Chapter 5 – Mingzhu Tower
Shangbei is the cultural and economic capital of the country, standing proudly at the top of the world for its bustling neighborhoods and the endless opportunities they provided. It is an international metropolis with more than twenty million inhabitants. Li Yiming gazed at the landscape in the distance as he exited the train station. ‘This is where Ji Xiaoqin and I… Now that I think about it, it might’ve been an accident since the very beginning.’
“Where are we going now?” Liu Meng’s question stopped his pondering. Li Yiming looked at her and a nascent guilt suddenly sprang up in his mind.
“Where are you going? If we’re going to the same place, I can give you a ride. You know, to thank you for the lunch,” Li Huaibei proposed.
“We’re going to Mingzhu Tower.” Liu Meng was about to refuse him, but Li Yiming interjected before she had the chance to do so.
“Well, we’re going to the same place then.” Li Huaibei said with a smile and gestured for the two to follow him into the parking lot.
Liu Meng was about to say something, but Li Yiming stopped her with a glance. The two followed Li Huaibei quietly. His car was a top-grade Cadillac SUV. After getting into the vehicle, Li Yiming wrapped his arm around Liu Meng’s waist. Liu Meng twisted around a little at first, but settled down after Li Yiming gave her another glance. She was not quite sure about his intentions, but still cooperated and even leaned a little more into his chest.
“Showing off your affection?” Li Huaibei looked at the two through the rear-view mirror and joked.
“It’s just habit.” Li Yiming answered with a calm voice. However, a gun appeared in the hand he hid behind Liu Meng.
Li Huabei smiled again and said nothing more. The car exited the station, and, as it traveled, Li Yiming stared at Li Huaibei’s face from the side. He seemed calm, but tightened his grip on his pistol as he remembered what Xiao Hei said about Bai Ze. ‘Perfect. It’s simply impossible for a normal human being to be this perfect. This Li Huaibei, there has to be something wrong with him.’
Li Huaibei drove silently until he suddenly reached for the storage compartment between the front row seats. Li Yiming’s heart skipped a beat and he slowly lifted his pistol. Liu Meng, who had felt Li Yiming’s gesture, stiffened herself and leaned even tighter against Li Yiming. Li Huaibei opened the cover and waved a pack of cigarettes at Li Yiming.
“I don’t smoke.” Li Yiming let out a sigh of relief, but still held his pistol tightly.
“Do you mind me smoking then?” Li Huaibei brought the package to his mouth, bit on one and pulled it out of the box.
“Sure, go ahead.” Li Yiming stretched his sore shoulder slightly.
“I also used to not smoke.” Li Huaibei lowered the car window and turned on the electrical lighter. “But someone told me that ‘a man who does not smoke…’
“No son he shall beget.” Li Yiming finished his sentence before he could stop himself. He was all too familiar with that saying.
The tires emitted a painful, high-pitched screech as they left black smears behind them. The Cadillac, which had been speeding on the road, came to a sudden halt. The car behind almost collided against its rear, and its driver was quick to let its anger known through a string of insults.
“Where did you hear that from?” Li Huabei looked at Li Yiming with severity, without minding for a second pistol pointed at his face.
“A man.” Li Yiming was very nervous; he had not expected a casual answer to provoke this big of a response.
“What kind of man?” Li Huaibei’s gaze intensified.
“How should I describe it? With a knit bag?” Li Yiming picked the most conspicuous characteristic.
“You’ve met Mr. Kong?” Li Huaibei’s seriousness was replaced by surprise.
“That’s his name?”
“Everyone calls him that.” Li Huaibei seemed to be reminiscing about something. His imposing air suddenly vanished, replaced by his former elegant self.
“Put your toy away, okay? You haven’t even unlocked the safety. Are you new?” Li Huaibei started his car again and picked up the cigarette he had dropped.
“I…” Li Yiming wanted to say to him that his handgun was not just a toy, but he then looked at it and realized that the safety was indeed still on. He put down the gun, a little unsatisfied with his own performance. ‘Well, at least I don’t need to fight him.’
“It’s rare for a newcomer to see Mr. Kong.” Li Huaibei blew a puff of smoke out of the car window, but it was sent back into Li Yiming’s face by the wind.
“You’ve also met him?” Li Yiming was not yet ready to trust him.
“It was quite a while ago. Are you only two?”
“Yes.” Li Yiming did not hide this from him. ‘Well, he’s a guardian, that’s for sure, and he knows about Big Bro too. Most importantly, he doesn’t seem to be an enemy, could he be in the same situation as I am?’ This was what preoccupied him the most.
“It won’t be easy for the two of you in Shangbei. But if Mr. Kong has been willing to show himself to you, it must have been because you’re special in some way.”
“What did your Stage of Ascension look like?” Li Yiming suddenly asked.
“Stage of Ascension? Isn’t it the same for everyone?” The man turned his head back, a little surprised.
“Mr. Kong said that it would be a little… different for some of us.” Li Yiming came up with an explanation.
“Oh really? That’s the first time I’ve heard something like that. My Stage of Ascension was a simple yin-yang platform. What about you?”
“Same,” Li Yiming answered, a little discouraged.
“Me too.” Liu Meng was a little confused; she was still thinking about Mr. Kong. It was quite strange for her since she could remember meeting him vaguely, but none of the details.
“Okay, we’re almost here.” Li Huaibei pulled his car door open and looked at Mingzhu tower from the parking lot. This was the distinguishing landmark of Shangbei.
“Are we waiting here?” Li Yiming and Liu Meng also disembarked.
“Come, newcomers, it’ll be quite a show today with a domain of this size.” Li Huaibei led the way and strode toward the center of Mingzhu Public Square.
“Are there a lot of people in big-sized domains?” Liu Meng looked at the tower in the distance. A 350-meter tall tower with a 50-meter diameter sphere on top of it. It looked like a lollipop more than anything.
‘Big-sized domain? So it’s not just low-level, intermediate and high-level? Is this another way of classifying the domains?’ Li Yiming followed in silence. He knew that he would receive no guidance at all from Heaven’s Laws and that he simply had to deal with whatever was thrown in his way.
“Big-sized domains are special kinds of domain. It’s a little different from a normal domain. Domains are usually split into low, intermediate or high based on their difficulty. A good comparison would be the difficulty of the homework given to you by your teacher. The harder it is, the more praise you’ll receive when you finish it. However, big-sized domains are like exams: the difficulty is the same for everyone. But the more things you do, the higher you score, and the more rewards you’ll receive, so everything is up to you. Usually, there’s a lot of participants.” Li Huaibei seemed to have guessed Li Yiming’s confusion and explained tersely.
Ever since the erection of the Mingzhu tower in the city, the tourists visiting the landmark prompted the development of a commercial district around it. To appeal to all kinds of visitors, the variety of products being sold was also almost endless. The three stopped next to a fountain near the center of the public square. Li Huaibei raised his head and gazed at the peak of the tower, evidently sunken into his own thoughts. Liu Meng pulled out her cell phone, just like a normal tourist, and was about to take a selfie. Li Yiming looked around, a little bored by the waiting.
‘Qing Linglong?’ Li Yiming quickly saw someone he knew amidst the crowd. Qing Qiaoqiao was also with her sister, and, just like Liu Meng, she was taking a selfie with her phone. Eyeglasses and Grandma Wang were also there. Eyeglasses was playing on his tablet as always, but something, most likely a prosthetic leg, made his standing posture seem a little odd. As for Grandma Wang, she sat still on a stone bench with her eyes closed.
‘Maybe I should go greet them?’ Li Yiming did not have many acquaintances amongst other guardians, so meeting them again made him feel a little more comfortable.
“Fang Shui’er?” Liu Meng suddenly exclaimed. Li Yiming instantly turned his head in her direction. Fang Shui’er hid behind a casual, black outfit, a white hat and a pair of giant sunglasses. She also covered half of her face with a mask, just like the first time he saw her. However, it was easy for Li Yiming to know that it was indeed her since someone else trailed her: Zeng Qian, with her unchanged smile and her slightly large figure. When Li Yiming saw Zeng Qian, he remembered Ning Village, and what hid behind the smile that hung on those full cheeks.
Fang Shui’er’s group also spotted Li Yiming and Liu Meng, and Fang Shui’er and Zeng Qian were looking in their direction hesitantly. Three other people followed them, one man with a patch around his eye, another man, as obese as a small mountain, and a third one with an imposing beard. They did not look like bodyguards, and, based on their actions, it seemed like the bearded man was the leader of the trio.
“People you know?” Li Huaibei turned around and asked.
“Yeah, we’ve worked together before,” Li Yiming answered truthfully.
“Save the greetings for later. If you don’t know them too well, it might not be a good idea to see someone you know here.
“Why?” Li Yiming was a little confused. ‘I thought that power came with numbers?’
“I’ll explain to you later. Just stay here for now, okay?” Li Huaibei looked around him and lit up another cigarette. Li Yiming suddenly realized that the people around him were all looking in his direction, but something stopped them from getting too close.
“Sis, look!” Qing Qiaoqiao saw Li Yiming. She was quite fond of him, so she started walking in his direction and was about to shout a greeting until Qing Linglong pulled her back.
“Is that the Sword of the North?” Qing Linglong asked Grandma Wang for confirmation.
“It’s him alright. Why is he here?” Grandma Wang glanced at Li Huaibei and stood up with a concerned look.
‘Look at that girl. She’s a newcomer, that’s for sure. The Sword of the North with a newcomer?” Eyeglasses pushed up his glasses and whispered.
“I was thinking about inviting Li Yiming to our team this time, since he seemed to have a strong background. I wouldn’t have thought that he would be with him. That Li Yiming, he’s definitely not as simple as he looks.” Qing Linglong sighed. “But he seems to enjoy staying with first-timers?”
“That man is called Sword of the North? Is he really strong?” Qing Qiaoqiao could tell that her sister stopped her because of that handsome man.
“It’s more than that. He’s the only person who has survived Eden.” Eyeglasses quirked his lips, threw a fearful glance at Li Huaibei, and said in an even lower voice.
“Qiaoqiao, this isn’t something you should ask about. I hope that you never learn about Eden.” Qing Linglong glanced at Li Yiming again with a cryptic expression.
“Shui’er, you know that kid?” The eye-patch man glanced at Li Yiming. He noticed the change in the behavior of the Fang sisters ever since they noticed Li Yiming’s presence.
“We’re working together for the first time, but I’d think that we should at least share information with each other,” The bearded man said, “We should pay attention to the fact that Li Huaibei has agreed to team up with a newcomer. I thought he always operated alone.”
“For the success of the mission, the best advice I can give you is to not mess around with him.” Zeng Qian said with a glacial smile.
“Is it because of Li Huaibei?” The eye-patch man snorted scornfully.
“You shouldn’t underestimate him. That boy isn’t as simple as he looks. He was in our domain last time.” Fang Shui’er turned around and her eyes broke away from Li Yiming.
“Strong?” The bearded man removed his sunglasses and threw a cold, cruel look at Li Yiming.
“I don’t know if he’s strong or not, since I’ve never seen him do anything, but he has background…”
“I wouldn’t think that Li Huaibei alone would be enough to intimidate us, would he?”
“It’s Mr. Kong.” Zeng Qian had an awkward smile. They had searched through a lot of information after the Ning Village domain, and confirmed that the man they saw was indeed Mr. Kong; it was rather easy with how flashy the knit-bag was. On top of that, they would not think that anyone would dare to pretend to be him. Zeng Qian, perhaps due to what Mr. Kong had said, had rekindled her relationship with her sister, but Xiao Hei had disappeared even since the conclusion of the Ning Village domain. ‘Does he dislike me now…?’
“Mr. Kong?” The bearded man asked in an incredulous voice mingled with shock.
Zeng Qian did not answer him. Fang Shui’er nodded as she remembered, a little stirred, what had happened in the previous domain. The fat man sat down silently, while the eye-patch man turned his head around in concern and looked in another direction.
Happy to see the good ol’ squad reunited. 🙂