The World Below Surface 27 ☆ Remember!


He Lou sensed something amiss, but Lu Yan's enigmatic expression masked any ill intentions, and so He Lou received the news as a blessing, offering an affirmative nod and a smile.

The villagers erupted in cheers and scampered off to prepare for the wedding, while Shen Na set out to aid in dressing the bride.
The rest of the group disbanded, with Lu Yan bringing up the rear, his steps leisurely but his mind frenzied.

What was the mystery behind Red River Village? Was it tied to the river? What was the obsession with ghost marriages? The final phase involved banishing the bride and groom to the Red River, which sounded suspiciously like a sacrifice.
How could he hope to survive a month in Red River Village?

He refused to accept the nonsensical notion that he could survive by simply abiding by the village's laws.
On the surface, the rules didn't appear too arduous, but the last and most recent amendment decreed that all outsiders were obligated to engage in a ghost marriage, and once that went into effect, death was inevitable.
He could let the others take over for the time being, but he needed to devise a solution before it was his turn.

Otherwise, even if he departed the village, the curse would linger.

What were those macabre human skin lanterns and strange, crimson mushrooms in the village? Was the memory loss related to the consumption of those fungi, or were they all caught in a phantasmagoria?

Having confronted supernatural phenomena for an extensive duration, Lu Yan had gained a measure of insight into the indomitability of ghosts.
Existing solely in the realm of the mind, they could not be vanquished by human willpower.
They could tamper with human recollection and the senses with impunity.
Confronted with the almost omnipotent phantoms, humans appeared infinitesimal and escape proved nigh impossible.

The outsiders, in contrast, presented him with a rare opportunity.
Their arrival signified the restoration of the pre-mutation state, where the once eerie entities would return to their former normalcy.
Even more significantly, these individuals from another world offered a glimmer of hope to rid the world of its oddities!

Initially, when he stumbled upon the missionaries, he felt they were out of place.
However, it wasn't until later when he taught himself hypnosis and obtained some illicit drugs that he could extract valuable information from these outsiders.
While he couldn't delve too deeply into the subject without risking their immediate selfdestruction, Lu Yan managed to piece together information about their mission and its ultimate purpose.
Who was behind the rules and regulations that even the ghosts were compelled to follow remained a mystery.

What made him so special? How come he could stay awake while others couldn't? He couldn't recall any particular trait that would enable him to confront the specters with ease.
However, his heightened awareness in the midst of chaos and his ability to resist the ghosts' negative effects proved beneficial in his survival.

Returning to his room and shutting the door, Lu Yan retrieved his phone and brought up the CCTV footage.
While the spirits had a knack for manipulating memories and visual recordings, his body's resistance to their influence, which he had honed through numerous life-and-death battles, usually proved useful in detecting tampering attempts.

On his smartphone, a nine-grid surveillance screen materialized, and Lu Yan swiftly extracted the video footage from Ding Cong Lu's room at the appropriate time and forwarded through it.
To his surprise, Ding Cong Lu, who had been sleeping soundly, suddenly jolted awake, her eyes widening with terror as she trembled uncontrollably in bed.

Lu Yan's mind raced with questions.
What had caused this sudden reaction? What did it mean for him? As he perused the footage, he noticed something eerie – precisely at midnight, a ghostly hand had appeared on the screen and covered the entire image, sending chills down his spine.

Reacting instinctively, he flung his phone out the window and fled the room, not daring to look back.
The incident had sparked a guess in his mind, and he knew he had to wait until the next wedding to verify it.

Chen Zheng Hao and Ding Cong Lu's wedding was fast approaching, and like the village headman's wedding before, Uncle Wu had fashioned two lanterns out of human skin as gifts.
All the villagers gathered at the village square, carrying white paper lanterns as they walked in a long procession, the dim light casting an eerie glow over the night.

Lu Yan walked behind the crowd, carefully observing the villagers and comparing them with the ones he had seen the previous day at the village headman's wedding.
Everything was eerily similar, from the way they dressed to their occasional conversations, even the way they lined up was exactly the same, except for the two newlyweds – Chen Zheng Hao and Ding Cong Lu.

The ensuing proceedings mirrored those of the previous wedding.
The sole deviation lay in the fact that, as soon as the village elder concluded his speech, the executioners assumed responsibility for serving the food and promptly began to consume it.

“Hold on a moment!” Lu Yan interjected, a trace of suspicion taking root in his mind.
He meticulously examined each dish and managed to surreptitiously place diferent foods onto each person's plates.
With his convincing arguments, the men remained unsuspecting.
He Lou sampled a piece of “couple's lung slice”.
An Xing Yu savored the “monkey brain”.
Shen Na relished the “fried meat in the shape of a human hand”.
Zhao Chuan consumed a live rat.

As for himself, he partook in another serving of mushrooms.
Despite the repugnant taste of blood that permeated his mouth, Lu Yan maintained a placid countenance and smiled.
Likewise, the other men wore the same smile, becoming indistinguishable from the villagers.
The wan, sorrowful light cast on their faces transformed them into similar, smiling visages.

“Let us pay homage to the heavens and earth-” The bride, shrouded in a red veil, alighted from the sedan, the groom, now a skeleton clad in his wedding attire, lay in his coffin, the golden girl bore a black and white photo frame, the suona's blare rent the sky, and the lanterns swayed in the breeze.
The two skeletons paid their respects.
Suddenly, Lu Yan's vision blacked out.

When he came to, he found himself staring at Zhao Chuan's visage.

“Come on, snap out of it! Brother Lou is about to get hitched.
Let's go lend a hand,” Zhao Chuan said.
The memories in Lu Yan's mind were still jumbled, but the instincts he had honed over time impelled him to nod subconsciously and silently follow Zhao Chuan.

Incidentally, they were now about to lend a hand to He Lou.
The woman he had taken as his wife was none other than Lu Xiu Xiu.
Lu Yan trailed behind Zhao Chuan, sensing that something was amiss, yet struggling to articulate what it was.
He kept the anomaly at the forefront of his thoughts, ruminating over it, but his gut instinct prevented him from inquiring, and his countenance remained unchanged.

In due course, they reached He Lou's abode.
Having resided in Red River Village for several years, and having always complied with its regulations, the inhabitants of the village had welcomed them with open arms, and they all enjoyed a cordial relationship.

A few days earlier, Lu Xiu Xiu had passed away and since the outsiders had been very close-knit, He Lou decided to wed her after a brief period of mourning.
The village chief and the villagers were elated for the couple, and the entire village was bustling with preparations for a joyous wedding.

However, upon arriving at He Lou's home, the two of them realized that something was amiss.
He Lou, who had always exuded an air of maturity and stability, like a big brother figure, was now incensed, frantically attempting to clarify something to An Xing Yu, with a forlorn and contemptuous Shen Na at his side.

“What is happening here?” Zhao Chuan inquired immediately, feeling a heightened sense of reverence for He Lou.
How could he suddenly have a change of heart?

Meanwhile, Lu Yan had an inkling that something was awry.
He remained outside the door, refraining from entering, and instead took a step back to keep guard.

Upon seeing Zhao Chuan, Shen Na displayed an impatient expression and uttered, “You have finally arrived.
He Lou doesn't seem to know what he wants anymore, and wishes to dissolve the marriage.” A profound disgust was evident on her face.

Being a member of Red River Village, she loathed individuals like He Lou who had agreed to a union and then wanted to rescind it.

Zhao Chuan was equally taken aback.

How could someone want to renounce their marriage? This unprecedented situation caused quite a stir in the tightly-knit community of Red River Village.

“I am not attempting to renounce my marriage, I implore you to come to your senses and recall the events that have taken place!” He Lou, well aware of the village's strict traditions, quickly retracted his statement.

He was acutely aware of the dire situation at hand and the unusual circumstances surrounding the village, causing beads of sweat to trickle down his forehead.

He could neither deny nor confirm the marriage, as both options would result in execution as per the village's unforgiving rules.

Despite his teammates' confusion and unawareness, even if they were to recall the events, they would still be bound to the village for a full month before they could depart.

Unfortunately, only a week had passed since their arrival, leaving them with a sense of helplessness and uncertainty.

What could be done now…?

After Ding's escape from He Lou, the villagers apprehended her, leaving her with nowhere to hide for the remaining three weeks.

“Brother Lou, is everything alright? What did you want us to remember?” inquired Zhao Chuan, perplexed.
“What's wrong with Brother Lou today? Did something upset him?”

An Xing Yu responded with a shake of his head, “I'm not certain.
He was acting normal when he woke up, but then he suddenly became erratic.”

“I'm not acting out of sorts, it's you all who are out of sorts.
An Xing Yu, Shen Na, do you remember our mission? Thirteen of us arrived in Red River Village, and we had to stay for a full month before departing.
Lu Xiu Xiu was with us as well.”

Shen Na's face twisted in disgust, “Enough, don't mention Xiu Xiu's name again.
You're the one who wanted to repent of your marriage, yet you have the audacity to speak of her?”

An Xing Yu also appeared bewildered, “Brother Lou, what are you talking about? We've been living in Red River Village for the past five or six years.”

Zhao Chuan chimed in, “Yes, Brother Lou.
Remember, you wanted to engage in a ghost marriage a long time ago, but there was never an available single woman in the village.
If it weren't for Lu Xiu Xiu accidentally trapping herself in a coffin and suffocating, you would never have had the chance.”

Despite his attempts to evoke memories of the past, the group continued to regard him as if he was spouting nonsense.

He Lou was left with a pressing question: what could he do now?

He Lou didn't shout frantically like Ding Cong Lu; he knew it wouldn't help.
However, if he answered affirmatively, he might be strangled to death by the villagers in due course.

Moreover, why was it his turn to be married in the underworld?

He Lou suddenly recollected that day when Lu Yan called out to him and said something.
He had put Lu Xiu Xiu in front of him and he had not objected in the slightest; rather, he had happily gone to report to the village chief.

Life and death, he no longer had the strength to regret or generate any other emotions.
His mind was racing, trying to find a way to live.

Interestingly, wasn't that what happened to Ding Cong Lu? She suddenly came to her senses and cried about repudiating her marriage because she had already remembered at that time, right?

It was undoubtedly not a coincidence that Ding Cong Lu's sudden recovery of memory and his own memory recovery both occurred the day before the wedding.

Could it be that the day before the wedding, their memory would be restored?

He Lou sensed the nefarious intent behind this mission.

By requiring the outsiders to adhere to the village's regulations, they were gradually becoming a part of Red River Village.
However, a peculiar custom of the village was a ghost wedding, which condemned those who partook in it to death! Adding to the mission's distress was the fact that the missionaries' memories would be restored a day before the wedding, leaving them no room for confusion as they watched their comrades kill each other.

In addition to avoiding encounters with ghosts and monsters, every mission played with people's emotions and drove them into the depths of despair.
He Lou had come full circle, yet he was determined to do whatever it took to survive.

Noticing Shen Na's impending departure to report the matter to the village chief, He Lou made his decision and held her hand.
“I am not regretting the marriage.
All I want is to be with everyone,” he spoke calmly, reminiscing about their journey to and growth in Red River Village.
“These were delightful times that I will never forget.
As my closest friends, I long to have a splendid wedding with you all.”

Alternatively, they could postpone the wedding and reschedule it for the following month.

By the way, what was Lu Yan's level of knowledge about the situation? Did he know about the proposal when it was initially made? Had his memories returned to him? If only he had not suggested it, he wouldn't be in this predicament now.

He Lou had regained his composure and addressed Shen Na with a smile, “What is your opinion of Lu Yan? I believe you are match made in haven.”

Shen Na appeared hesitant, saying, “But, he…”.

He Lou interjected with assurance, “There is no 'but.' Do you not believe he is suitable? We have been living together for many years; you should be familiar with his character.” Seeing that Shen Na was still somewhat uncertain, He Lou's tone grew more intense, “Moreover, he has always adhered to the rules of Red River Village.
What more can you ask for?”

Shen Na's eyes showed a hint of resistance, as if there were still doubts in her mind, “Let me…consider it.”

Meanwhile, Lu Yan was hiding behind the door, pressed against the wall, struggling internally.
He pounded his head in frustration, trying to recall his memories, unsure whether they were authentic or not.
He needed to remember quickly!

Lu Yan breathed deeply and opened his eyes, his gaze clear.
He was not a native of Red River Village.

He…was alive and needed to return.

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