The First Arc: Blood Rain Reaching Towards a Flower
Chapter 8: The Ghost Holds a Wedding, The Crown Prince Climbs Onto the Marriage Sedan
Should he reach over or not?
Xie Lian remained calm and collected. After all, he hadn’t finished thinking things through yet. Should he continue acting mighty and unmovable despite encountering hardships? Or should he pretend to be a new bride who was currently scared out of her wits, one who would cowardly move backwards in an attempt to hide?
The owner of that hand was quite patient and elegant. Xie Lian didn’t move, so that hand didn’t move either, as if the hand’s owner was waiting for his reply.
After quite a while, as if he had been possessed by a demon, Xie Lian actually reached out his hand.
He stood up and was about to push aside the curtain blocking the door so he could step off the sedan. However, the person outside was already a step ahead of him and had already raised the red curtain. The person who came held Xie Lian’s hand, though he didn’t grasp it too tightly, as if he were afraid he would accidentally hurt him. This resulted in creating the illusion that the person was quite cautious and careful.
Xie Lian’s head was lowered. He allowed the other person to lead him before slowly leaving the sedan. When he looked down, he glimpsed a pile of wolf and base slave corpses by his feet. They looked as if they had been strangled to death by the silk cloth Ruoye. Xie Lian’s thoughts took a slight turn before he stumbled slightly. With a startled gasp, he began to fall forward.
The person who came immediately placed his hand onto Xie Lian’s back to support him. Thus, he managed to catch him before he fell.
Since he supported him, Xie Lian took the opportunity to easily grab his wrist. However, he only felt something cold and hard. It turned out that the person who had came wore a pair of silver vambraces.
These vambraces were gorgeous and exquisite. There were ancient patterns decorating them. Maple leaves, butterflies, and sinister, ferocious beasts were also engraved on them. They looked quite mysterious, unlike something from the Central Plains. Rather, it looked as if they were an antique from a minor exotic tribe. They perfectly enclosed this person’s wrists, making him appear refined and agile.
Ice cold silver, deathly pale hands. They seemed lifeless, however, they also seemed to contain a murderous spirit and evil intentions.
Xie Lian had faked that fall of his, intending to feel the other person out. Even now, Ruoye was still hidden in his wide sleeves as it slowly twisted around his wrists, waiting for the moment to pounce. However, the person who came only held his hand once more before leading him forward.
On one hand, Xie Lian’s head was still covered with that veil, so he couldn’t see clearly. On the other hand, he wanted to stall for time. This was why Xie Lian deliberately walked very slowly. However, unexpectedly, the other person actually cooperated with his pace and walked extremely slowly as well. Every now and then, this person’s other hand would support him and pull him along, as if he was afraid Xie Lian would fall again.
Although Xie Lian was extremely vigilant and on guard, when he saw how the other person treated him, he couldn’t help but think, “If this person really was a bridegroom, he was truly being gentle and considerate to the extreme.”
At this time, Xie Lian suddenly heard an extremely clear, tinkling noise. Every time the two of them took a step, that clear noise would ring once. Just when he was pondering over what this noise was, the suppressed roars of wild beasts abruptly appeared from all directions.
Xie Lian’s figure moved slightly as the Ruoye on his wrist suddenly tightened.
Who knew that, before he could do anything, the person holding his hand lightly patted his hand twice as if he was comforting him and telling him to not worry. These two pats were light enough to be considered as an extremely gentle move. Xie Lian was slightly startled before he realized that those low roars were already disappearing. When he tried to carefully listen again, Xie Lian suddenly discovered that these wolves weren’t roaring or snarling. Instead, they were whimpering.
These noises were clearly the sounds a wild beast made when they were frightened to the extreme. They were the whimpering the beasts made when they were unable to take a single step, the sobs during their final struggle before death.
Xie Lian’s curiosity concerning the person became even stronger. At this moment, he only wanted to take off his veil and take a look at him before doing anything else. However, he knew that this action was not something proper. Thus, Xie Lian could only peek through the small crack in the veil before trying to piece together an image, despite missing the big picture.
With this glimpse, Xie Lian saw the hem of a red robe. And under that red robe was a pair of black leather boots. They were currently walking at a leisurely pace.
This person’s pace was a bit careless, mixed with a light and brisk bounce in his steps. It made him appear like a lively teenager. However, he walked as if he had a goal or destination firmly in mind, making it so that it seemed like no one could stop him. Whoever dared to block his path would only be crushed into dust. This rather made Xie Lian unable to precisely determine what kind of person this guy was.
While he was still turning over guesses in his mind, a white and ghastly thing suddenly appeared in his view.
That was a skull.
Xie Lian’s pace stagnated for a moment.
With only a single glance, Xie Lian was able to tell that there was something wrong with the position of this skull. This was clearly the corner of some sort of spiritual array. If one touched it, Xie Lian was afraid that the whole array would launch an attack at that point. However, with the teenager’s current pace, it seemed like he hadn’t noticed something was there. Xie Lian was just pondering over whether he should give the teenager a warning when he heard a ‘ka-cha’ noise. With this tragic crunching noise, Xie Lian blankly watched that person’s foot step onto the skull and shatter it into dust.
Then, as if he hadn’t felt or noticed anything, this person indifferently stepped on the skull dust and kept on walking.
Xie Lian: “……”
This guy actually……just with a single step……crushed this entire array……into useless dust……
At this moment, the teenager’s pace suddenly paused. Xie Lian’s heart moved, thinking it was because the other boy was about to do something. However, that teenager only stopped for a second before he continued to lead him forward. After two steps, some soft thudding noises echoed from above their heads, like the sound of rain hitting an umbrella. It turned out that a moment ago, the teenager had opened an umbrella before holding it above both of their heads.
Although it wasn’t the time to think this, Xie Lian couldn’t help but praise the teenager for being so thoughtful. However, he felt this was rather odd. Was it raining?
Within the quiet and dark mountains, within the forest filled with thick weeds—in the distant depths of the mountain range, a group of wild wolves faced the moon and howled. Xie Lian didn’t know if it was because a slaughtering fest had just occurred, but within the cold air, the light scent of blood slowly emerged.
This situation and this scenery were both demonically alluring. However, this teenager held his hand with one hand and held up an umbrella with the other as he slowly led him forward. For no reason at all, this made their stroll seem romantic and flirtatious, like they were sincerely in love and inseparable.
That bizarre bout of rain came in a strange manner and left in a strange manner as well. It didn’t take a long while before the sound of raindrops hitting the umbrella disappeared. And that teenager also came to a halt. It seemed like he had put away his umbrella. Simultaneously, he finally let go off Xie Lian’s hand before walking a step closer to him.
The hand that had held his and led him all the way here lightly touched his veil before slowly lifting it up.
Xie Lian had been waiting for this moment for their whole walk here. He didn’t move at all as he watched the lingering red curtain in front of his eyes slowly disappear——
The silk cloth Ruoye moved!
It wasn’t because this teenager had revealed any killing intent. Rather, Xie Lian intended to take the initiative and attack first. They could have a nice chat after the other person was unable to move.
Who would have thought that after the silk cloth Ruoye flew out, it brought along a burst of harsh wind. The scarlet veil left the teenager’s hand, flying up before falling once more. Xie Lian only had the time to see the after-image of a teenager dressed in red before Ruoye rushed over.
Unexpected, that teenager suddenly shattered into a thousand silver butterflies. They scattered into a burst of silvery light, looking like a glistening and dazzling stellar wind.
Although this really wasn’t the time or place, Xie Lian couldn’t help but marvel at this scene after he retreated two steps. This sight was really too gorgeous, as if it was a fantasy scene only seen in one’s dreams.
At this moment, a silver butterfly began leisurely flying in front of him. Xie Lian didn’t manage to carefully examine it before the butterfly flew around him twice. After that, it integrated itself back into the glistening wind, transforming into part of the silvery light filling the sky. With a flap of their wings, the butterflies flew upwards.
After quite a while, Xie Lian finally snapped himself out of his daze. In his heart, he mentally wondered, “In the end, was this teenager the ghost bridegroom or not?”
In his opinion, he kept feeling as though this teenager wasn’t. If he was the ghost bridegroom, then the wild wolves in Mount Yu Jun ought to have been his subordinates. But if that was the case, why would those wolves be that scared when they saw him? In addition, that spiritual array they saw on the road here should have been one that had been set up by the ghost bridegroom. However, that teenager had just casually…….crushed the array into rubbish.
On the other hand, if that teenager wasn’t the ghost bridegroom, why would he come to rob the sedan of its bride?
The more Xie Lian thought, the more strange he thought this situation was. Xie Lian threw the silk cloth Ruoye onto his shoulders as he mentally thought, “Let’s forget about it. There’s also the probability that he had been someone who had been coincidentally passing by. For now, let’s put him to the side. The reason for why I’m here is what’s more important.”
Xie Lian took a look around before letting out a surprised sound. It turned out that in the distance, there was actually a building. It looked quite heavy and grounded as it stood there.
Since the teenager brought him here, and since this building had been painstakingly hidden in this befuddling array, it became imperative for Xie Lian to go in and take a look.
Xie Lian took a few steps forward before he suddenly stopped. He thought for a moment before going back and picking up the wedding veil that was on the floor. Patting the dust off of it, he held it in his hand before walking toward the building again.
This building’s red walls looked quite tall, with bricks that looked conspicuously mottled. It actually looked similar to an old temple for the god of the city. In addition, based on Xie Lian’s experience, the structure of this building made it probable that it was a martial god’s temple. Sure enough, Xie Lian raised his head and saw three big words engraved in the metal on the top of the front door. The words said:
“Ming Guang Temple”!
The martial god of the North, General Ming Guang. He was precisely the god Ling Wen had mentioned last time in the spiritual communication array; the General Pei whose incense sticks burned prosperously in the North. No wonder they hadn’t found a Ming Guang Temple in the vicinity and found a Nan Yang Shrine instead. It turned out that the Ming Guang Temple in this area was within Mount Yu Jun. However, this temple had long been sealed off by a befuddling array. Could it be……perhaps there was some connection between the ghost bridegroom and General Ming Guang?
However, toward this General Ming Guang, one could say he was someone proud of his success and arrogant in his power. In addition, his position in the North was also very stable. Xie Lian personally didn’t believe that this kind of martial god would willing be involved with such a vicious thing like the ghost bridegroom. On the other hand, something like unluckily allowing a vicious thing occupy their place when they weren’t aware of anything wasn’t something strange. As for what the truth behind everything was, it was better to make one’s conclusions after looking things through more.
Xie Lian walked over. The temple door was closed but it hadn’t been locked. Thus, it opened after a single push. After he opened the door, a strange odour assaulted his senses.
It wasn’t the smell of dust found in a place that had been uninhabited for a long time. No, it was a faint, rotten stench.
Xie Lian walked in and closed the front door, making it seem as though no one had entered the temple in the first place. In the centre of the main hall, a Godly statue was located on the altar for offerings. Naturally, this Godly statue depicted that martial god from the North, General Ming Guang.
Many humanoid objects, for example, sculptures, puppets, and portraits, were all things that were easily infected by evil influences. Therefore, the very first thing Xie Lian did was walk forward and carefully examine this Godly statue.
After taking a long look, Xie Lian’s conclusion was: this Godly statue was modelled very superbly. It held a double-edged sword as it wore a belt made out of jade on its waist. In addition, it had a handsome face and looked imposing and impressive. There was no problem with this Godly statue. Moreover, that rotten odour wasn’t coming from this statue either. Thus, Xie Lian stopped caring about it and turned around. He decided to head toward the back of the main hall to take a look.
However, the moment Xie Lian turned around, he froze in his place as his pupils shrunk.
A group of women wearing crimson wedding dresses and covered with veils stood stiffly in front of him.
In addition, that faint, rotting odor was drifting over from the bodies of these women.
Xie Lian quickly calmed down before counting those women. One, two, three, four……he counted all the way to seventeen.
They were really the seventeen brides who had gone missing in the Mount Yu Jun region!
The red colour on some of those brides’ wedding dresses looked a bit faded, and the clothes themselves looked ragged and old. These brides ought to have been the ones who had gone missing first. On the other hand, some of the brides’ wedding dresses looked brand new. The style of the dresses was also currently popular as well. In addition, the smell of a rotting corpse that came from these brides was also quite light. These brides ought to have been the ones who had gone missing recently. Xie Lian thought for a moment before uncovering the veils of one of the brides.
The face revealed under the scarlet veil was extremely pale. The skin tone was so white, it actually looked a bit green. Lit by the dim moonlight, she looked terribly frightening. The scariest thing about her, however, was that although this woman’s muscles had twisted after death, on that twisted face, she still wore a rigid smile.
Xie Lian took off the veil of the girl beside her. Once again, this girl’s mouth was curved up in the same smile.
In fact, all of the dead people in this room wore wedding garments while smiling even in death.
Beside his ear, Xie Lian seemingly began hearing that child’s voice as they sang that strange song. “New bride, new bride, new bride on the red marriage sedan……Eyes brimming with tears, passing the mountain’s mound, under the veil do not hold a rising smile……”
Suddenly, he heard a strange noise that seemed to originate from outside the temple.
It was truly a strange sound. It was so strange, it was hard to describe what it sounded like. In fact, it sounded kind of like two sticks drumming the floor while rolled up in thick fabric. It also sounded like there was something heavy attached to the moving thing, so they were dragging it across the floor with difficulty. This noise started off from far away but moved extremely quickly. In a flash, it sounded like it was outside the temple’s front door. With a long creeeak, the door of the temple was pushed open.
Regardless whether it was a person who came or some other kind of thing, it was most likely the ghost bridegroom. And right now, it had already returned home!
The was no exit at the end of the main hall, and there was also nowhere for him to hide. Xie Lian only thought for a moment before he saw the brides standing beside him. Immediately, he covered his head with his wedding veil again before standing within the group of brides, becoming silent and motionless.
If there were only three to six bodies here, then of course it would be easy for others to notice something wrong with a single glance. However, right now there were seventeen corpses here. Unless someone counted them one by one like Xie Lian did, it would be very hard for them to immediately realize that someone was hiding there.
He had just placed himself in the crowd of brides when he heard something clop their way into the room.
As Xie Lian stood there motionlessly, he began pondering over what this sound was. In the end, what was this? With the pauses between each noise, it kind of sounds like a person’s footsteps. However, what kind of thing would have this kind of footstep? This definitely wasn’t the teenager who had brought me here. That guy walked in a very unhurried and pleasant manner, and the jingling sound of bells accompanied his steps.
Suddenly, Xie Lian thought of something. His heart immediately tightened. This was bad! The height was wrong!
After all, all of these corpses were bodies of women. But he was a genuine man! He was naturally much taller than these corpses. Although nobody could tell there was an additional person in this crowd at first glance, it would be easy for them to notice that there was someone who looked particularly tall.
But after thinking things over a bit more, Xie Lian immediately calmed down. He was indeed quite tall. However, that young lady Little Ying only combed his hair into a simple hairstyle. She didn’t do much with it.
On the other hand, these brides were all dressed up. Their hair was combed up so high those strands were practically soaring to the sky. In addition, thanks to the phoenix crowns they wore, the top of their heads became a huge chunk taller. If they added everything together, some of these brides probably wouldn’t be shorter than him. Even if he was tall, it wouldn’t be too eye-catching.
Just as he was thinking that, Xie Lian once again heard the clopping noise from before. This time, it sounded like it was only two zhang1 away.
After a moment, he heard the clopping noise again. It sounded like it was even closer to him now.
Xie Lian finally realized what this ghost bridegroom was doing.
It was lifting every bride’s veil as it checked the faces of the corpses one by one!
If he didn’t make a move now, when would have been a better time? The silk cloth Ruoye flew out before slamming into the ghost bridegroom.
Then he heard a loud noise before a black fog began filling up the room. Xie Lian didn’t know whether this fog was poisonous or not. Since he didn’t have any spiritual energy protecting his body, he immediately stopped breathing as he covered his nose and mouth with his hand. At the same time, he urged the silk cloth Ruoye to dance and create wind, in an attempt to quickly disperse the fog.
Suddenly, he heard the clopping noises again. Xie Lian squinted before he saw a short and small shadow pass through the temple’s front door. With the temple’s door wide open, a lump of black fog began rolling out as it headed toward the forest.
Xie Lian made a prompt decision before he immediately chased after it. Unexpectedly, he hadn’t taken many steps outside when, within the forest, a blaze of fire soared into the sky. Distantly, a group of yells filled with killer intent drifted over. “Let’s go, ah!”
A youngster’s voice sounded especially resonant. “Catch the ugly creature and help our people get rid of an evil! Catch the ugly creature and help our people get rid of an evil! As for the reward, we can divide it evenly amongst us!”
This was precisely that young leader. Xie Lian began complaining in his heart. This group of people had said before that they were going to search the mountain. Unexpectedly, they actually came! Originally, it would have been fine since there was that befuddling array covering everything up. However, that array had already been destroyed by that teenager! These blind cats actually encountered a dead mouse; thus, they actually found the ghost bride groom!
Xie Lian took another look. The direction those people had been in……seemed to coincidentally be the direction the ghost bride groom had been escaping to!
Xie Lian grabbed the silk cloth Ruoye and rushed over there. He began shouting, “stand there and don’t move!”
Everyone there paused a bit from surprise. Xie Lian wanted to continue talking when the youngster began to fervently ask, “Young lady, you were captured by the ghost bride groom and forced onto Mount Yu Jun, right? What’s your name? We came here to save you, you can be at ease now!”
Xie Lian was startled for a moment by those ridiculous words. Then, he finally remembered he was wearing a girl’s wedding dress. There hadn’t been a mirror in the Nan Yang temple, so he didn’t know what his current appearance was. However, based on this reaction, that young lady Little Ying was pretty good at what she did. This was because, after these people were surprised, they started treating him as a real bride. Moreover, this youngster was probably hoping that he was the seventeenth bride, so it would be easier for him to take the reward.
No matter what, however, he couldn’t allow these villagers to run all over the place under these circumstances. But he also couldn’t guarantee that the ghost bridegroom wasn’t still running away. Luckily, at this moment, two black-clothed teenagers finally managed to rush over. Seeing this, Xie Lian immediately yelled. “Nan Feng, Fu Yao, quickly come and help me!”
Unexpectedly, after these two small martial gods looked over by following the sound, they both began staring blankly at him. Then, they simultaneously backed away two steps. Xie Lian had to call them a few more times before they finally reacted.
Seeing this, Xie Lian asked, “You guys came over from there, right? Did you guys encounter something on the way here?”
Nan Feng replied, “We didn’t!”
Hearing that, Xie Lian said, “That’s good. Fu Yao, quickly go down this path and do a search. Look around in all directions and make sure that the ghost bride groom hasn’t escaped.”
After Fu Yao heard this, he immediately turned around and left. Xie Lian continued speaking, “Nan Feng, guard this place and make sure not a single person can leave. If Fu Yao can’t find the ghost bride groom in the mountains, then the ghost bride groom must be hidden among this group of people!”
When they heard this, all of the burly men were stunned. That youngster already realized he wasn’t a woman, and thus was the first that jumped up. “Nobody can leave? Why should we listen to you?! Are there no laws in this land! Everyone, don’t listen to them……”
The youngster hadn’t even properly stood up when Nan Feng thrust out his palm. Suddenly, a tall tree with a thick trunk snapped in half and fell to the ground. Everyone there immediately remembered that this teenager would strike things before completing a full sentence. If they were chopped in half like the pillar he had broken before, then even paying them money would lose any meaning. Thus, everyone shut up.
That youngster spoke up again. “You say the ghost bridegroom is within this group, so he has to be in this group? Everyone here has a first name and a last name! If you don’t believe me, come over here and use the fire to light up our faces! Check us over one by one!”
Xie Lian said, “Nan Feng.”
Nan Feng took the youngster’s torch and began checking people one by one. Everyone’s brows were beaded with sweat. Some people looked tense, some people looked at a loss. Some looked excited, some looked extremely lively. Xie Lian couldn’t see the cause. Thus, he walked to the front of the group and said, “Everyone. Please excuse my previous offense. However, I wounded that ghost bride groom, and it escaped. But it definitely couldn’t have gone far. These two young friends of mine didn’t encounter him on the road when they came here, so I’m afraid it might have hidden itself in this group of people. I’ll have to trouble everyone to take a close look at one another. Clearly check everyone’s face, and make sure there isn’t anyone you don’t know here.”
When they heard that the ghost bridegroom was probably within their group, everyone immediately felt their blood run cold. They didn’t dare to be careless as they started staring at each other in dismay. Next, they began playing the ‘You look at me, I’ll look at you’ game. After they stared at each other for quite a while, suddenly, someone yelled in a strange tone. “How come you’re here?”
Xie Lian’s heart skipped a beat as he rushed over and asked, “Who is it?”
The youngster snatched someone else’s torch before lighting up a corner. He yelled, “This ugly girl!”
The person he was pointing at was actually……Little Ying. Under the light, Little Ying’s face with her crooked nose and slanted eyes appeared a bit twisted. As if she couldn’t stand being exposed so prominently, she raised a hand to block her face from everyone’s view. Then, she began speaking, “I……I just couldn’t feel at ease, so I decided to come up and take a look……”
Seeing how she was convulsing with fear, Xie Lian took away the torch in that youngster’s hand before asking the crowd. “How was it?”
Everyone started shaking their heads. “There’s no one we don’t recognize.”
“We’ve seen everyone here before.”
Nan Feng asked, “Could it have attached itself to someone’s body?”
Xie Lian thought for a moment before replying. “That would be unlikely. That thing had been solid.”
Nan Feng reminded him. “However, that thing is already of the ‘Wrath’ rank. It’s hard to say whether or not it could change its form.”
While the two of them were hesitating over here, that youngster was the first to start shouting. “The ghost bridegroom isn’t one of us! You saw it clearly as well, right?! If you saw clearly, then let us go!”
Scattered voices began echoing his words. Xie Lian swept his gaze over them before saying, “Everyone, please stay in front of the Ming Guang temple, do not leave.”
Everyone wanted to complain, however, when they saw Nan Feng’s grave and stern expression, nobody dared to. At this moment, Fu Yao returned and reported, “It’s not in the vicinity.”
Hearing that, Xie Lian stared at the dense crowd in front of the Ming Guang temple. Then, he began to slowly declare, “In that case, the ghost bride groom must be within this crowd.”