The three remaining soldiers hardened by years of rigorous training, swiftly reacted to the death of their comrade. One of them pushed Ji Xiaoqin’s head down and returned to the patient’s room with her while his two remaining squadmates drew out their guns and sought cover. A dark figure slowly paced towards them from the other end of the corridor with a scalpel in his right hand. The delicate but sharp blade danced between his fingers like a butterfly whose wings beamed with dazzling rays of reflected light.
One of the soldiers fired a shot, and it turned out also to be his last one: the moment he peeked from his cover, the butterfly flew straight into his throat. He dropped his weapon and covered his throat with both hands, but he could only emit a choking sound. The figure in black bent his neck and easily dodged the bullet fired at him without even stopping and continued his march. The gunshot caused a general panic within the corridor as patients and doctors scattered and scrambled for the stairs.
The remaining soldier squinted his eyes as he listened to the footsteps of the man in black and calculated the distance that the latter had traveled. The gun he had was given to him by Guo Tai. Walther P99, made in Germany, 9mm caliber with a magazine of 15 bullets, internal striker, double action only trigger and a rate of fire of 0.72 per second. He nodded to his companion guarding Ji Xiaoqin and leaped out of his cover, firing successive shots at the man in black. Meanwhile, his partner pulled Ji Xiaoqin out of the ward and ran for the stairs on the opposite side.
The man in black snaked left and right as he pounced on the soldier in front of him. The next instant, a gloved fist emerged out of his prey’s back, holding between its fingers a beating heart: the soldier only had time to fire four shots.
The last soldier had barely taken three steps when he noticed the gunshots’ stopping. The ruthlessness of being a member of the special forces compelled him to a last-ditch effort: he pulled out his tri-edged dagger and stabbed at Ji Xiaoqin.
The blade pierced Ji Xiaoqin’s clothes and its tip grazed the generous curves of her chest. However, it would not go forward a hundredth of an inch more: the man in black had grasped the soldier’s wrist so that he could no longer push his dagger forward. The man in black moved his bloodstained right hand until he clawed the soldier’s neck and lifted him from the ground. The soldier feet kicked in the air as he struggled to no avail. Ji Xiaoqin, who fell to the ground, crawled away from the two: five more meters and she would reach the staircase.
The last soldier’s struggle weakened gradually until it became no more than jerking, and then his body became limp. The man in black did not release him, but instead stared at his distorted figure.
“Kill her… I can… You… Cannot…” The man in black closed his fist tightly and ripped his prey’s neck apart.
Two meters still separated Ji Xiaoqin from the stairs, but when she heard the man in black’s voice, she turned around with her mouth wide open in disbelief, almost forgetting to breathe for a moment. The voice was hoarse, cold, dry, and devoid of emotions, but Ji Xiaoqin recognized it instantly. “Yi… Yiming?”
The window glass next to the man in black shattered into pieces. The man spun around and fell down on one knee. A gaping hole appeared in his left shoulder. He quickly rolled to the side and laid prone on the floor after barely touching the ground.
Another loud noise was heard. This time, the wall was suddenly blown open, and a crater appeared where the man knelt down a split second ago. The glint of reflected sunlight projected from a skyscraper right across the street was visible to anyone who dared to look through the breach in the wall.
Eyeglasses remained immobile in his prone position at the window and adjusted the aim of his rifle slightly. His talent revolved around the hacking of electronics, so although he could handle a few ordinary people in close-quarters, it would be suicide for him to try to challenge the camouflager. The rifle he used was the NTW-20, 14.5 mm caliber with an effective range of about 2300 meters. From where he was, he could punch a hole through an armored vehicle with a single bullet. On top of that, the rifle lived up to the infamous Made in Secret Domain standard.
When she saw the wound on the camouflager’s shoulder, Ji Xiaoqin’s first instinct was to run toward him. However, Li Yiming’s voice came from behind her. “Let’s get out of here!” Li Yiming picked her up and retreated towards the staircase. The camouflager stood back up again, only to be stopped in his tracks by another loud bang and a cavity that appeared about half a meter in front of him. He attempted to crawl through the hallway, but a sudden string of gunshot noises forced him to roll sideways into a ward.
The Qing sisters, one with an AK in her hands and the other one armed with an M4, sprayed the bullets in their magazines furiously into the entrance of the ward. When they heard the gunshots from the floor below, Li Yiming and the Qing sisters climbed two different staircases, aiming to surround the camouflager. They had arrived just in the nick of time.
“Yiming?” Ji Xiaoqin looked at Li Yiming with confusion with her head against his chest.
“Don’t worry, I won’t let him hurt you.” Li Yiming held Ji Xiaoqin with a firm grip and raced down the stairs. All these college years spent together dancing as a couple made him quite used to carrying her weight.
Wu Jie was rather disappointed. While the two Qing beauties had a M4 in one’s hands and an AK on the second’s shoulder, agent Li only gave him a Desert Eagle. Although the Desert Eagle could be considered the king of handguns, he did see the L86A2 rifle inside the trunk. ‘That’s something I’ve only seen in magazines. Made in the U.K., 5.56 mm caliber, 900 mm barrel length, effective range of 650 meters, firing rate of 700 rounds per minutes. That’s a gun made for a true man… I’ll forget about not receiving that one, but can’t you at least let me come up with you? “Stay here and stay on guard, this is an order.” And then you leave with the two fragile looking girls…? What am I going to do with my boiling blood now? Is this how I am to remember my passionate youth? All I can do is grow more and more nervous while the firefight rages on above.’
Suddenly, Li Yiming emerged from the entrance to the hospital with a girl in his arms. This instantly elevated Wu Jie to the peak of alertness and he jumped into the driver seat of the Land Rover. They had agreed that he, with his skills comparable to a guardian, would be the driver. However, before Li Yiming could exit the building, a figure dropped down from above with a loud thud, splintering the concrete ground right in front of the car. The figure in black was wrapped by a ribbon of purple light, and he stood up straight with a cold expression, blocking off Li Yiming’s escape route.
Confronting the camouflager now was even worse than their previous encounter. Li Yiming felt as if he was wading through a marsh, and he had difficulty moving his limbs merely an inch forward. “Don’t worry, I won’t let him hurt you,” Li Yiming held onto Ji Xiaoqin tightly
“You’re not blaming me?” Ji Xiaoqin, wrapped by the embrace she had become so familiar with, asked a question that seemed completely out of context.
“I never did…”
A hoarse voice rung in the distance…
The voice became audible: it came from the alley across the street.
Grandma Wang’s figure appeared, and she traversed the street as if she walked out of broken movie film roll, pausing regularly and accelerating in between until she arrived right outside of the hospital’s main entrance.
Grandma Wang performed a sequence of seals with her hands, and a sudden gust of wind blew around her. The sun, which was projecting down warm beams of sunlight, hid itself beneath impenetrable layers of cloud.
Grandma Wang formed another seal with her hands. Li Yiming felt the heaviness around him suddenly alleviated.
The man in black turned around and looked at Grandma Wang with severity. The purple glow around his body brightened.
Grandma Wang performed yet more seals. Her voice was as loud as a roaring thunder and her frame was blurred by the distortion of the air around her.
The corners of Grandma Wang’s lips were tinged in crimson, but the shadow behind her silhouette became even more pronounced, and a form materialized out of thin air.
Grandma Wang spat out a mouthful of blood. A greenish glow was visible within the red liquid, and it vaporized before touching the ground. Grandma Wang’s face blanched.
“Xiang Liu?” Eyeglasses, who had been observing the scene through a hacked satellite, exclaimed. He was on the other side of the building, searching for a new vantage point.
This was Grandma Wang’s talent: the summoning of Xiang Liu. Xiang Liu is a mythical monster described in the legends as being a snake with nine heads that feasted on humans. The water it spat out was poisonous and after its passage, it would leave behind a desolate land on which nothing could grow. According to ancient scriptures, Xiang Liu was a servant of the god of water, Gong Gong, and its immensity allowed it to eat from nine different mountains at the same time. The saliva its heads spat out created huge poisonous marshes, and it was rumored that the leader Yu had tried to fill these marshes up three times to no avail. Therefore, he turned the marsh into a lake and used the earth he had dug up to build a sanctuary for the gods in the north of the Kunlun mountains. 2
“I was off my guard the last time we met. This old one will see what challenges you can bring today.” Grandma Wang’s hoarse voice sounded weaker than ever: summoning Xiang Liu had to be a significant burden.
The camouflager looked at the nearly five meters tall nine-headed snake. He dropped his headband to the ground as a purple flame surrounded his body and his hair billowed without the coming of any wind. “If you had summoned the real Xiang Liu… I would have killed myself without hesitation… But this mere imitation…” The man in black smiled coldly as he darted towards the creature.
Xiang Liu sent out a ferocious screech from its nine heads and twisted itself into the melee against the camouflager. Li Yiming retreated with Ji Xiaoqin to the side, fully aware that he could not be of any use in such circumstances. Ji Xiaoqin cuddled against his chest, and, although it was a warm embrace, there was something more real about the man surrounded by purple fire.
Xiang Liu’s nine heads danced left and right while the man in black maneuvered between them with agility. The vicious battle between the two soon caused the collapse of the section of the building near the entrance and the emergency department right next to it. One of Xiang Liu’s head feigned a weakness and limped after receiving a kick from the man, only to surge up and bite him in the left leg as he moved closer. Grandma Wang had barely the time to celebrate the sudden success when she noticed that man’s figure slowly faded away: an after image.
A black figure suddenly appeared behind Xiang Liu and sliced through its body with his palm, leaving behind a bright purple trail. One of Xiang Liu’s heads flew off and turned into a muddy liquid in the air with a terrible screech.
Eight heads remained…
The man in black took advantage of his proximity to Xiang Liu with a purple orb in his left palm. He pushed the orb into the mouth of another head that gnawed at him. Bang! The head was obliterated.
After losing two heads, Xiang Liu’s body seemed to have faded away a little. It became more transparent, more aery-like. Grandma Wang’s countenance paled again, and her limbs trembled violently. Li Yiming’s nervousness grew as he witnessed the change.
The next “chapter” is an addition about the creature which has appeared, Xiang Liu, and what Grandma Wang did to summon it. Feel free to skip it if you wish so.
1. A note on this chant later.
2. A note about this later, as well
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