Chapter 2 – The True Reward
Li Yiming turned around and saw a little girl, about seven or eight years old, with delicate features, rosy cheeks, and traces of baby fat that had yet to recede, which made for a very cute appearance. She stood right behind him and had an expression that was enough to make any heart melt. However, Li Yiming’s limbs were frozen from terror upon seeing her. Ever since watching a certain Japanese horror movie a while ago, the sight of a little girl by herself would always make his blood run cold, not to mention the circumstances in which he found himself.
The little girl had her hair combed neatly into a bun. A wooden hairpin pierced through the knot of hair. She wore a white taoist robe and flat bottom cloth boots. Had Li Yiming met her elsewhere, he would have commented on how cute the little girl was, but now… It was terrifying beyond description.
“Who… Who are you?” Li Yiming took three steps back, until his back was touching the wall.
“Have you ever heard of Innate Summons?”
“Innate summons?” Li Yiming was dumbfounded.
Pat The little girl palmed her forehead, and rolled her eyes in exasperation. Her look of annoyance made her even more lovable.
“Do you know anything at all?” The little girl blinked over and over again.
The little girl let out a long sigh and sat down on the bed in frustration. She lowered her head and kicked her legs in the air abjectly.
“Uh… Little girl… Who are you? How did you get in here?” Li Yiming tried his hardest to make his tone sound as affable as possible. The innocence of that little girl had tugged on his heartstrings and brought out a natural friendliness.
The little girl turned her head toward him and took a deep breath before staring at him in the eyes. She opened her mouth to say something, but suddenly stopped and collapsed back onto the bed. She pulled over a pillow from the side and stuffed her face into it while her limbs kicked in the air and a muffled peevish roar was heard.
“What’s this smell?” She suddenly raised her head in surprise and looked at the pillow in her hands. The next moment, she threw it far away with a look of terror… To bury one’s face in a pillow from an inn at a train station…
“Stop.” She raised her hands and gestured with her plump fingers to interrupt Li Yiming. “Don’t say anything, just listen to me.”
She sat up straight and looked at Li Yiming with seriousness, but her expression somehow conveyed a resignation for an undesirable fate. “I am Bai Ze, your innate summon.”
“Bai Ze? Innate summon?”
“Shut up and listen to me.” The little girl was very angry all of a sudden, but her round, flushed cheeks made it seem more like a childish outburst than anything else.”
“Look, I don’t know what on Earth made Heaven’s Laws summon me to here, but now that I’m here, I need to accept my predicament and obey the rules. We’re stuck together from now on. Don’t look at me like that, do you think that I’m happy with this match? Do you think that I’m content with following a clueless idiot? Look at yourself, how are you even a remote fit for me?”
Li Yiming quirked his lips. There was something odd for such language to emerge out of the mouth of a seven or eight-year old little girl. But Li Yiming understood one thing, at the least: this had to do with the Heavenly Laws.
“Stop staring at me. I’m your innate summon, the reward from your previous success in the domain. I don’t know how you managed to expel your self-will, but such are the rules. If you manage to destroy it, you’re rewarded with an innate summon.”
Li Yiming finally connected the dots. ‘So that camouflager in black clothes…’
“Are all innate summons like you?” Li Yiming looked at the little girl, and the only use he could find for her was in bringing affection out of those with a soft heart. ‘It sounds like a really impressive reward, but…’
The little girl threw another look of disdain at Li Yiming, indicating that she has had enough of him. “Look, I’ll explain it to you, innate summons are a designation, not some kind of biological species. You can consider it as a talent, a technique of some kind, bestowed by the Heavenly Laws. Get it?”
Li Yiming shook his head.
“Ugh…” The little girl sighed again and picked up a glass cup from the table. After smelling its interior, she put it back down with a frown. “You erased your self-will, so the Heavenly Laws has rewarded you with a technique. A technique to summon… a helper.” She organized her thoughts into words with some difficulty. “The summon exists thanks to you, but it could be anything. A dragon, a bird, or even a fly. And you, you are very lucky, because I became your helper. I’ve told you, don’t look at me like that, I’m Bai Ze, Bai Ze!” 1
“Bai Ze is your name?” Li Yiming finally understood.
“I… You don’t know what Bai Ze implies? I seriously doubt your competence as a guardian,” said the little girl as she swung her fists in the air with bitterness.
“Bai Ze, the one rumored to know everything. From the heavenly bodies to the movements of the mountains. The one who knows about every fragment of forgotten knowledge, about the past, the future, the living and the dead. The one who perceives the essence of all things with a single glance. I am a divine beast, one that comes from the Kunlun mountains, one only found in legends!” shouted the little girl with an infinite frustration and a face set ablaze.
“So… What’s your name?” It was nearly impossible for Li Yiming to think of the little girl as a mythical creature that existed only in fairy tales.
“Just call me Bai Ze…” Little Bai Ze sighed at Li Yiming’s dullness.
“Okay, Bai Ze,” answered Li Yiming with a smile: he was starting to like this little girl who sounded older than she was. “So you know everything and anything?”
“Well, I don’t happen to know what you’re thinking about right now, to say the least…” Little Bai Ze sat down on the bed in exasperation. She looked at Li Yiming with an odd expression.
“Can I trust you?” Li Yiming had a strange feeling when he looked at that little girl. A bond of blood? A tie of souls? Telepathy? An eager desire to know her? It was something else; when he looked at her, he felt as if he was looking at himself in a mirror, despite the stark differences between them. Also, Li Yiming knew that she was worth his trust, his complete trust for everything. It was truly a special feeling.
“Yes, I owe my birth to you. My existence depends on yours and our souls are one. Even if you don’t trust your own judgement, you can trust me.” Little Bai Ze answered his question languidly.
“So can I ask you questions?”
“Do you know what the Stage of Ascension is?”
“What did you say?” Bai Ze suddenly stood up from the bed. She looked at Li Yiming with shock. “You don’t know about the Stage of Ascension?”
Li Yiming nodded timidly.
“That’s impossible!” Little Bai Ze’s eyes glittered with curiosity. She transformed into a beam of white light that shot toward Li Yiming’s chest and vanished upon touching him, as if it had melted into his body.
“130 life marks… Heavenly vein which has yet to reach level one… Path progression… 130 points? Talent… Nil? Additional talent: summon Bai Ze…” Little Bai Ze’s voice rung inside Li Yiming’s head.
This was followed by another flash of white light, and Bai Ze reappeared in front of Li Yiming, with a severe countenance and a total absence of her typical childish carelessness. “You. Are. Not. A. Guardian,” said she with a pause between each word.
Li Yiming nodded with seriousness.
“Tell me what you know.” Bai Ze’s demeanor was starting to convince Li Yiming that she did have an impressive background.
Li Yiming retold everything since he met Big Bro in shorts: the invitation, the tea shop, and the domain… Of course, he did not tell her about Ji Xiaoqin, since he did not think that the topic was suitable for someone of her age.
“You did not step onto the Stage of Ascension. Instead, you took the invitation, the key to the domain and were taken into the domain forcefully… You completed the domain, so a reward was given to you, such are the rules… But the rules would never allow an ordinary person like you to enter a domain. There’s simply no way for such a mistake to be made by the Heavenly Laws…” Bai Ze analyzed his story attentively.
“That man in shorts… who is he? How is it possible that he…? To make an ordinary person succeed in binding a contract with an invitation? A domain key should be useless in the hands of a normal person.” Bai Ze’s confusion grew stronger, and she raised her head to look at Li Yiming. The latter shook his shoulders nonchalantly; he was even more puzzled by all of it.
Little Bai Ze circled around the room with her hands behind her with an occasional, momentary frown. She understood less and less as she pondered the matter. Suddenly, she lifted her chin and her astonishment was gradually replaced by excitement and a curious smile. “I’m not entirely sure of it yet, but maybe it’s not as bad as I’ve imagined to be stuck with you… You are a mistake… A miscalculation of the Heavenly Laws…”
“Uh…” Li Yiming was a little flustered by Bai Ze’s stare.
“It’s okay, ask slowly. I’ll tell you everything you want to know, one question at a time. I’d reckon my life to be quite exciting from now on.” A smile indicating such a complexity of emotions shown by a little girl discomfited Li Yiming.
“You asked about the Stage of Ascension. It’s quite simple actually. It’s a stone stage which descends from the sky to welcome those who have been selected by the Heavenly Laws. When that person climbs on top of it, he or she will receive a technique, or a talent, I should say.”
“A talent? What kind of talents are there? Does one get to choose?”
“Chance. Completely random. Anything is possible. Martial techniques, sword techniques, spells, or even technology related.”
“Yes. Artifices, ships, weapons, guns… Scientific advancements are part of the Heavenly Laws.”
“I’ve met an old lady in the domain. She summoned a nine-headed snake called Xiang Liu. Is that an innate summon as well?”
“That’s impossible. Based on your description, it should be no more than a mundane invocation. Were it an innate summon, it would have not have been that powerless.”
“About the heavenly vein that you mentioned…” It was the first time Li Yiming had heard about such a term.
“The heavenly vein is another kind of power granted upon guardians by the Heavenly Laws. You can interpret it as being the innate aptitude of a guardian: strength, speed, constitution, dexterity, spells, and much more. Every guardian can augment his or her own vein according to need, and the existence of this vein is also an important component, aside from the talent, of the strength of a guardian. A guardian’s vein grants strength at a fundamental level, and there are seven levels to it.”
“What about path progression…?”
“There are a lot of ways to consolidate one’s vein. Training is one way, and using acquired items is another. However, the most direct way remains strengthening oneself through the consumption of path progression points. When a life mark is obtained inside a domain, you will also receive a path progression for your heavenly vein.”
‘Completing a domain grants certain rewards and path progression, which can be used to strengthen one’s heavenly vein. The vein is a direct reflection of one’s physical firmness. I see.’ Li Yiming summarized what he just heard.
“What about me…”
“Can you use your inner sight?”
Li Yiming shook his head: he had heard about this “inner sight” from Qing Linglong, but had no idea what she meant.
“You are not a guardian, so it’s impossible for you to use your divine consciousness. Therefore, you will not be able to use your inner sight, nor see your heavenly vein and path progression. Although you have some path progression points at your disposal, you cannot use them to augment your vein.”
“Can anything be done about that?” Now that he was embroiled into all of this, Li Yiming naturally hoped to be able to become stronger. It was already pitiful enough that he did not have any talent. If, on top of that, he also lost the benefits of his vein, he would not know how to handle future domains.
“Nothing that I can think of right now.” Little Bai Ze was also a little disappointed: it was not enviable to her either that her master was such a weakling.
“You mentioned training?”
“You can train yourself physically, increase exercising and eat better, basically the same as a normal person.” Bai Ze gave a rather disappointing answer. “You can also acquire items within domains to develop your vein, but it won’t be very effective.”
‘Well, it seems like I’m destined for misery.’ thought Li Yiming discouragingly. He then looked at his storage bracelet and asked, “How can I use this?” This was the little bit of comfort he could seek, since at least he would have some kind of storage equipment.
“You need to communicate with it using your focus and become its master…”
“The same used for inner sight…” answered Bai Ze.
A glimpse of the true depth of the plot. Yes, domains exist for a reason, the MC is not just a superhero janitor hired to do random jobs. Another two chapters to come tomorrow!
1. A mythical beast of Chinese mythology, also found in the classic of Mountains and Sea. A good wikipedia describing it here.