Chapter 2 – The Awakening
“I have no choice, just as when I planned the massacre of the 317 villagers back at Ning Village,” Xiao Hei’s words made Li Yiming shudder. ‘This is no joke, he’s massacred an entire village! Not to mention the tens of thousands of people in Jing Prefecture who died because of the Dragondogs…’
“Tell your Big Bro to show himself. He’s all powerful, if he can cure Qianqian, then I’ll do anything. It doesn’t matter that I die.”
“I’m telling you, I don’t know where he is,” Li Yiming could not find an answer to Xiao Hei’s insistence.
A small puff of white smoke suddenly shot up from the ground in front of Li Yiming. Dust and dirt flew onto Li Yiming’s shoes. ‘Is he actually going to shoot? It’s not as if we’re inside a domain.’
“Give it up and call your Big Bro. There’s no way you can handle me unarmed. With all of our life marks gone, you wouldn’t even be able to use your talent,” Xiao Hei said in with a cold-blooded countenance. He had everything thought out before deciding to come and confront Li Yiming.
A flash of white light and Bai Ze appeared in front of Li Yiming with a sword in her right hand. She looked at Xiao Hei with severity.
“Bai Ze?” Xiao Hei eyes lit up with hope.’If she’s there, then that mysterious man has to be somewhere around.’ “Tell your master to come out and see me.”
“I’ve told you already, Li Yiming is my master,” Bai Ze answered with a cold voice. She lowered her weapon slightly as she made ready to strike. At that distance, she would be able to chop Xiao Hei’s hand off before he had the chance to fire a single shot.
“Come out, all of you.” Xiao Hei frowned and suddenly his expression changed to one of folly. The doors of two vans in the parking lot were opened, and a few dozen people emerged from within the vehicles. They were all dressed like typical thugs, with hair of all sorts of colors and their body decorated with chains and piercings. Bai Ze was very alarmed by their sudden appearance and took a step back to be right in front of Li Yiming. Li Yiming himself was very shocked when he saw that each one of them had a gun.
“Your typical criminal. With a lot of money and guns, they’ll do just about anything.” Xiao Hei cast a glacial stare at the two; he planned this out perfectly. “I’ve seen how terrifying mythical beasts can be in a domain, but don’t forget where we are right now, how much of her power can she actually use? She won’t be able to protect you.”
The thugs slowly closed in and circled around Li Yiming and Bai Ze after Xiao Hei glanced a few times at them.
“I’ll show you how much power I can use.” Bai Ze dashed forward with the intent to kill in her eyes, but instantly jumped back an instant later, pulling Li Yiming to the ground and rolling sideways.
Pew! Pew! Pew!
As the two rolled on the ground, soil and dust from where they stood a moment ago once again flew into the air.
“Stop.” Xiao Hei gestured and the gunshots stopped.
Li Yiming raised his head to look at Xiao Hei, stunned by his decision; if it were not for Bai Ze, he would have been turned into a human sieve.
“I told you that it’s no use. Bai Ze can’t protect you.” Xiao Hei took another step forward, his face contorted into a resentful and cruel grimace.
“Li Yiming,” Bai Ze said in an impassive voice, as she slowly stood up. “Run as far as you can, and don’t look back.”
“And do you think he’ll be able to?” Another step taken by Xiao Hei.
“What do you think?” Bai Ze’s features suddenly changed. She took on the air of a different person, something different.
“What are you doing?” Xiao Hei asked, as consterned as he was angry.
“If I’m going to die here, then I might as well bring a few down with me.” Several gusts of wind suddenly blew upward, twisting and mingling as they ascended, like a small tornado. The string around Bai Ze hair fell down, broken into two pieces. Her long hair had gained a silvery glow as they billowed in the current of air.
“Shoot!” Xiao Hei cried, and his order was followed by a string of uninterrupted gunshots. Li Yiming closed his eyes instinctively, but, after a small while with nothing happening, opened them again. He saw a curtain of bullets floating still in front of him as if they were frozen in a chunk of ice. More and more projectiles approached, which made the layer denser and denser.
“Are you crazy? Aren’t you afraid of Heaven’s Punishment?” Xiao Hei’s expression had turned into one of frenzied rage.
“You’re not the one to tell me whether I should be scared or not.” Bai Ze’s hair had turned silver, and something else appeared within her eyes, something that does not belong to a human. A crimson, bloody snake climbed onto the corners of her mouth, and she appeared more powerful than ever. A weak halo of light appeared at her feet, and within it mysterious glyphs made of light swirled. The sky suddenly darkened, and the sun hid itself behind a thick sheet dark cloud that was pierced repeatedly by purple lightning.
“Is it really worth it? For this kid? You’re a mythical beast!” Xiao Hei seemed to have completely lost his sanity. The gunshots had stopped as the thugs threw away their guns and attempted to escape, but found it impossible to even take a single step.
“You don’t understand me.” Bai Ze’s voice was no longer childish. Instead, it came down from between the clouds. “Take a good look before you leave, Li Yiming. The mythical beast, Bai—Ze—!”
The small tornado, the glyphs, all of it suddenly sank into Bai Ze’s body. The halo beneath her feet expanded and her figure slowly vanished. What appeared then was a lion-like beast with snow-white fur, a pair of wings, a single horn on its head and a recurved tip tail. 1
Lightning suddenly flashed through the blackened sky. The giant lion disappeared, only to appear on top of Xiao Hei’s head. Her paw came down on him the next second, and, before Xiao Hei could even emit a cry of terror, he was crushed into a small fountain of blood.The bullets that were floating in the air dropped down with a few clink-clunks.
“AHHH—!” One of the thugs suddenly shrieked, and a warm, foul-smelling liquid came out from between his legs.
“ARRR—!” The lion suddenly turned around and roared at them. A visible ripple traversed through the air until contact was made with their bodies and simply disintegrated them like sand statues, leaving no trace of their existences behind.
“Bai Ze?” Li Yiming stood up, still yet shocked by what he had just seen. ‘This is the little girl who’s been playing on the cell phone games the whole time? Holy shit! She’s so strong, look at that, a real, mythical beast! With her around, what would I have to fear?”
“You can run now.” Bai Ze turned back to look at him frustratingly.
“Run?” Li Yiming was dumbfounded.’Didn’t she just take care of them all?’
“Run! As far away as you can!” Bai Ze raised her head and looked at the clouds above her that came lower and lower. Instead of settling back down, she extended her wings and stared above with an ever-intensifying gaze.
“The purpose of guardians is to protect Heaven’s Laws and watch over our world. But their very existence is the biggest threat to the balance of this world. “ Bai Ze kept her head in the sky’s direction. “The consequence of consuming life marks whenever you use your talent outside of a domain is in itself a limit imposed by Heaven’s Laws. The restrictions regarding the scale of talent usage are even greater.”
“Limit?” Li Yiming had a bad feeling.
“If you exceed the limitations and call upon a power that’s not permitted, Heaven’s Laws will bestow its punishment.” Bai Ze turned around to look at Li Yiming sorrowfully. “Another way to call is it Heaven’s Punishment.”
“Heaven’s punishment?” Li Yiming raised his head in shock and saw a purple light that shone stronger and stronger within the thick clouds that billowed and surged.
“Run. There are no uncertainties. This is a rule.” Bai Ze raised her head again and looked up defiantly; she was going to stay proud even until her last moment. “I had no choice earlier. If you died, I would’ve died too. If I die, nothing will happen to you.”
“Go!” The wind that came along with the angry roar blew Li Yiming back a dozen meters.
Li Yiming crawled up from where he was and was about to try once more to reach Bai Ze when a sudden waterfall of purple light fell from the menacing clouds. The pressure and the sense of danger it brought were even worse than the phoenix: this was Heaven’s will. Bai Ze roared again and stood up straight with her wings extended, meeting the flash with a fiery, but slightly bitter stare.
There was no noise to shatter heaven and earth. Instead, Bai Ze shook, and trembled, and struggled as the light entered her body and destroyed all in its path. As it faded away, Bai Ze was left lying on the ground with her wings broken, her fur and her breath weak.
“Bai Ze?” Li Yiming rushed towards her. ‘Maybe she’s done it!’ He thought, a little happy.
“Go!” Bai Ze’s weak voice was heard. She knew that there were nine strikes in total, and that one was only the first.
Li Yiming raised his head as he heard Bai Ze’s urging. The clouds in the sky, instead of dissipating, had further thickened and were the presage of imminent destruction.
‘Bai Ze…’ Li Yiming looked at her desolate figure and remembered the frustrated look of the little girl in the Taoist robe at the train station; the look of disdain she had as she kicked around with her bare feet; her playful smile, under the setting sun, of ordering the entire menu at the family restaurant; her look of excitement as she prepared for the video filming; her determination as she walked to confront the Dragondogs with her two swords… and now, her look of concern she had as she was about to die. ‘No, she isn’t my summon, she’s my family!’
Li Yiming looked at the light that was about to fall a second time, and, instead of running away, ran toward Bai Ze. “Get out of here!” Bai Ze yelled out. Her weak voice was full of anger, her distressed regard mixed with concern, and her shocked expression laced with attachment.
As the bolt of light fell, Li Yiming leaped forward: even if it was hopeless, he would fight for Bai Ze’s life. Bai Ze was touched by his effort, but quickly despaired as she realized that he would also receive the same punishment as her.
Bai Ze’s limbs shook again as the lightning touched her, but she kept her eyes on Li Yiming. Before dying, she would remember him, that ignorant, weak, idiotic, incapable face. That person who would try his best despite knowing that certain death awaits him. Li Yiming stopped moving, halted by Heaven’s punishment. He felt as if each fiber of his body was slowly being split apart as he shook more and more violently.
Bai Ze suddenly looked at Li Yiming’s left wrist. A bright purple orb appeared on his skin: this was where the one little orb of light, back in the Hangzhou domain, had lodged itself after the camouflager’s defeat. Its color was the same as the lightning, but somehow it was clearly visible in the sea of purple that Li Yiming bather in. It slowly expanded along Li Yiming’s skin just like a drop of water, and soon covered his entire body.
‘The Source of Thunder? Where’d he get this? Is this his talent? He’s going to be awakened?’ Bai Ze had already reached her limit. Being still not fully grown, and having yet to recover completely from her injuries, there was no way that she would be able to live through the second strike. She gritted her teeth and transformed into a ray of white light as she endured an excruciating pain. ‘Well, if I’m going to lose my life anyway, might as well fight for it.’ She lost her consciousness as she entered Li Yiming’s body.
Li Yiming closed his eyes as the lightning touched him: he had done what he could. As the sparks ran through his body, he felt a torturous pain, but then the next moment, the unpleasant sensation vanished. He opened his eyes and saw a flash of white light that vanished as it touched his chest. Then, an ocean of purple, but, oddly, there was no pain this time, only a tingling, comfortable feeling.
‘What happened?’ The purple light vanished. Li Yiming stared at the black crater in front of him, dumbfounded. ‘I’m sure that Bai Ze’s inside of me right now…’ He lifted his head and looked at the dark swirling clouds that continued to convey the same menace.
The third purple lightning fell, and Li Yiming raised his hand instinctively to block it. The attempt, of course, was completely useless, however, as the light touched his body, it did nothing more than raise a curtain of light behind him. The fourth strike fell soon afterward, and after it the fifth, the sixth… until the ninth. The black clouds receded, and the familiar twisting and shattering of everything around him happened again. Li Yiming looked around with a vacant gaze as the little park, with its chirping birds, the baking sun, and the pleasant summer breeze was restored to its usual quietness.
‘What… just…?’ Suddenly, Li Yiming felt a change happen to him. He knew that he could now see through his own body if he wanted. He focused his attention and a semi-transparent shape that resembled his own body suddenly appeared inside of his mind. Right next to where his heart was supposed to be, he saw a number. Life marks: 0.
Five shining ribbons of light, each of a different color, ran through his limbs. Next to each, a small line of text was written:
Power: level 3
Stamina: level 3
Agility: level 3
Technique: level 3
Spell: level 4
Between them was a little white light orb. Next to it was written:
Path progression: 130
Beneath the human form were another few lines of text:
Additional talent: summon Bai Ze (hibernating)
Passive talent: immunity to thunder element
‘Jackpot!’ Li Yiming swirled in shock, excitement, and eagerness; what he had dreamt of for so long had finally arrived. This is what it meant to be a guardian, a true guardian.
‘So what’s next to my heart is the counter for the life marks, the most important number for guardians. I just failed a domain, so that’s why it’s at zero. These five colored veins must be the heavenly veins, the ones that provide me power. That white orb has to be progression path, which is used to strengthen my veins. I can spend a life mark to obtain a progression path point, and since I obtained 130 of those back in Hangzhou, I also received 130 progression points. What about my talent… Not active? Come on, do I still not get one? What about my additional talent, hmmm, summon Bai Ze, but hibernating, well, good news is that Little Bai Ze seems to be fine.’ Li Yiming waved his arms in excitement. ‘What about that passive talent, immunity to thunder? I’ve never heard of something like that, not even from Bai Ze. So is that why I survived the lightning strikes? Does that mean that I won’t have to be scared of getting zapped ever again?’ Li Yiming was wild with happiness. After struggling as an outsider for two domains, he had finally entered the world of guardians, although he was still missing his talent.
‘Wait a second, Bai Ze told me earlier that my heavenly veins hadn’t even reached level one, so how are they level three now? I don’t really feel any different…’ He clenched his hand into a fist and swung it at a small tree right next to him.
The tree was torn into two, as it was made of paper instead of wood. ‘Holy shit! I’m that strong now?’ Li Yiming looked at the broken trunk in amazement. He then tried a jump and shot up nearly two meters into the air. He lost his balance midair and fell on his buttocks, but, instead of crying out in pain, he was grinning dumbly. ‘Ahahahaha… Heaven’s punishment? Well, I braved through it. I think that according to tradition I’m supposed to open a portal or fly up to the next world? Oh well, at least I did become a lot stronger, I’ll ask Bai Ze when she wakes up.’
‘Path progression… That’s for strengthening the heavenly veins. But I’m already a superhuman now, so even stronger than that…’ Li Yiming’s heart itched with anticipation as he thought about how he would use his points. He remembered Liu Meng being possessed by the phoenix, the black-clothed camouflager back in Hangzhou, the gods and goddesses in folklore legends…
‘Ah, so this is the spell level! I remember Bai Ze telling that power, stamina and agility are for strengthening the body, technique is for improving one’s ability with a sword or with martial arts, and spell is for enhancing one’s spell power. Since I’m already a level ahead, I might as well invest more points my strongest ability.’ Li Yiming carefully added a point into spell power, however, he was disappointed by a complete lack of response, despite the point having been subtracted from his Path Progression. ‘Did I not add enough?’
Instead of giving up, Li Yiming continued adding more points stubbornly. ‘Ten points, nothing. Fifty points, nothing. A hundred and thirty points, nothing… Holy shit, did I get something wrong? Is it because Heaven’s Laws still won’t acknowledge my status? I thought that I’d be able to improve my vein with these points? Unless… I have to be struck by lightning again to become stronger? Oh well, I’ll ask Bai Ze later, I’ll try a spell out first.’ As Li Yiming rubbed his hands in anticipation to cast a spell, he soon realized that he, in fact, did not know any spells.
Hmm… Sometimes I wish there was an “INT” attribute into which Li Yiming could add some points. Just sometimes though. Also thank god Bai Ze is not dead. Otherwise I would be… let’s say pretty sad.
Also, I’m back! Time to catch up with the lost chapters!
1. Those who have not checked it out can have a look at a “picture” of Bai Ze here: http://volarenovels.com/sundering-nature/sn-addition-bai-ze/