Chapter 14 – Reason
The entire village was dead. The elders, women, children… Those who danced and chanted during the filming in the morning had been turned into cold corpses now. Li Yiming was struck with an incredible anger. This was different from the Dragondogs, who were savage beasts: the bullet holes through the skull, cuts of a blade through the chest, necks broken… someone had done all of this.
Li Yiming cried out inwardly. He would never have imagined that the idol who amazed all with her grace and elegance, the one that was comparable to a beautiful goddess, would be capable of committing such a cold-blooded massacre.
“Ah—!” Li Yiming let out a cry of rage as he ran toward the center of the village. He left Liu Meng, who seemed dumbstruck by what she saw, behind him. His only thought was about going to ask her whether the lives of the people really didn’t mean anything at all within domains.
Liu Meng stared vacantly at the gruesome scene. The only color she could see was red… the color of blood, a veil of crimson that slowly expanded and painted every corner of her world. She could not hear Li Yiming’s angry roar. The world had first become mute, and then colorless. Her senses vanished one by one as she sank deeper and deeper into a sea of crimson.
“Li Yiming?” Zeng Qian frowned upon hearing Li Yiming’s angry cry. Zhi Wen and Zhi Wu went closer to her with their guns drawn; information showed that Li Yiming was much more menacing than he seemed, and there was no room for unforeseen changes at this point.
Li Yiming found three people at the filming location, the only three who could still stand in Ning Village. Zeng Qian leaned her back against an aged pagoda-tree with emerald leaves and robust branches while Zhi Wen and Zhi Wu stood by her side. The unchanged smile which hung on her lips made for a very different feeling now. Li Yiming recognized the two as being Fang Shui’er’s bodyguards.
“Where’s Fang Shui’er? Tell her to come out.” Li Yiming stared at the three coldly and pointed his weapon at Zeng Qian. Zeng Qian smiled back at him with squinted eyes, while the two bodyguard brothers raised their guns as well.
“I’m here.” A figure suddenly appeared behind Li Yiming with hastened breath.
“Shui’er?” Fang Shui’er’s arrival broke Zeng Qian’s composure. She stood up from where she was while the two bodyguards lowered their weapons.
Fang Shui’er had a pale countenance and her chest heaved from what seemed like a very long run. She turned toward Li Yiming while brushing away her disordered hair and noticed the sadness and anger on his face. She then looked at her three companions and realized something. Anger slowly lit up in her eyes as she looked at Zeng Qian. “Tell me that it’s not you.” She said as her shoulders shuddered from a repressed indignation.
Zeng Qian’s lips moved without a word coming out of them. The polite smile on her face seemed forced and very unnatural at this point. The two bodyguards looked away.
Li Yiming calmed down a little and observed the exchange. ‘What’s happening?’
“We had to do it” Xiao Hei’s voice came from above. Li Yiming raised his head and saw Xiao Hei slowly land near Zeng Qian.
“Why?” Fang Shui’er asked in a glacial tone. The four who stood in front of her were her best friends, and the only people she could trust ever since she had become a guardian, but now…
“For Qianqian,” Xiao Hei answered and wrapped his fingers around Zen Qian’s hand.
“For Qianqian? Give me a reason.”
“A reason?” Zeng Qian suddenly broke away from Xiao Hei’s hand and stepped forward. She pulled on her cheeks, and to Li Yiming’s shock, the skin came off cleanly. “How’s that for your reason?”
‘Holy..’ Li Yiming gasped. Even after two domains, life and death, and after seeing people devoured by savage beasts… The face in front of him could barely qualify as one, given how horribly distorted it was, the odd, entangled muscles, the craters and bumps in the skin, and the dark, greenish color of rotten flesh…
“Look at this face! Is this enough of an explanation?” Zeng Qian stepped forward in a furious rage.
When Fang Shui’er saw her face, her coldness instantly melted and all that was left was grief and compassion.
“We’ve found out that there’s a phoenix hidden in this domain. If we can slay it, we’ll be able to obtain a fruit of Nirvana.” Xiao Hei slowly interposed himself between Zeng Qian and Fang Shui’er, and, without minding her terrifying appearance, wrapped his arms around her.
‘Fruit of Nirvana?’ This came as a surprise for Li Yiming. He remembered what Bai Ze told him.
“Fruit of Nirvana? You still haven’t given up on that?” Fang Shui’er seemed surprised.
“Give up?” Zeng Qian broke free from Xiao Hei’s embrace again. “Of course you’d give up. You’re as beautiful as a goddess, an international star, a national idol. Your charm is unrivaled and you have the whole world at your feet. When you climb onto the stage and stand beneath the spotlights, do you remember this face? When you smile to the thousands of cameras, have you given a thought about my feelings? When countless crowds become mesmerized by your beauty, have you felt my pain?” Zeng Qian roared in a frenzied rage.
“This… I could’ve enjoyed all of that too. To hell with Heaven’s Laws, and to hell with the talent! Have you seen my pain after using my talent? Look at my body, look at my face… It rotted inch by inch. We used to look the same! Look at us now!”
Fang Shui’er shuddered at Zeng Qian’s bitter screech.
“Look at me!” Zeng Qian ripped her own collar open, revealing hideous dark crust that seemed little better than the skin from a mummified corpse.
‘So that’s why she’s wearing a suit in the summer…’ Li Yiming pitied her a little.
“My face used to be the same as yours. The same beautiful, graceful traits, the same charming features. Do you know how long it’s been since I looked at myself in a mirror? Do you know how disgusted and scared I feel when I take a bath? Do you know how I feel when I look at you? Every single time I do your makeup, I try to imagine that it’s my face I’m working on, I’m embellishing myself… and I see you walk toward the crowd. I can only stand and watch, hidden behind a mask as you beguile the entire world. Have you noticed the tears hidden behind the smile on my chubby mask? Have you ever taken a look at me properly, at your own sister?” Zeng Qian sobbed. “And you want me to give up? How can I ever give up?”
‘Sister?’ Li Yiming’s eyes widened at the revelation. He suddenly remembered something he read on the internet a long time ago. ‘I remember that it said Fang Shui’er had a twin sister. She was called Fang Qian’er. They debuted at the same time, but Fang Qian’er was like a shooting star, vanishing from public eyes after a very short while. Fang Qian’er… Zeng Qian… Zeng… “used to be”?… used to be alluring…?’
“Only the Fruit of Nirvana can cleanse the poison in her body… and restore her appearance. We have no choice.” Xiao Hei removed his jacket and gently wrapped it around Zeng Qian’s body. He then took out his handkerchief and carefully wiped away Zeng Qian’s tears.
“So you killed everyone here? And you made the Dragondogs go on a rampage on the entire prefecture?” Fang Shui’er took a deep breath and slowly collected herself.
Li Yiming’s tightened his grip on his weapon. ‘So the Dragondogs, it’s also them?’
“The phoenix is the totem of this village, it’s the only way,” answered Xiao Hei in a frustrated voice.
“We’ve been chosen by Heaven’s Law to guard the balance of this world, and you…” Fang Shui’er looked at her companions with growing reproach. “For your own desires, you…”
“This is a domain, it’s all fake,” Zeng Qian retorted.
“Even if it’s fake, it’s human life,” Fang Shui’er suddenly raised her tone, and her answer brought a revelation to Li Yiming. ‘It’s still human life.’
“They were alive, you witnessed it with your own eyes! Just this morning, she boiled a bowl of eggs for you!” Fang Shui’er pointed at a corpse on the stairs nearby. It was Lei widow. She was staring blankly at the sky with a large wound on her chest. “How can you do something like that?” Fang Shui’er pointed at another corpse, that of a child in a pool of blood. “He was only two years old, and you gave him candy today…” She teared up.
“We’re guardians, and we’re supposed to protect this world!” Two drops of tears dribbled down her cheeks and landed on her shaking arm.
“Beauty is the life of a woman, and I was blessed with it… I won’t give up, even if I forsake Heaven’s Laws.” Zeng Qian answered, and the ferociousness in her eyes worked a chilling expression on her ruined visage.
“What about you?” Fang Shui’er dodged her sister’s eyes and looked at Xiao Hei.
“I love her.” A simple answer.
“What about you?” Fang Shui’er shut her eyelids for a moment and, when she opened them, she threw a deep look at the two bodyguard brothers.
“Shui’er…” Zhi Wen called her name, but could not say anything more.
“We grew up together. We can’t bear seeing Qianqian like this,” Zhi Wu gathered his courage and answered.
“Alright,” Fang Shui’er took a deep breath; it seemed like she had made a difficult decision, “Then today…”
“Today you shall die here…” An airy voice interrupted her. Li Yiming lifted his head promptly and saw a woman floating in the air, a seducing figure with beautiful traits. She cast down a hollow look lit up by a ghostly red flame dancing within her irises.
* * *
A carpet of blood, decorated from time to time by a broken limb, covered the ruined pavement of Yunjing Bridge. The Dragondog corpses had been put together to form a small, putrid pile of flesh. Bai Ze, bathed in blood, leaned against a broken pillar with a weak breath. Her wrist was twisted to an abnormal angle and her left hand hung down limp from the forearm. Blood slowly seeped through the right hand placed on her left abdomen. Her swords were nowhere to be seen, and, a wound deep enough to reach the bone cut through her right thigh.
“How troublesome…” Bai Ze laughed scornfully with her head lowered. She then looked at the figure standing in front of her.
The Dragondog towered over her with his tall, imposing figure, his eyes gazing at the moon. However, his right hand had been cut off, and he had a gaping hole, about the size of a soccer ball, right in the middle of his chest. Bai Ze looked at the night sky through it, at the crescent moon which hung quietly from the tip of the mountains in the distance.
She tried to stand up by supporting herself with her right hand, only to stumble and fall completely flat down. Bai Ze sat back down in frustration and looked at Ning Village. ‘This is the best I can do, the rest is up to you…’
Conclusion of Book 2 soon, coming next week!