"Brother Lu looking at your face, it seems like youve made some discovery?" Li Shunxi couldnt resist the urge to ask.
Finding no one after another search, the group assembled under the withered tree in the middle of the courtyard.
Lu Sheng heard the question, but all he did was to survey the surroundings all around him.
They were the only people in the entire pitch-black courtyard. The rooms around them were all empty, without any movement or light in them.
"Someones not here yet. Wheres that Miss Gong Rumeng?" He suddenly remarked.
Startled, all of them realized that Gong Rumeng was not in the group. Gong Ruqing, however, was a face of perplexity.
"Isnt my sister right behind me?" She asked. She had sensed someone following behind her all the way, and had even exchanged a few words with her sister just a few moments ago.
"Are you sure?" Lu Sheng gazed at her.
At this moment, all of them also turned their gaze on to Gong Ruqing.
Behind her stood a woman in a white dress. But her face was covered by Gong Ruqings hair and so none of them could see her face and simply assumed that she was Gong Rumeng.
Presently, the woman stood behind Gong Ruqings back silently, stiff as a statue, her arms hanging by her sides.
"But shes clearly behind me" Gong Ruqings face turned as pale as paper when she saw how everyones eyes fell on the area behind her and turned into looks of fright and horror.
If the one behind her wasnt her sister Gong Rumeng, then who on earth was this woman who had followed her all this while?
Gong Ruqings hair stood on ends and goosebumps appeared all over her, from head to toe.
Trembling, she slowly turned around.
"Dont turn around!!!" Li Shunxi dashed forward like an arrow and gripped tightly onto Gong Ruqings shoulders, pulling her towards himself.
Both of them collided against each other.
Simultaneously, some silver sparks flew out from Li Shunxis hand. A dart seemed to fly towards the woman in white.
Just then, everyones vision blurred and the woman in white had vanished without a trace in the blink of an eye.
The silver spark landed on the ground and spun a few rounds before coming to a stop. It was a palm-sized silver top.
Li Shunxi was pinned to the ground by Gong Ruqing. Both of them were in an extremely awkward position, with Gong Ruqing arms clutching onto him for her dear life in fright like an octopus tentacles.
"Miss Qingqing, its alright now. Its alright now will you let go of me first?" Li Shunxi did not know whether to laugh or to cry.
Only then did everyone come to their senses. The two guards hurried forward to help the two of them up.
Lu Shengs brows were locked in a tight knot. Beside him, Duan Mengan was scared out of his wits, his whole body covered in cold sweat and tremors.
"BBoss lets get out of this manor first"
Lu Sheng glared at him without a reply. No one had caught sight of the woman in whites face or how she had disappeared earlier.
That Li Shunxis stuff must have worked.
"That was a Soul of the Will. No one should split away now its hard to explain how dangerous these Souls of the Will are. Anyway, from this point onwards, please do not fall out of a ten-meter radius from me," Li Shunxi instructed after getting to his feet. "If Im not mistaken, its highly likely that the key to this Manor are these withered trees," he pointed his finger at the withered tree in the courtyard as he said softly.
Lu Sheng looked at him. "Brother Li, care to share your insights?"
Li Shunxi explained calmly, "To find those who have gone missing, perhaps weve got to first destroy all the withered trees in this Manor."
"Withered trees?" Lu Shengs face remained impassive.
"I suspect that these trees are the source and origin of the formation in this Manor. So one of our tasks is to destroy these withered trees. The other task is the locate a metallic object in the central bedroom from earlier. That should be the true eye of the formation in this Manor," Li Shunxi continued.
"We can try walking in the direction of the Manors exit," Lu Sheng interrupted abruptly.
Li Shunxi paused and looked Lu Sheng in the eye.
"Looks like Brother Lu disagrees with me. Leaving the Manor now wont do any good."
"We can try," Lu Sheng said flatly.
Li Shunxi stared at Lu Sheng for a moment before slowly nodding.
"Alright then. Since Brother Lu says so we can also escort these people who cant help much out of the Manor and guarantee their safety first."
"But my sister...!" Gong Ruqings pretty face was pale as she insisted.
"Well come back to look for her," Li Shunxi consoled her with a smile and extended his arms over her in an embrace, pulling her to his chest.
Gong Ruqings face turned red. But she was completely at a loss of what to do now and Li Shunxi was the only one she could rely on. Moreover, one look at Li Shunxi showed that this man was either wealthy or an aristocrat and had probably come from a family even better than her own. It was very natural for her to be moved.
Pulled into embrace, Gong Ruqing struggled slightly and stopped resisting, allowing him to hug her gently.
"Dont worry. With me and Brother Lu here, your sister is sure to be fine," Li Shunxi guaranteed with a smile.
"Mm!" Gong Ruqing nodded lightly.
The guards around them heaved a sigh of relief. This Manor was simply way too strange. Had it not been for the fact that both of them did not dare to leave on their own, they would have left their Young Miss behind and escaped. Hence, they naturally were in favor of leaving now.
Duan Mengan too was overjoyed and breathed out in relief.
Having established a consensus, they began heading for the Manors main exit.
Halfway there, all of them started sensing that something was amiss.
The Manors gates were clearly not far in the distance. But even after several hundred steps, they were still more than ten meters away from the gates.
Li Shunxis eyes narrowed, then he looked at Lu Sheng. See? He was right after all.
"Young Master" Duan Mengan was shaking as he followed close after Lu Sheng. "Have we have we run into ghosts...?"
Lu Shengs face was dark. He kept silent.
"Somethings wrong indeed!"
Li Shunxi stood aside and said coldly, "There should still be something fishy going on in that underground cellar. I intend to take another look at it. Are you coming along, Brother Lu? That should be the nexus of this Manor."
Lu Sheng shook his head slightly.
"Im not going anywhere. Im staying put."
Li Shunxi stopped in surprise. "Youre serious, Brother Lu?"
"Of course," Lu Sheng replied earnestly.
Li Shunxi gazed at Lu Sheng carefully, then smiled. "Fine, then. Please decide who you will follow. Im headed to the cellar. Brother Lu is staying put here."
Gong Ruqing and her two guards looked from left to right, and from right to left.
On one side was Li Shunxi, handsome as jade, exuding an extraordinary aura. On the other side was Lu Sheng, his face dark and grim.
"This humble girl will follow Young Master Li," Gong Ruqing resolutely chose Li Shunxi.
"Then well stick with Young Master Li as well!" The two guards added hurriedly. Li Shunxi had earlier demonstrated a series of impressive skills. Compared with the dumb and stuffy Lu Sheng, he was clearly much more convincing and credible.
Duan Mengans body wavered slightly, wishing to go over as well. But he looked at Lu Sheng, standing before him, and had no guts to move.
The result was Li Shunxis side had four people, while Lu Shengs side only two.
Both were decked in rich Young Masters clothing, but the number of their companions differed plainly.
"In that case, heres wishing Brother Lu peace and safety as you hang around here," Li Shunxis tone carried with it certain shades of meaning. Turning around, he led the rest towards the backyard.
Looks of despise flashed across the faces of Gong Ruqing and the rest. This Young Master Lus clearly got no guts. He just wants to save his own butt. Young Master Lis eager to rescue the missing persons, but he... he pales in comparison.
Lu Sheng watched silently as the rest left.
Li Shunxi walked to the side of the house. His pretty almond-shaped eyes looked deep in thought. He couldnt figure out why Lu Sheng would suddenly decide to wait by the exit.
In such circumstances, there was no use at all in just standing guard by the exit. In fact, that would just be a waste of time.
'I wonder whats going on in Brother Lus mind to think that he-' before he could finish, a sudden acute sense of danger gushed towards him from behind his back. He quickly turned his head back.
Behind him was a patch of thick darkness. It was as silent as a cemetery, deathly still and empty.
Where were Gong Ruqing and the others who were just following behind him a few seconds ago? Could it be that they all have gone missing just like that??
"Miss Qingqing?" Li Shunxi called out as his heart lurched.
His voice reverberated across the Manor in the night. But there was no response.
"An illusion?" A yellow talisman paper appeared swiftly in his hand. He threw it forward lightly and accurately pierced through it with his index finger.
Immediately, the scales fell from his eyes. Gong Ruqing and the rest appeared around him once again, each of them standing stiffly, rooted to the ground. Only their eyeballs spun madly in their eye sockets, their pupils dilated, unable to focus in the slightest.
One glance at them told Li Shunxi that they were all trapped in an illusion. In similar fashion, he took out talisman papers and pointed at them one by one.
"Miss Qingqing, are you alright?" Quickly, he held onto Gong Ruqing, whose body had turned limp and weak.
"Im Im alright" Gong Ruqings pretty face was deathly white. She was clearly terrified.
After propping up Gong Ruqing, however, Li Shunxi once again fell deep in thought. If someone had cast an illusion in his vicinity, he ought to have had detected it. But even he had fallen for the illusion earlier, without noticing it in the slightest.
"Young Master, if it hadnt been for you earlier" tears streaming down her face, Gong Ruqing drew near him, her curvaceous body almost sticking onto him.
That soft gentle touch sent sparks in Li Shunxis mind. The urge to reach out and touch Gong Ruqings crucial part consumed his mind.
Without warning, a grimace flashed across his face and he pushed Gong Ruqing away forcefully.
A streak of silver flashed between the two of them. Gong Ruqing was gripping onto a short sword and slashed violently at his chest!
It was a good thing that he had noticed it in time, hence suffering only a skin-deep gash across his chest. Although blood trickled down from it without end, it wasnt a mortal wound.
"Miss Qingqing...! You...!?" Without time to spare for a further thought, he saw Gong Ruqing stabbing her short sword into the abdomen of one of the guards beside her.
"Whats wrong with me?! Young Master Li, help me!!!" Shock and fear flashed across Gong Ruqings face. She seemed unable to control her own body, waving the short sword all around in a frenzy. She shoved away the man who had been caught off-guard violently, and then pounced at Li Shunxi.
Li Shunxi blocked on his left and dodged to his right. But Gong Ruqings skills had turned extremely powerful in an instant. After exchanging several blows, he was the one who seemed to be on the losing end!
He clenched his teeth and took out a dark golden hammer from his waist pouch. Intricate and complex patterns were carved onto its surface.
But seeing the tear-streaked Gong Ruqing, he couldnt muster the will to do it. After all, this lady was merely being possessed. Wouldnt he be murdering a life with his own hands if he struck her?
In that moment of hesitation, he was viciously slashed again.