Chapter 18 – Two Karmas Sown with One Stone
Li Yiming was baffled. He stared at the cigarette the man was talking about. ‘What do you mean, “Get it?” I… what does this have to do with cigarettes anyway?’ He wanted to get to the end of it; he would not give up getting an answer this easily, especially after all the gunshots, the sword battles, the fantastic beasts and the burning sky. “Big bro…”
The man took another whiff and raised his head to look at the sky. He gazed at it deeply, with a gentle smile on his face. This strange behavior impressed Fang Shui’er and her friends greatly; it was truly worthy of someone exceptional. Li Yiming, on the other hand, had a bad feeling about what he saw; he had seen that before…
“You’ll understand when the time is right.” After a long gaze, the man answered in a quiet voice.
‘I knew it…’ Li Yiming cried inwardly. ‘You changed my life. Could you at least assume the responsibility for that?’ He had so many more questions, but the man suddenly turned toward Jing Prefecture.
“What a stubborn little girl…” He turned around and glanced at Li Yiming. “You should go see her. She’s been hurt, and… Ah, she’s one to make people worry about her.”
“What?” Li Yiming followed his stare and noticed a shaking silhouette on the mountain road ahead.
“Bai Ze?” Xiao Hei was the first one to distinguish the newcomer, owing to his talent.
“Little Bai Ze?” Li Yiming was shocked, and he suddenly remembered the imposing figure of the Dragondogs and its ferocious minions. He threw everything else to the side and rushed toward her.
The man kept his smile until Li Yiming left. Then, he threw the cigarette butt into the pond and stood up. “You’ve done a little too much,” he said as he looked at the three. Fang Shui’er and her companions’ hearts skipped a beat: this was exactly what they were fearing.
“It’s good that the birdie is asleep. Alright, mind your own things, I’ll go back to sleep.” The sudden change of tone surprised all three, who had yet to become used to such eccentric behavior. However, the man did not mind them and headed for Li Yiming.
“Mister!” Xiao Hei suddenly fell to his knees. The man turned back, surprised.
“Please save Qianqian,” Xiao Hei pleaded with his forehead to the ground.
“Please help save my little sister’s life,” Fang Shui’er followed Xiao Hei’s lead. ‘This man’s very strong, he just stopped the phoenix with a single blow. He might just be our last chance at saving Qianqian.’
The man squinted and looked at Zeng Qian. The latter had also fallen to the ground. She knew very well what this opportunity meant. “I can’t save her. And I can tell you that even if you were to obtain the Fruit of Nirvana, you still wouldn’t be able to save her,” he answered in a calm voice.
“Why?” Zeng Qian asked. All her efforts were for the sake of getting her beauty back, was it doomed to be impossible?
“I’ve mentioned karma and inheritance. Did you not understand a single word of what I said?” The man answered, only this time more coldly.
The three frowned.
“Your appearance is the result of these bugs running through your body. Every time you call upon the power of your talent, the poison will become stronger. Even if you didn’t use it at all, you’d still be slowly poisoned.”
“You’re saying that it’s a punishment from Heaven’s Laws?” Zeng Qian asked very bitterly.
“Buddhism speaks of karma and the Dao is all about inheritance. The talents bestowed by Heaven’s Law are different for each and every person. It may seem like chance alone decides what you receive, but that’s not the case. Have you ever given a thought about why your talent turned out to be what it is in the first place?” He turned around and stared at Zeng Qian.
“You’re saying I deserve all of this?” Zeng Qian stood up angrily. “If it weren’t for Heaven’s Laws, I’d never be in such a state.”
“To speak good, to see good, to do good, these are three things you can do every day, and should you be diligent, the heavens will reward you. To speak evil, to see evil, to do evil. Commit these and you’ll be punished.”
“The Bugs of Corrupting Heart and Dying Love. These are creatures of jealousy, and proximity in blood feeds them.” The man looked at Fang Shui’er. “The fiercer the fire of jealousy burning within your heart, the quicker they will poison you, the closer the bond of blood, the more painful the poison.”
“It’s because of Shui’er?” Zeng Qian threw a savage look at her sister. Fang Shui’er could barely recognize her in her unhidden ferociousness, and it stung her heart to think that her own sister had become like that because of jealousy.
“Qianqian, you… It’s because Shui’er became famous?” Xiao Hei suddenly remembered how Zeng Qian had changed after Fang Shui’er’s surge to fame. Although she tried her best to hide it, she could not completely conceal it from Xiao Hei, who stayed with her day and night.
“Yes, I’m jealous of her. We come from the same family, the same background, we even have the same face! I’m as talented as she is, so why did she become famous, and not me? In what way am I inferior? Why can she be the star of the nation, but I can only watch from the darkness? This… I… !” Zeng Qian roared frantically.
The man looked at Zeng Qian’s passionate outburst and remembered someone he knew. ‘He used to be like that too…’ He quickly snapped out of it, but the thought lingered in his mind.
“Let me tell you a tale,” said the man with a calm smile once again. Somehow his stare had the power to calm Zeng Qian down and make her listen to him.
“There used to be a giant stone buried deep in the mountains. One day, the villagers wanted to build a temple and pulled it out of where it was. They split the rocks in two, half of it was put right in front of the entrance to the temple, on the ground, while the other half was sculpted into a stone statue of the god worshipped by the people. After the temple was built, many people visited it, and the half sat on the ground at the entrance grew discontented. ‘We used to be the same stone, so why am I here, trampled day and night by the visitors, wetted by the rain and baked by the sun, while you sit inside the temple and receive the respect and veneration of all?’ he asked the statue.”
Zeng Qian raised an eyebrow; she knew this story just like her own.
“The statue answered, ‘To become the stairs, you’ve only been cut once. Yet I’ve gone through the pain of being sliced and carved upon ten thousand times to become what I am today. That’s why you’ve become the stairs and I’ve become a god,’” said the man in a harsh tone.
Zeng Qian could do nothing but stare back at him with a vacant stare.
“Did she use her talent to become famous? Is that why she became famous? This is what I mean. Give it some thought…” The man turned around and disappeared without adding more.
Li Yiming rushed toward Bai Ze. The faltering steps she took made his heart ache, and he remembered how she stood in front of him and shielded him from incoming danger. He remembered how resolutely she walked with the two swords in her hands. He remembered her figure covered in blood. Suddenly, Li Yiming once more hated himself for being so weak and incapable, just as he did when he was back on the rooftop not too long ago.
“Not dead yet?” Bai Ze supported herself against the tree and asked in a teasing voice, but the relief in her eyes could not be hidden.
“Are you okay?” Li Yiming picked her up and looked around for wounds. Her skirt had become nothing more than strips of fabric dyed crimson by blood. Li Yiming hovered over her wounds with shaking hands, not even daring to touch her.
“I’m a little girl, are you sure it’s okay for you to stare at me like that? How about you get me some clothes?” Bai Ze rolled her eyes and put her hands in front of her chest exaggeratedly. ‘Ah, everything’s good as long as he’s safe and sound.’
It was hard for Li Yiming to smile back, given how hurt Bai Ze looked. He took out a jacket from his bracelet and carefully wrapped it around Bai Ze.
“Where’s Liu Meng?” Bai Ze rested in Li Yiming’s arms, exhausted from the efforts that it took for her to walk all the way to Ning Village.
“She’s okay.” Li Yiming pulled on his sleeves and wiped away the bloodstains on Bai Ze’s face. “What about you? You look hurt.”
“Well, I wasn’t doing so great, but then this mysterious guy showed up and gave me a pill that healed my wounds, at least for the moment. Oh yeah, that guy came over here, did you see him?”
“Mysterious guy?” Li Yiming asked.
“Yes, well, he’s dressed pretty poorly. Oh, also, he had a knit bag.”
“You mean big bro in shorts?”
“So he’s that big bro you mentioned?”
The two exchanged a glance and Li Yiming told Bai Ze what had happened after the man’s arrival.
“You mean that he stopped the phoenix with one hand and then somehow subdued her?” Bai Ze was at a loss for words. She had esteemed the man to be quite strong, but to that extent? It was beyond her imagination. “Who is he?” She asked Li Yiming.
“You mean, you don’t know?” Li Yiming asked.
“Nope. But he’s very strong, that’s for sure. His intentions are also unclear,” Bai Ze said.
“I don’t think that he means bad though. His smile is a little… weird, but he had very sincere eyes.”
“Wait, what do you mean? You mean that you remember his eyes and his smile?” Bai Ze suddenly broke free from Li Yiming’s arms and stared at him in surprise.
“I’ve seen him twice, and with the way he looks, it’s pretty hard to not remember it, really,” Li Yiming answered.
“That’s impossible,” Bai Ze suddenly raised her voice. “That man has a technique, In a Dream. It’s impossible for anyone to remember the way he looks unless you’re even stronger than he is.”
“In a Dream?”
“Yes, it’s an advanced Dao technique. You won’t be able to remember his appearance until the next time you meet him.”
“But I do remember…” Li Yiming recalled. ‘Not too tall, not too short, skinny, full brows, bright eyes, low nose bridge, nose isn’t too big, that gentle smile, elegant, nonchalant… There’s no mistake, I remember exactly how he looks.’
“Oh well, you were an abnormality from the start. Do you know his name?”
“What do you mean, ‘no’?”
“Well, he didn’t tell me.”
“And you didn’t ask?”
“I did, but he didn’t answer.”
“You’ll always impress me. Where is he now?” Bai Ze extended her arms.
“He should still be over there. Liu Meng and Fang Shui’er are there too. Let’s go.” Li Yiming also thought it rather embarrassing that he did not know the man’s name despite having been saved a couple of times by him.
“Carry me, I’m too weak to walk,” said Little Bai Ze, just like a real child.
“Oh.” Li Yiming obeyed her.
Mission Failed, Punishment: zeroing of life marks.’ A voice suddenly rang in his head.
‘Shit! Are you serious?’ Li Yiming froze.
End of Book 2, Tomorrow Book 3 begins: Monsters in the City