Chapter 1 – Xiao Hei’s Visi
“Ugh—” Li Yiming wanted to vomit. The world around him was first distorted and then shattered just like glass. Li Yiming felt like he was thrown into a washer, but when he tried throwing up, he could only produce a dry, choking sound.
“Car sickness?” The people in the front turned back and looked at him with disgust.
‘This guy… the floor manager? And I…’ Li Yiming looked around and found himself to be on a small bus. The floor manager looked at him despisingly. Liu Meng was still sound asleep, and the other passengers were busy preparing themselves for the shooting. Bai Ze was right next to him, and she threw a frustrated look at him.
‘This is the bus of the filming crew! We’re back in Jing Prefecture, right before the start of the domain.’ Li Yiming remembered.
“Alright everyone, we’re here. Let’s take a break, get your room cards, drop your luggage and we’ll head to Ning Village in half an hour.” The floor manager yelled through a megaphone. The members of the filming crew slowly disembarked.
Li Yiming stayed in his seat and looked at Bai Ze. “Well, we’re done,” said Bai Ze in an annoyed voice after only the two of them were left.
“But I wasn’t brought back to the Tea Shop the last time.” Li Yiming remembered that nothing had happened when the domain in Hang Zhou had concluded.
“Well, nobody ever said that you’d always stay where you are. This is a domain, there are a lot of things that you still don’t know.” Bai Ze ignored his question and resumed her game on the cell phone. “How are the rewards?”
“Uh… Domain failure… Zeroing of life marks.” Li Yiming remembered what the voice said when he was about to exit the domain.
“What?” A flash of white light and Bai Ze vanished. A second flash a few moments later and she reappeared in front of Li Yiming. “What happened, your life marks are really gone. Didn’t the phoenix get taken down the end?” Bai Ze asked in a confused voice.
Li Yiming did not understand his misfortune better than Bai Ze. He looked at Liu Meng, who seemed still asleep, and played around with his own fingers as he pondered about.
“Well, there are two possibilities,” Bai Ze, true to her wisdom, interpreted the situation. “The first is that the domain’s will was ‘protection’, so the goal was to protect Ning Village. Of course, with the entire village dead and even most of the Prefecture gone, Heaven’s Laws has decided that you have failed your mission.
“What about the second possibility?”
“The second one…” Bai Ze seemed perplexed. “The second possibility is that that Big Bro of yours isn’t a guardian. Although he subdued the phoenix and ended the domain, Heaven’s Laws doesn’t recognize it.”
The two exchanged a glance that fermented more questions instead of producing an answer.
“Why aren’t you off yet? You should get off the bus. I’ve heard that there are some complications for the filming, so the manager told us to go back to our rooms and rest,” one of the extras came back for her umbrella.
“I’m coming,” Li Yiming answered. “Hey, let’s go down. Liu Meng, Liu Meng, wake up!” Li Yiming pushed on Liu Meng, but he froze in horror when he realized that she would not answer.
“Coma…” Bai Ze said as she put her hand on Liu Meng’s forehead. “But this doesn’t make sense. She should be back to normal now that the domain is over. In fact, the person in the domain, strictly speaking, isn’t even ‘her’.”
“What do we do now?” Li Yiming was in a state of complete panic at the possibility that his best friend was going stay like this.
“What would you do if you found someone in a coma, usually?”
“I’d… call the ambulance?” Li Yiming stuttered.
“Then call an ambulance…” Bai Ze answered in an exhausted voice.
* * *
Right outside of a ward in the Prefectural Hospital, Li Yiming stared at his cell phone screen hesitantly. The manager for the filming crew was decent enough to have brought Liu Meng to the hospital after finding out about her condition and even agreed to pay the deposit for her entry into a ward. He stayed on his phone for the entire duration of the trip, very disappointed by the sudden turn of events. Although the money needed for Liu Meng’s residency in the hospital was not a problem anymore, Li Yiming still faced the difficulty of finding enough money to feed himself. He used to leech off Liu Meng, but now he had to care for her, and it was not cheap at all in a hospital like this. ‘They’ve written “Needs further observation”, and god knows how much time that’ll take. Seems like I really need to start planning for the bank robbery.’
Bai Ze, who had yet to completely recover from her wounds, had returned into Li Yiming’s body, since it was the best place for her convalescence.
“Dad…” Li Yiming finally decided to go ahead with his call.
“Hey! How are you doing? How’s the filming going? Your step-mother had a smile on her face for quite a few days after she heard that you were dancing for Fang Shui’er. Tell me, when are we going to get to see it?” His father’s proud laugh came from the phone.
“Well, I think it’s gonna take a while. We’ve barely started filming, and then they have to go through editing and all that stuff, you know,” Li Yiming mumbled.
“Oh yeah, have you seen Fang Shui’er? How is she in person? Prettier than on TV?” His father suddenly asked a question that seemed more appropriate to have come out of a paparazzi journalist.
“Beautiful, even more than on TV.” Li Yiming remembered the goddess of war wearing her crystal armor.
“Is there something you want to say to me?” Li Yiming’s father suddenly asked. He knew his son better than anyone.
“Well, one of my friends is in the hospital right now…”
“You need money?”
“A friend… a girl?”
“What about her family?”
“They’re not here.”
“Alright, wait up, I’ll send you five thousand right away,” Li Yiming’s father said after a moment of silence. “Be nice to her, and you can bring her back here once she’s out of the hospital too. Your step-mom will take care of her if needed.”
“What?” Li Yiming was very surprised. ‘Since when did dad become this easy to convince?’
“What do you mean, what? Do you know how to care for the sick?” His father scolded him, but he sounded more pleased than anything.
“It’s okay, I’ll take care of this right away.” His father quickly hung up on him. Li Yiming wondered about the reason behind his father’s leniency, as he walked back to the ward, but, before he could open the door, his phone rang again: it was his mother this time.
“Mom?” Li Yiming picked up his phone, a little confused.
“I heard from your dad that you got someone pregnant?” His mother’s first question almost made him fall to the ground.
“What? Who said that?” Li Yiming’s voice suddenly jumped up. ‘Is this a joke? I barely split up with her, and you’re telling me that Ji Xiaoqin’s pregnant?’
“No need to deny it, your dad already told me. A thousand models to imitate and you choose to follow the example of your father? It’s hard for the girl, you know. Does her family know? Have I met her? Is it the one you came home with last time?”
“This… uh… mom… Listen to me…” Li Yiming finally realized what went wrong. He tried his hardest and finally convinced his persistent mother to hang up the phone and returned to the ward with cold sweat on his forehead.
Liu Meng slept peacefully on the hospital bed. Li Yiming’s eyes went from her rosy cheeks to her closed eyelids, from which the eye-lashes hung like two sets of curtain, and remembered that red-haired girl who could command fire and blaze, and move mountains and dry up seas, and the final destructive figure of the phoenix. ‘I have to say, she really did look cool…’
The door suddenly opened. A group of dancers had arrived with a basket of fruit. “Oh, hey, why are you here?” Li Yiming stood up to greet them.
“Something happened for the filming, and since we have nothing to do, we decided to come here.” One of the girls put down the basket on the shelf at the front of the bed.
“What is it?”
“The director’s gone, and so is Fang Shui’er. They’re trying to contact her assistant, but she can’t be reached either, and the manager’s going crazy.” Another girl approached the bed and slowly picked up Liu Meng’s hand.
Li Yiming was not too surprised. ‘They were here for the domain anyway. Two dead and three grievously injured, and that’s without mentioning the punishment from Heaven’s Laws. Who would have time to film a video?’
“She doesn’t look too bad, what did the doctor say?” The girl held Liu Meng’s hand and whispered. She was a good friend of Liu Meng’s.
“The results of the preliminary tests are inconclusive. The more detailed ones have yet to come out.”
“Ah… A fall cribbled with problems…” The girl sighed.
‘Yes, full of problems…’ Li Yiming agreed with her. After a brief chit-chat, since Liu Meng stayed unconscious, her friends left for the hotel.
The group had barely left when the door was opened again. This time, the visitor was someone Li Yiming would never have expected. “Director Zheng?” Li Yiming stood up in surprise. It was Xiao Hei, who had vanished after the domain, the guardian with the nano-armor.
“I want to talk to you.” Instead of entering the ward, Xiao Hei stood in the corridor and threw a look of mingled emotions inside.
Li Yiming hesitated, ‘I don’t know if he’s a friend or a foe, and now he’s here for me…’
“I actually have a favor to ask.” Xiao Hei suddenly pleaded. Li Yiming remembered, back in the domain, when Xiao Hei held Zeng Qian who looked like a dried corpse, in his arms and said ‘I love her”, and he suddenly found it impossible to refuse him. He turned back and glanced at Liu Meng, who was still sound asleep, nodded, and followed Xiao Hei out of the hospital.
Xiao Hei led the way silently. His figure, seen from the back, conveyed a sense of despair. They stopped at a little park right behind the hospital. The park was southwest of the hospital, right by a small hill, and next to it was the parking lot. The midday sun charred the skin of those who were still out at this time, and it seemed like Xiao Hei and Li Yiming were the only ones who dared to venture so.
“The domain was a failure,” Xiao Hei said dejectedly.
Li Yiming nodded and stayed silent; he was still trying to guess his intentions.
“In the domain…”
“Aren’t we not supposed to talk about what happens in a domain?” Li Yiming interrupted him. He remembered what Qing Linglong and Grandma Wang had taught him.
Xiao Hei sank into a dead silence. After licking on his dry lips, he brought out a pack of cigarette. Li Yiming waved his hand and refused his offer: he was not going to smoke until he figured out what exactly big bro in shorts meant with his nebulous answer. Xiao Hei did not mind him and lit up one for himself. “You know about Qianqian.”
Li Yiming nodded. When he saw Xiao Hei’s blood-shot eyes, he could not help but pity him a little.
“I’ll be straightforward, I’d like to ask your big bro to save her,” Xiao Hei said earnestly.
“He’s not my big bro.”
“We failed our mission.” Xiao Hei continued on his own, “With the way things are for us, there’s no way we can succeed in the next one. Although we should’ve known that it would inevitably come to this from the moment we became guardians, Qianqian…”
“Xiao Hei, he’s not my big bro, I have no ways of contacting him.”
“Why?” Xiao Hei suddenly burst out angrily. “How can you be so cruel? I just want Qianqian to have a chance at recovering her looks before she dies, I just want her to die peacefully!” 1
“I…” Li Yiming was about to come up with an explanation, but he suddenly stopped and looked at Xiao Hei’s hand with terror.
A gun had appeared on his hand, and Li Yiming recognized it: a Desert Eagle, silenced.
“Xiao Hei, you…”
Here’s the chapter due for March 2nd.
1. Cruel, lol?