Chapter 3 – Liu Meng
When Li Yiming pushed open the door of the ward, he saw Liu Meng throw a deep gaze at him from her bed. “You’re awake!” Li Yiming rushed toward her, evidently happy when at constating her recovery.
“Barely.” Liu Meng brushed aside the hair on her forehead. She did not look sick at all anymore. Not a single trace of the unhealthy countenance that was usually found on the faces of bedridden patients.
“How are you feeling?” Li Yiming was still worried. Her sudden coma had to have something to do with the domain.
“I think you owe me an explanation.” Liu Meng pressed her palms and her fingers against each together and asked with a playful smile.
Liu Meng’s calm voice, however, was nothing short of a tsunami of emotions within Li Yiming’s head. ‘Explanation? She remembers? But…’
“Okay, look at you, why do you look so surprised?” Liu Meng smiled and looked at the window. “I really didn’t think that it was possible. It still feels like it was all just a dream.”
“You…” Li Yiming could not regain his composure. ‘With the way she’s acting…’
“It’s alright, I know everything now. Weren’t you in my situation when you first started?” Liu Meng raised her eyes and gazed at Li Yiming, not very sure how to broach the subject.\
Li Yiming stayed quiet with a serious countenance. He had wild guesses and uncertain conjectures, but would not dare to open his mouth to ask for a confirmation.
“Heaven’s Laws, guardians, secret domains, talents…” Liu Meng lowered her head and whispered as she stared at her own hands.
Li Yiming’s expression changed upon hearing these words: he had guessed it right. “Stage of Ascension?”
Liu Meng quirked her lips and nodded lightly. She seemed a little confused. Li Yiming let out a big sigh of relief. ‘Well, at least she’s not like me.’
“Ha, I didn’t think that I had taken in a superhero! When did this all start?” Liu Meng asked.
“Not that long, really…” Li Yiming was short of an answer at this unexpected turn of events.
“What about Little Bai Ze? Your talent?” Liu Meng looked around for her.
“She’s hurt. Hibernating.” Li Yiming pointed at his own chest.
“Is she going to be okay?”
“I think so,” said Li Yiming, who himself was not quite sure about Bai Ze’s status.
“What about that Fang Shui’er?”
“She’s a guardian too, and the director, Xiao Hei, and her assistant.”
“Wow, that’s unexpected. But, I’m a superhero too now!” Instead of being joyful, Liu Meng was absent-minded and sunk deeply into her own thoughts. “So why was I chosen?”
“Maybe it’s… because of me…?” Li Yiming’s heart was ridden with guilt. ‘If it wasn’t for me, maybe Liu Meng wouldn’t have been dragged into all of this. Being a guardian isn’t just about having superhuman powers at all. One mistake under the immense pressure could cost your own life.’
“Pffft, you? Do you really think that Heaven’s Laws would do things differently because of you?” A smile suddenly resurfaced on Liu Meng’s lips. “Maybe it’s just that the Heavens has noticed me, a beautiful and talented individual, and has decided that it would be my duty to protect our world and the people living in it.”
‘That’s the Liu Meng I know.’ Li Yiming felt warmed up by her familiar, playful remark. He looked at Liu Meng sorrily, and, before he knew it, reached out for her hand.
“But, I am glad that you’re here with me.” Liu Meng said as she lowered her head and wrapped her fingers around Li Yiming’s.
“Yes, whatever difficulties that lie ahead, we’ll brave through them together.” Li Yiming knew well from experience that solitude, fear, and confusion are a lot more likely than excitement or eagerness when such a drastic change occurs.
The door to the ward was suddenly pushed open and a nurse who conducted the regular check-ups walked in. At first, she seemed surprised by the fact that Liu Meng had already woken up, but upon seeing those two so closely together, she tactfully stepped back out and closed the door behind her. Liu Meng blushed when she noticed just how intimate she had become with Li Yiming and pushed away his hand. Li Yiming pulled on the corner of his shirt, a little embarrassed, and it seemed, all of a sudden, that he had just begun to notice just how charming Liu Meng’s shyness was. 1
“So that phoenix you were talking about, it’s real?” Liu Meng changed the subject of the conversation.
“We shouldn’t talk about things that occurred in the domain,” Li Yiming reminded her in a low voice and pointed at the ceiling of the room.
Liu Meng made a cute silly grimace and tried something else. “Then, what’s going on with my body…”
“We can talk about that.”
“What about here?” Liu Meng immediately sat up and pointed at her chest. Her finger sank deeply into the folds of her shirt, and this alone was enough to set free Li Yiming wild fancies as his eyes followed her hand. When Liu Meng realized what she had just done, she threw a menacing glance at Li Yiming and moved her hand a little further away from herself. “What about this number?”
“It’s a life mark, it’s the most important thing for a guardian…” Li Yiming began explaining to Liu Meng the basics about being a guardian as much as he could.
The polite young nurse quickly returned with the doctor responsible for Liu Meng. After a simple examination that still failed to reveal the cause of Liu Meng’s sudden recovery, the two insisted on leaving the hospital against the medical advice of staying for further observation. Liu Meng signed a document and left for Yunda Hotel with Li Yiming behind her. When they arrived, they found everyone from the filming crew busy putting away their equipment. The floor management had an ashen face as he announced to everyone that filming would be canceled upon further notice since both the director and the main actress had gone missing. He was even kind enough to not ask to be reimbursed for the hospital fees.
“So, are we going back to my place or are we going to yours?” Liu Meng gave Li Yiming his three thousand yuans of training compensation and asked a question to Li Yiming that caught the attention of many in the hotel lobby around her.
“How about mine?” said Li Yiming as he took his hard-earned money, without minding the stares of those around him who were sinking deeper and deeper into a big misunderstanding. “How about my place? Lishui is closer to Jing Prefecture, and we’d need to cover more distance if we went back with the crew.”
“To your place?”
“Yes, let’s go there now. No one’s there.” His answer produced another round of bafflement. Li Yiming was still a little worried about Liu Meng.
“Alright then, shall we head out? I’ll go talk to the manager.” Liu Meng turned around and left. Someone who worked for setting up the stage showed a thumbs up to Li Yiming, to which he responded with a self-content raise of the eyebrow.
* * *
“So, this is your home?” Liu Meng stood right outside of Li Yiming’s little apartment, and looked inside with disdain just like Bai Ze did not too long ago. Ever since the freeloader started living with him, snack packagings and the skin of fruits could be found scattered across the worn-out room, and there was even a half-empty bottle of spilled drink on the floor, whose original content was hard to tell by now.
“Well, my name’s on the paper, yes.” Li Yiming sat down rather proudly on the sofa.
“Your dad gave it to you?”
“Yep, marriage property.” Li Yiming kicked off his slippers and crossed his legs on the tea table.
“Well, it wouldn’t look too bad with a little renovation.” Liu Meng pushed her luggage to the side and looked around as if she were its future owner. 2
“Oh yeah.” Li Yiming looked at Liu Meng’s luggage and walked to the window, peeking out like a thief to see if someone was looking. When he saw the neighboring old man Wang watering his plants, he smiled at him with embarrassment and pulled the curtains in together.
“What is it?” Liu Meng took a few steps back, feeling a little nervous.
“Let me show you something.” Li Yiming pulled a ring out of his pocket. It had a modern, metallic design and glittered as light fell on its dark, undecorated edges.
“Are you proposing to me right now?” Liu Meng stepped back once again. She sounded confused, but excited more than anything.
“What?” Li Yiming had an awkward expression. “Use your… Take a look at this with your inner sight,” said Li Yiming as he gave the ring to her.
“This…” The moment she touched the ring, her expression changed from confusion to bewilderment, but her eagerness remained the same.
“It’s a storage ring. Do you know how to use it?” Li Yiming asked.
“Is this for me?” Liu Meng seemed overjoyed.
“Yeah, I already have one.” Li Yiming waved his own hand.
Liu Meng wasted no time on formalities, especially with Li Yiming. She dropped the accessory onto her palm and closed her eyes. An almost imperceptible flash of light later and she opened eyes, visibly very happy.
‘As I thought, it’s only natural that a true guardian would know how to use these things right away…’ Li Yiming found all of this a little unfair. The ring belonged to Xiao Hei, and Li Yiming had already emptied its content into his own bracelet, but he had yet to find time to check the items one by one.
“Did you get this from a domain?” Liu Meng scrutinized the ring with excitement and searched around for an object to test it on.
“Don’t try it here.” Li Yiming saw through Liu Meng’s intentions and quickly rushed to stop her. “It’ll consume a life mark with every usage here.”
“Come on, just let me try it once.”
“You really shouldn’t. You’ll get plenty of chances to try it out later. You’d literally be throwing your life away.”
“Alright, fine.” Liu Meng sat down on the sofa but quickly frowned as she realized it was covered with chips.
“No way I can live here without cleaning this place up.” Liu Meng suddenly stood up and walked to the window to let in some fresh air. The old couple on the balcony in the building facing the window seemed a little surprised, but then they looked away; in the aged neighborhood where Li Yiming lived, the distance between buildings was nearly nonexistent. Liu Meng, however, did not mind them and turned around to clean the room.
Li Yiming tried offering his help to Liu Meng since he could not simply stand there and watch her clean his own apartment, but he was scolded back into where he was after accidentally spilling the contents of a bottle he picked up from the floor. He went out to the balcony and looked at Liu Meng with his back against the railing. The sight her visage, focused on her work, made Li Yiming’s thoughts run wild once again. ‘Maybe… Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if everything stayed like this…
‘To seek the extraordinary, to want to become “special”… Hmm, I guess these desires belong to young minds. After all that’s happened, I think that I’d be happy with a stable, quiet life. Is this maturity? Maybe. But I don’t think that everyone needs to be on the verge of death like I was to come to this realization, sometimes all we need is to spend some time, live through a few experiences.’
As Li Yiming ruminated on these thoughts, Liu Meng’s silhouette slowly faded away, replaced by another one in his memories: his mother. He remembered how his father sat on the sofa, smoking a cigarette while his mother wiped the floor and grumbled. He remembered himself as a child, playing around with a water gun and smiling at his parents. His eyes watered as he remembered these faraway, blissful times. 3
Knock— Knock— Knock—
A quick string of knocking noise suddenly pulled Li Yiming back to reality. Liu Meng looked at Li Yiming with a mop in her hands. Li Yiming himself was puzzled. ‘A visitor? No one other than Bai Ze and Liu Meng has ever come to this place ever since I entered college.’
Knock— Knock— Knock—
The knocking sound came once again, and it seemed like the visitor was growing impatient. Li Yiming walked to the door, unsure about what to do, and took a deep breath as he decided to meet his guest. However, he also prepared for the encounter by readying himself to pull out a pistol he found in Xiao Hei’s ring. He would be able to bring out the weapon in a fraction of a second if needed. With all that’s happened recently, Li Yiming had finally learned that prudence was the best way to care for his own life.
Li Yiming turned the doorknob slowly and carefully pulled the door open. He looked through the slit while he raised his other hand in front of him, in a position to use his handgun. However, his visitor did not give him much more time, the door was immediately flung open and bumped against him with such speed that he almost fell down. As Li Yiming bent backward, however, he moved his fingers and a P99 Walt appeared in his hand. He made ready to fire his weapon as quickly as he could.
Liu Meng, who had been looking at Li Yiming, knew that she would need to ready herself to help him from the moment she saw his grave countenance. She prepared to deliver a blow with her mop: this was the synergy from the many years they had spent together, and it was more valuable than anything now that they have become guardians. She raised the mop high above her head and swung it down in a mighty strike as Li Yiming was pushed back by the door.
However, the next instant, Li Yiming’s cry of surprise made her stop her blow in midair, and she fell to the floor after tripping and losing her balance.
Who’s in the mood for some family drama? 😮
1. This is some junior high level stuff here. I thought everyone has graduated from university 0.0
2. Note the rather natural obsession with owning property. This is a result of the perceived importance (and the real importance, maybe) of owning real-estate in the Chinese culture.
3. Wiped the floor…? I want to laugh at this but…