The rain had gotten stronger!
I walked in the rain, carrying Bao Da Tong on my back. I watched as the rain passed through “his” figure next to me. I had no idea how he managed to create such an illusion. He was obviously hiding on my back, but others watching would see we had parted ways at the door of the library.
“Don’t walk in the mud. The footprints will give us away.” Bao Da Tong warned me quietly.
I knew that without him having to tell me. Bao Da Tong was damn heavy. If I didn’t normally enjoy working out, I might not have been able to carry him. On the surface, my hands appeared to be placed unnaturally against my waist, a broken rod in my hand. I looked around as I walked, my expression searching and vigilant. I gradually made my way over to the small grove. I was anxious and panicked, uncertain of what I should do. Bao Da Tong had said to burn it down, but the steps leading up to that depended on how things unfolded!
With my first step into the trees, I knew Bao Da Tong hadn’t been mistaken. Zhao Jiang and Nana were inside. I felt an indescribable chill that caused my hairs to stand on end despite the warm weather!
What was Zhao Jiang planning?
He didn’t have the power to trap souls for an extended period of time. Therefore, he wouldn’t bring Nana to the lake. That would be no different from killing her! Then why would he suddenly make a move and bring her to the grove? Did he want to run, and take Nana with him somehow?
“He’s waiting for us.” I spoke to “myself” in an extremely quiet voice.
“Of course. Did you only just figure that out? If he wasn’t waiting for us, he would have run off long ago!” Bao Da Tong said. “He didn’t expect us to discover the lake’s secret. Since Ah Zhan returns tomorrow, wouldn’t he be waiting for death if he stayed? But how could he be willing to let you live? As long as you’re alive, Nana won’t love him! Actually he doesn’t understand that even if you didn’t exist, Nana still wouldn’t love him. Love is the most natural thing. There can’t be the slightest bit of coercion.”
“Unfortunately, he doesn’t understand.” I sighed. “Do we face him head on?”
“We’re dividing and conquering. Don’t forget, I’m still wandering around outside!” Bao Da Tong said. “He either divides his attention or still thinks you’re here by yourself. Either way, we have a chance. Don’t worry, my illusion spell is pretty decent. He won’t notice anything at his level.”
I didn’t speak, but I knew what he meant. Since Zhao Jiang’s powers were greater, we would win by trickery! I turned and saw the fake Bao Da Tong suspiciously stalking around outside the grove, seemingly plotting something. I figured Zhao Jiang would definitely fall for it.
There was a windy pebble path inside the grove that divided it in two. I walked upon it slowly. Based on how long and far I had walked, I should have left the grove already. However, the path ahead stretched endlessly into the darkness. I knew I was trapped in a formation. However, I didn’t panic this time. Instead, I hoped for the confrontation to arrive sooner!
The rain fell harder and harder, rustling the grass and leaves. It was as if someone was following my every step. The dark was also abnormal. I could only make out the path ahead due to having adjusted to the darkness, as well as the faint light reflecting off the raindrops.
Suddenly, two white ovals appeared ahead. They floated towards me in the dark grove!
I immediately halted, feeling Bao Da Tong tense on my back as well.
I subconsciously gripped the peach wood rod harder, staring straight ahead. The glaring whiteness drew closer and closer before stopping around ten steps ahead of me.
A flash of lightning split the skies and a peal of thunder rang out. The grove suddenly filled with faint light, as if the curtains were pulled back from a stage. I could clearly see the space ahead.
A man and a woman stood facing each other. They wore medieval European costumes. The white ovals I saw were the masks they still wore on their faces. They held hands, standing vacantly in the rain and staring at each other affectionately. They seemed intent on continuing the interrupted play!
“Don’t move! Let’s see what he’s up to!” Although only I could hear him, Bao Da Tong still subconsciously lowered his voice.
I suppressed the urge to rush forward and stood in place as if frozen in fear!
“Nana, I love you! I love you very much! Come away with me! The man suddenly said.
I had accompanied Nana’s rehearsals each time, and didn’t recall such a line. The current scene was clearly “original”. Furthermore, the female lead’s name had changed from Christine to Nana. The male lead was still the tall swarthy guy, but his voice was sharper and weaker, and trembled slightly. It was clearly Zhao Jiang’s voice.
“I…” There was a moment of hesitation in Nana’s voice, as if she didn’t know how to respond.
“Say that you love me, and that you will come with me!” Zhao Jiang prompted, his voice a little uneasy. Nana’s reaction was clearly not what he expected.
Something had been off the moment the male and female leads stepped on the stage. I had been guarding the front while Bao Da Tong was in the back. Zhao Jiang shouldn’t have been able to effortlessly control Nana since she carried no less than a dozen talismans. Although Bao Da Tong’s abilities were slightly lacking, Zhao Jiang still wouldn’t have been able to act under our noses if it hadn’t been for the unexpected rain.
Yet the rain had come. Although it was a small thing, it was critical! Everyone had been distracted. Some were focused on the play while others on the performers. No one was paying attention.
Therefore, Zhao Jiang had snuck in while avoiding Bao Da Tong’s senses. He hid amongst those of us who had no supernatural vision and waited for his opportunity.
Not only did he possess the guy’s body and whisk Nana away in front of everyone, he even wanted to act out this romantic scene for me to see. Yet despite Nana being controlled by his spell, her strong feelings for me left her momentarily at a loss.
“Nana, come with me!” Seeing her remain unresponsive, Zhao Jiang raised his voice. He sounded especially mournful in the rain.
“Bring her back.” Bao Da Tong urged me.
“Nana, don’t listen to him!” I shouted, walking forwards. “Look at me, Nana. I’m Wan Li!”
“Wan Li?” Nana repeated, slowly turning to look at me. She asked in confusion, “Who is Wan Li?”
Zhao Jiang roared with laughter, ecstatic that his magic caused Nana to forget me. However, his smugness was short lived. Nana repeated my name under her breath, and then walked a few steps towards me as if enchanted.
“Quiet, Nana!” Zhao Jiang grabbed her hand. “You’re not allowed to speak this name again. I’m the one you love, I am the one you love!”
“I’ve seen people lie to themselves, but I’ve never seen someone doing it to your extent.” I spoke to Zhao Jiang instead, drawing his attention so Nana could escape his control. “If you really want someone to repeat after you so much, why not go buy a parrot?”
“Without you, she will love me!”
“How can love be forced?”
“I will kill you.” Instead of growing angry, he laughed. His words were creepy, like caterpillars crawling over grass.
“Come try it if you’re so capable. Don’t hold a woman hostage! No woman would like a coward who hides behind them!” I felt Bao Da Tong slowly make his way down form my back. Knowing he had found the weak point and was about to make his move, I purposefully provoked Zhao Jiang.
“What did you say?” Zhao Jiang asked softly, but I could tell he was about to die from anger. Or rather, he was going to die once more, this time from anger!
“Am I wrong?” I raised the peach wood rod slightly. The movement was due to Bao Da Tong raising my wrist, but it had attracted Zhao Jiang’s attention. He stared at me. I acted nonchalant as I continued speaking. “When you were alive, you clearly had a crush on her yet didn’t dare ask her out. Now you aren’t of this world anymore, yet still don’t dare speak. You couldn’t let her go, and used such despicable means. Do you feel very manly about what you’ve done?”
“I died for her. Could you? Both you and Ruan Zhan, could either of you do that for her?” Zhao Jiang shrieked. “In that forest, I was the only one who jumped in the pond to save her!”
“No. If need be, both of us would give our lives to save hers!” I retorted. “Do you think yourself great just because you died? If you were really so great, if your love was so selfless, why do you now want her to reciprocate? Why are you trying to take her life, and make her unhappy?”
I glanced at Nana who stood there blankly. Although I couldn’t see her face beneath the mask, I could still feel her confusion. “You just want to obtain her. Don’t make your obsession sound so grand. That isn’t love!”
“Shut up!” Zhao Jiang yelled.
I raised my arm, though it was actually Bao Da Tong lifting my arm from behind. “Hit him with the rod!” He said in a tiny voice.
“What can a broken piece of wood do to me?” Zhao Jiang roared with laughter.
I didn’t know whether it would be effective, but still did as instructed. When facing the enemy, trust in one’s companions had to be absolute. Even if you were doubtful, you still had to give it your all! That’s the essence of cooperation!
Therefore, the moment Bao Da Tong finished speaking, I arced my body and flung the wooden rod towards Zhao Jiang!
It was made of peach wood which had warding properties to begin with. Along with the crooked symbols Bao Da Tong had carved on it, Zhao Jiang still had to dodge despite the threat being minor. He couldn’t just shrug it off! The moment I made I move, I also sensed Bao Da Tong wave his hand.
However, he wasn’t aiming at Zhao Jiang, but rather Nana’s face!
There was a crack. The moment Zhao Jiang dodged the peach wood rod, a stone struck Nana’s mask heavily. The force was so great that it caused the vacant Nana to stumble and almost fall over. A small ray of blue light flashed across the painted wooden mask, immediately splitting it in two and revealing Nana’s blank face.
“Nana! Come here!” I shouted. Since Bao Da Tong was no longer on my back, my movements were much lighter as I swiftly ran over and reached towards Nana!
Nana froze and subconsciously reached towards me. Right before our hands made contact, Zhao Jiang rushed over with incredible speed, once again pulling Nana away from me!
One centimeter, I was just one centimeter away from grabbing her! Just one centimeter!
“Wan Li, save me!” Nana’s cry sounded out.
She had woken up now that the mask was broken. Bao Da Tong had been observing the whole time, and finally realized Zhao Jiang was using the masks to control the two. He had me distract Zhao Jiang using the peach wood rod while he himself rescued Nana!
Zhao Jiang glared at me, seeming unable to comprehend how I had thrown two things at the same time. He had yet to notice Bao Da Tong.
“Do your best to keep him busy.” Bao Da Tong spoke quietly again.
Without a word, I made my way over to Zhao Jiang!
He sneered, one hand around Nana’s neck while he pointed at me with his other. I immediately felt a cold wave of dampness that immediately caused my breathing to stop!
My survival instincts kicked in as I desperately raised my hands to brush aside the film covering my nose and mouth. However, it was invisible and intangible. It was useless no matter how I scraped at my face. Behind me, Bao Da Tong pushed against my waist, making me continue forward.
“Hold on! Hold on! Just another step further!” He called urgently.
It was easy to say, and I did my best to keep moving. However, speed I moved was still extremely slow, almost inch by inch!
“Haha, looks like you’re quite the white knight. You’re willing to even give your life for my Nana’s sake. You’ll end up dying faster like this, you know.” Zhao Jiang laughed sinisterly. “I know you’ve gone scuba diving before and have a large lung capacity. However, I refuse to believe you can last much longer!”
“Let him go! I’ll go with you!” Seeing my tragic state, Nana wasn’t able to bear it anymore and started crying. “As long as you spare him, I’ll do anything you ask! I’m begging you! Please!”
“Please, I’ll really…obey you. If you want me to love you…I’ll love you. If you want me to die, I’ll die! Just please let him go!” Nana gasping through her tears was like a dagger to my heart. A burst of strength came out of nowhere as I moved half a step in one go!
“No, he’s about to die. You just need to behave and I’ll let you forget all these scary things. I’ll be the only one in your heart!” His tone was so gentle and sincere, yet his words were insidious and malicious. The trapped Nana cried in despair.
“Wan Li! Wan Li!” She cried helplessly.
“That isn’t for you to decide!” Bao Da Tong suddenly spoke. Even I was startled, let alone Zhao Jiang. Bao Da Tong was no longer behind me, and had snuck next to Zhao Jiang.
In the dark, rainy night, several talismans suddenly appeared on Zhao Jiang’s arm. With a muffled chant, the talismans suddenly glowed red and a gust of smoke rose into the air.
Zhao Jiang didn’t expect the ambush and let out a scream. He let go of Nana’s neck as he flung his arm back and forth.
“Catch!” Bao Da Tong called and shoved the freed Nana over, causing her to crash in front of me.
At this moment, I had yet to escape Zhao Jiang’s spell but I no longer cared about myself. I fumbled around for Nana’s pale hands. She leapt over and held my head, trying to remove the formless restriction around my face as she cried. But it was no use!