could safely wait for Ah Zhan to return. The three of us could then work together to destroy the evil spirit. But it had unexpectedly started to rain. The weather report had clearly stated it would only be cloudy, but without rain!
Bao Da Tong stopped, causing me to almost run into him. I saw him breathing in heavily. “The rain is obscuring the ghostly aura. However, I’m sure he lured Nana and that guy towards the grove!”
“Then let’s hurry!” I said urgently.
“Slow down. Do you want to fall into his trap again?” Bao Da Tong said. “He stole all of the handmaiden’s powers. Without the rain, we could still put up a fight. Now, with his powers increased, we have to come up with a plan! Don’t worry, he won’t kill Nana for now.”
I knew Bao Da Tong was right and forced myself to calm down.
We had previously discussed whether Zhao Jiang would harm Nana. I had thought it strange. Since Zhao Jiang was obsessed with her, he could at the least kill her even if he couldn’t hurt me. Why go through all the trouble?
In Bao Da Tong’s opinion, it was because Zhao Jiang wasn’t able to do so. If he really killed Nana, she would at most be someone that died violently. There was no one alive that she wanted revenge on. Even if there was someone she couldn’t bear to leave, that person was definitely not Zhao Jiang. Therefore, her soul would have no reason to linger, and would soon enter the cycle of reincarnation. Zhao Jiang’s current power could force souls to remain in place for a while, like with Xiao Ling and the other girl, but not for a long period of time. He would still lose Nana. Therefore, he wouldn’t kill her. He would only imprison her while he came up with a plan or tried to increase his power!
“Let’s go over there!” Bao Da Tong suddenly said, pointing towards the library.
I knew what he meant. He wanted to be cautious and prevent Zhao Jiang from overhearing us. It was dry inside the building. As long as he put up a privacy barrier, Zhao Jiang wouldn’t be able to break it.
“What ideas do you have?” I asked after confirming we were safe.
“Since he’s out in the open, we’ll be sneaky.” Bao Da Tong said. “I’ll turn invisible and you go in with me on your back. We’ll set up an illusion outside the grove of me wandering around. In reality, I’ll have entered along with you. If he gets distracted by my image outside, we will have an opportunity. Even if he doesn’t, he will think we split up and won’t be as guarded. We would still have a chance.”
“But why do I have to carry you?” I wasn’t unwilling to cooperate, just confused.
“Honestly, I haven’t fully mastered the invisibility spell.” Bao Da Tong was a little embarrassed. “I still disturb the air when I walk and I’m also unable to hide my shadow. I also get easily distracted when I walk, and might suddenly…”
“No problem, I’ll carry you!” Time was of the essence and I didn’t want to criticize the slack in his studies. “What then?”
“Once we confirm the people are safe, we’ll burn the grove down!”