The World Below Surface 26 ☆ You should be happy as well

Updated: 19 hours ago


After He Lou informed the villagers, the usually tranquil and celebratory atmosphere of the village immediately erupted like boiling water.
How could a bride dare to escape? This was an utterly scandalous event in Red River Village, where rules held greater importance than the sky.

He Lou stood before the village chief, consumed by shame and blaming himself.
“I did not educate them well enough for this to occur,” he confessed.
Had He Lou been sober, he would never have uttered such words.
In Red River Village, admitting mistakes typically resulted in punishment.

Hearing these words, the village chief's expression immediately transformed.
The corners of his mouth lifted high as if he had heard the most delightful news.
Yet, his eyes were filled with frigidity and resentment as he fixed his gaze on He Lou.
Gradually, his face flattened like a paper doll, and his bright, red lips opened and closed.
“This is what you stated,” he said.
“You have made a mistake and will…will be punished.”

The village chief's metamorphosis was enough to send shivers down their spines, but presently, they felt no unease.
Instead, they gathered around him, hoping to sway his decision.
Another man named Zhao Chuan immediately interjected.
“Village chief, He Lou did not intend for this to happen.
This matter is not his fault.”

Zhao Chuan had been the one to question Shen Na initially, but he could not recollect that now.
He merely remembered that he had lived with the team for many years, and their relationship had grown stronger with time, much like biological siblings.

At this moment, though he recognized that there was no justification for breaking the village rules, he believed that Ding Cong Lu's offense was hers alone.
What did it have to do with He Lou? Observing this, several other individuals spoke up.
“Village chief, if you seek to punish, you should only punish Ding Cong Lu.
She was the one who sought to flee.”

“Yes,” another interjected.
“Brother Lou arrived to report the incident to the village as soon as he became aware.
It is not his fault.”

The group united in pleading for mercy, except for Lu Yan, who remained still.
This agitated the others, but the village rules dictated that they must be kind to their peers.
Otherwise, they would have forced Lu Yan to speak up.

Unexpectedly, Lu Yan remained quiet for a moment before speaking up.
“Village chief, I have arranged a marriage for He Lou, and a wedding banquet will be held in a few days.”

Upon hearing this, the village chief ceased muttering, and his empty gaze fixed upon Lu Yan.
“I have found a bride for him after much difficulty,” Lu Yan said flatly.

Initially, Lu Yan had chosen Shen Na.
Still, now that Lu Xiu Xiu had passed away, he could readily replace her with someone else.
There was thirteen total, and four had broken the rules and transformed into scarecrows.
The wedding banquet could be postponed for three or four days, but the later the ghosts arrived, the more frequently they transformed, and he had to ensure he could survive the month.

Whom should Ding Cong Lu, Chen Zheng Hao, He Lou, Lu Xiu Xiu, and Shen Na be paired with? Liu Xia was missing…no.
In a few days, he would return.
But Shen Na and Liu Xia, with whom else?

As Lu Yan surveyed the other individuals present, his gaze moved over them with a lifeless quality.
Thankfully, the rest of the group was dazed in an illusion, or else they would have noticed the disturbing way he was studying them.
But it was precisely because of his detached demeanor that Lu Yan could assess them so thoroughly.

He Lou's miraculous survival of the Daoist priest's attack elevated him in Lu Yan's eyes.
The sword had been perilously close to piercing his throat, but the timing was perfect.
If Lu Yan had been even a fraction of a second slower in rescuing He Lou, both would have been killed.
And yet, he couldn't decide whether he felt guilty about this fact.
After all, death in this realm was transitory, and they would eventually be reborn.
But somewhere deep within, a voice warned him that he absolutely could not die.
The consequences would be too terrible to bear.

As a result, He Lou had to be disposed of.
Despite the man's current loyalty, who could say that he wouldn't reveal Lu Yan's secret to others? Moreover, in the many years he had spent in this world, Lu Yan had never witnessed anyone from another realm reappearing in such a short period.
It could happen in the future, but not now.

And once the ghost marriage was performed, He Lou would be condemned to die.

Only when Lu Yan reminded him did He Lou suddenly recall the impending nuptials.
“Yes,” he said with gratitude shining in his eyes.
“He helped me find a bride, and we're getting married in just a few days.”

In Red River Village, village rules held greater significance than anything else, including marriage, which was considered above the village rules.
Thus, any villager who managed to find a match for a ghost marriage was exempt from punishment, even if they had committed a grave offense.
However, Ding Cong Lu had dared to run away from the marriage, and as a result, the village chief's ghastly white face contorted with rage.

Gradually, his features relaxed, and after a while, he smiled and congratulated He Lou as if he had forgotten what he had just said.
Shen Na, An Xing Yu, Zhao Chuan, and the others breathed a sigh of relief and looked at He Lou with envy.
In their eyes, being able to perform a ghost marriage was a great honor.

He Lou beamed with happiness as he received the village chief's blessing.
At the same time, his fellow villagers mentally vowed to punish Ding Cong Lu properly.
They bound her with twine and brought her before the village chief.
Ding Cong Lu was gagged, tears streaming down her face, and terror was written all over her features.
She looked at her familiar companion with a look of abhorrence, repeatedly whimpering, her eyes begging for mercy.

Conversely, the children found the situation amusing and began to clap their hands and circle around her, singing nursery rhymes.

“Bride, disobey, be punished, be punished ……”

Ding Cong Lu shook her head in terror.
She knew all too well that the so-called punishment was far worse than death.
Her lover, Chen Zheng Hao, had broken the rules, so he was forced to make lanterns after the wedding banquet.
She had witnessed Uncle Wu peel his skin off, piece by piece, starting from the head.
It was a gruesome sight, like watching the process of making a crocodile skin bag.
Human skin was glued onto the lantern skeleton bit by bit until a new lantern was made.

Despite witnessing her boyfriend's excruciating pain and agony as he was bewitched by the ghost, Ding Cong Lu remained under the ghost's spell and watched him die without remorse.
The memory of that traumatic event flooded her mind as she gazed upon her current teammates, who were still blinded by the ghost's power, desperately struggling to reach out to her.
The grief of losing her lover overwhelmed her, but Ding knew she had to escape it and find a way out of their current predicament.

'Come to your senses quickly!' she urged her companions.
'Don't be deceived by this village.
We must find a way out of this.'

The village headman approached Ding Cong Lu and scolded her.
“You didn't follow the rules,” he said sternly, his mouth gaping wide open.

The villagers echoed his words in unison, and the atmosphere turned icy cold, causing Ding Cong Lu to shiver.
But this sudden chill somehow cleared her mind.

Determined to find a way out, Ding Cong Lu remembered the clue they had found earlier.
According to the village rules, breaking them would lead to grave consequences.
But the last rule stipulated that everyone must consummate a ghost marriage.
And that included Ding Cong Lu, who was to be married to the ghost on the following day – the day she was destined to die.

Panic threatened to consume her, but Ding Cong Lu knew she had to stay calm and think of a solution.
She turned to her companions with tears in her eyes, unsure of what to do next.

Showing some empathy, Shen Na suggested they hear Ding Cong Lu out.
“What if she knows she's made a mistake?” she said.

An Xing Yu chimed in, “And if Brother Chen Zheng Hao likes her so much, maybe she could still go through with the wedding.”

Ding Cong Lu was grateful for their support, but deep down, she knew that going through with the wedding was not an option.
She had to find a way to break the ghost's spell and escape the village before it was too late.

He Lou's suggestion made sense, and Ding Cong Lu turned her head to look at him, her mind in turmoil.
“Let me ask you,” He Lou said, turning to face Ding Cong Lu.
“Are you still willing to marry Chen Zheng Hao now? If you don't run away from the wedding, just nod.”

Ding Cong Lu was stunned.
Of course, she was willing to marry Chen Zheng Hao.
Every young woman in love yearned to be with her beloved forever.
But now that Ahao was…
her thoughts trailed off as she recalled the way Chen Zheng Hao had shaken his head, urging her to keep quiet when he learned of his own certain death and how they had agreed to live together before leaving.
Ding Cong Lu's heart felt like it had been cut with a knife, and tears flowed once more.

She wanted very much to live, but she knew there was a good chance she wouldn't survive.
If that was the case, what did a ghost marriage matter? At least she could still be with Chen Zheng Hao.
She nodded her head.

The child at her side reached out and removed the cloth from her mouth.
Ding Cong Lu took a few deep breaths and said, “I'm not running away from the marriage.
I want to marry Chen Zheng Hao.”

All the villagers around her cheered, and several children gathered around her, singing happily.
He Lou and the others were also pleased, and even Lu Yan, who was always distant, showed a smile.

“The wedding banquet will be held tomorrow, so let's send the bride down today,” the village chief said with a smile.
A few middle-aged women, looking like villagers, brought in a large tray carrying red wedding clothes adorned with white silk ribbons, smiling and saying, “We will make the bride look beautiful, without a doubt.”

The village chief's eyes swept over the villagers.
“Who will send the bride on her way?” he asked, then reached out and took the white silk ribbon.
After much thought, he handed it to Shen Na, who had just spoken up for Ding Cong Lu.


Shen Na took the silk ribbon and walked towards Ding Cong Lu.

Though prepared to die, Ding Cong Lu found herself begging for her life when the two villagers holding her tightened their grip.
She struggled, trying to break free of their confinement, but to no avail.

“Think fast, you guys! We're here on a mission, not from Red River Village!”

As the silk belt tightened around her neck, Ding Cong Lu's breath became shallower and shallower.
Her mind racing, she gasped for air and tried to plead with Shen Na and the others.

“He Lou, remember the eight missions we've carried out? Shen Na, you too…” she managed to say before her voice was cut off by the tightening of the silk belt.
Her lungs burned, and she felt herself losing consciousness.

Ding Cong Lu's vision began to blur, and her hands flailed unconsciously.
Her nails scratched at the back of Shen Na's hand, drawing blood.
An Xing Yu and He Lou quickly intervened, holding Ding Cong Lu's hands to prevent her from harming Shen Na.

Through her hazy vision, Ding Cong Lu could see Shen Na's pleasant smile as she tightened the silk belt.
As she felt herself slipping away, she tried to urge them to remember.

But it was too late.

“Good, oh! The bride is on her way!” The villagers cheered.

The villagers cheered, celebrating the “bride's” arrival.
Shen Na and the others joined in, happy with their accomplishment.

Noticing the joy on He Lou's face, Lu Yan asked: “Do you like Lu Xiu Xiu?”

He Lou was taken aback.
“What?” he said.

Lu Yan replied, “The bride I mentioned earlier is her.
When your time comes to get married, you'll be just as thrilled as you are now.”

Lu Yan watched as the villagers took Ding Cong Lu's lifeless body away to prepare her for the wedding, his voice barely above a whisper.

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