‘Crap, I totally forgot about that… Zeng Qian’s relationship with Xiao Hei.’ Li Yiming knew that this was a terrible development.
“Yes, I killed him.” Li Yiming took a deep breath an answered calmly. After all Zeng Qian had done to help him search for Liu Meng, he could not bring himself to lie to her.
“Why?” Zeng Qian roared. The bugs around her danced around violently while the buzzing noise gained more and more volume.
“He found me after what happened in Ning Village and wanted the Fruit of Nirvana to save you. After I told him that I didn’t have it, he tried to kill me to get Mr. Kong to show up.” Li Yiming retold his encounter with Xiao Hei rather straightforwardly.
“So you killed him?” Fang Shui’er asked with a voice that suggested at some hesitation about laying the blame on Li Yiming.
“Yes, I had no choice.” Li Yiming sighed. ‘Bai Ze was punished by Heaven’s Laws for unleashing her strength and killing Xiao Hei, and I almost died along with her. But there’s no point in saying that now, the fact is that Xiao Hei is dead, and I’m the one who killed him.’
Li Yiming’s answer made the rest of the group frown. The spite between Zeng Qian and Li Yiming was now as clear as day. Qing Linglong stood still, expressionless, while lowering her crescent blades to ready for a strike. Big Beard took a step back when no one was looking and turned toward Fang Shui’er. Qing Qiaoqiao had disbelief written all over her face; she refused to believe that Li Yiming could be a killer.
After a long silence, the bugs dispersed and flew away. Zeng Qian’s anger slowly died down, and with it, she felt that she no longer wanted Li Yiming’s life, at least for now. She turned away and walked away silently.
“We paid back the favor. We’re done now.” Fang Shui’er followed her sister and left these last words without even turning around to look at Li Yiming, although shock and ambivalence were apparent in her voice.
“Who’s Xiao Hei?” Qing Qiaoqiao came close to Li Yiming and asked cautiously. Her sister wanted to stop her, but the question jumped out of Qiaoqiao’s mouth before she could.
“He’s Zeng Qian’s lover. They were really in love with each other.” Li Yiming said bitterly. He had nothing but fate to blame for such a twist of events.
“I’ll look for a way to return to you the favor, I promise.” Big Beard walked toward Li Yiming and said earnestly. He was ready to intervene should Zeng Qian and Fang Shui’er attack Li Yiming on the spot, since the latter had saved his life after all. But to stay here right now meant that he would abandon his teammates, and he held himself to higher principles than that. After all, he was the captain of the team that the Fang sisters chose to join.
“Alright, thanks.” Li Yiming expressed his sincere thanks,
“We’ll meet again then.” Big Beard did not linger any longer and chased after Fang Shui’er.
“We should go now. It’s not safe here.” Qing Linglong looked at Big Beard’s back. ‘An abrupt end to a temporary and circumstantial alliance.’
* * *
“We’re reporting the latest news report about the incident at the municipal Binshui park. An explosion has caused large-scale damage to the infrastructure within the park, as well as causing at least five deaths. The concerned departments are investigating the matter…”
The television was broadcasting the news with a volume that was nearly inaudible. Qing Qiaoqiao sat on the sofa with her lips puckered and turned around to look at the door of Li Yiming’s room from time to time. He had brought Liu Meng inside ever since returning from the park and had yet to come out. On several instances, she wanted to knock on the door, but her sister stopped her every time.
Qing Linglong was busy finishing a meal brought by the hotel staff and looked at her sister disapprovingly. Li Yiming was no longer the naive boy she had thought him to be a while earlier. The more she learned about Li Yiming, the more mysterious he seemed to her.
Inside the room, Li Yiming was standing next to the bed. His eyes wandering to every corner and nook of the room. “Are you sure you can save her that way? If it’s just charming, wouldn’t it be better to ask Qiaoqiao for help? She’s the expert for that, after all.” Li Yiming hesitantly proposed.
“Please. What is she going to accomplish with her feeble abilities?” Bai Ze dismissed Li Yiming’s proposal right away. Liu Meng laid naked on the bed with her limbs spread out, and Bai Ze was busy drawing on her body with a brush. Liu Meng’s eyes remained closed and her breathing was steady. “I’m a legendary beast, you know? Have you ever tried looking up some information about me online? Do you even know what I’m drawing right now? Watch and learn, this is called a Spell Breaker, okay? The number of people that know how to draw this can be counted with one hand. You should count yourself lucky that I’m here, otherwise Liu Meng would never be able to wake up from the dual seals of being controlled by the camouflager and Bi Fang.”
“…And you’re drawing that with water?” Li Yiming asked, a little doubtful of Bai Ze’s overconfidence.
“Do you even know what you’re talking about? Water is the source of all life. It’s capable of purifying the entire world. I mean, I’d like to have the highest grade red ink made from the costliest pigment, but how would you get that for me? By the way, are you sure it’s appropriate for you to stare at her like that?” Bai Ze suddenly turned her head back to look at Li Yiming with a grin that was a complete mismatch for her young age.
“Stay focused, okay?” Li Yiming’s face reddened. He walked to the side and gulped down a mouthful of water before coming back to stare at the tip of Bai Ze’s brush. ‘Yes, the tip of the brush, what a soft brush, but such elegant strokes. And the canvas, the skin, it’s rosy, bouncy…’ Li Yiming swallowed down some saliva and continued his staring.
“Wow, that was tiring.” Bai Ze retracted her brush and wiped away the sweat on her forehead: drawing the Spell Breaker was not as easy as she made it be.
“Are you done?” Li Yiming could not see anything despite carefully examining Liu Meng’s body. Since Bai Ze used water as her ink, the liquid had already dried up for a long time, leaving no traces behind.
“Of course not, it’s not that simple?” Bai Ze steadied her breath, performed a hand seal and started chanting. As she did so, the markings she had produced on Liu Meng’s skin lit up with a golden color and danced on Liu Meng’s body, gradually appearing one by one and eventually covering her entire body in gold.
“Careful, there’s a possibility of Bi Fang coming out if she wakes up.” Bai Ze warned Li Yiming after finishing her spell.
Li Yiming raised his sword and stared at Liu Meng, expecting the worst to happen.
“What? Bi Fang already recognized her as his master?” Bai Ze was surprised when she saw a little fiery emblem appear on Liu Meng’s forehead. It was the shape of a bird with a long neck and a single leg setting flight.
“What did you say?” Li Yiming, who was focused on stopping Bi Fang if he was ever to come out, did not pay attention to Bai Ze’s mumbling.
“I said that Liu Meng’s awake.” Bai Ze smiled. A flash of white light later and she was gone.
“What?” Li Yiming turned around, only to find emptiness behind him. He looked at Liu Meng, who seemed to be on the verge of opening her eye again. Her breathing quickened gradually and her long eyelashes trembled.
“Liu Meng!” Li Yiming was ecstatic. He put his sword away and quickly walked right next to her. He understood that Bai Ze only left him because there was no immediate danger.
“Yiming?” Liu Meng slowly opened her eyes. She was still too confused to be able to understand what was going on.
“You’re awake! I’m so glad!” Li Yiming kneaded her hand, unable to repress his joy.
“What? I…” Liu Meng looked down after hearing Li Yiming’s remark.
It was a scream that pierced through the clouds above the building. Liu Meng scrambled for something, anything that she could use to cover herself, but Bai Ze had already thrown the quilt and the pillow to a corner earlier. She brought her hands to her chest, and, in the suddenness of the movement, squished and pushed around what she tried to conceal. Her entire body had gained a healthy flush.
Li Yiming’s reaction was even more exaggerated. After a brief moment of shock, he darted toward the door like a weasel being scared off by something while hunting for food. He left a remnant image behind him as he smashed through the door, obliterating it completely.
“What happened?” Qing Qiaoqiao jumped up from the sofa, confused by the sudden scream and the noise of the door’s being destroyed. Qing Linglong was already readying herself to deliver a fatal blow with her blades.
“Uh, well, Liu Meng’s awake.” Li Yiming gave an embarrassing explanation that extinguished the indigo glow on Qing Linglong’s blades. He opened the front door and walked out.
“Liu Meng’s awake? Hmmpf!” Qing Linglong looked at the doorless entrance to the bedroom. She could see someone without any clothes on rush toward the shower.
Qing Linglong jumped down from the vantage point she had taken with an amused expression. The blades in her hands traced beautiful arcs in the air as she played around with them.
* * *
Inside an apartment near downtown Shangbei, the camouflager stood on the balcony with a gloomy expression, quietly observing the busy streets below him. “You’re awake! I stitched your hand back, but you shouldn’t use it too much for a while, otherwise, the wound might break open again,” The camouflager said when he saw an old man appear from behind him.
The man nodded and stayed silent. He lowered his head to look at his bandaged left wrist.
“You were reckless. There’s no one else to blame for that. You should expect all guardians to have some kind of life-saving technique, especially those who are higher level. It’s just a mere coincidence for them to have survived domain after domain. But I hope that you learned your lesson this time.” The camouflager turned around and patted the old man’s head as if he was a child, which made the whole scene very odd.
“Don’t look at me like that. I know what you’re thinking. I told you that you can’t eat normal people. Bai Xi’s still unconscious so we can’t leave her alone. We’ll go look for guardians once she wakes up. If you really want some, I’ll go get a few prisoners sentenced to death for you.” 1
Ya Yu nodded again, this time even more intensely than the last time. The wrinkles on his face made him seem like nothing more than an old farmer. No one would be able to guess at the cruel beast that hid under his innocuous appearance.
* * *
“You still can’t find her?” Big Beard asked when he saw Fang Shui’er enter the room.
“Qianqian loved Xiao Hei. I’m worried that she’ll do something stupid.” Fang Shui’er sat down facing Big Beard, frustrated by the fact that her efforts had not bore fruit.
“I understand your feelings as a friend,” Big Beard said as moved around a bit in his seat to find a more comfortable position, “But I also have to remind you that Zeng Qian left on her own. She abandoned the team, and there is no way we can take unnecessary risks for her. These are the rules.”
“But…” Fang Shui’er hesitated.
“I know what you want to say. I was wondering about it since the start. What pushed you to form a team with that Li Yiming? Did you all decide to fool around together?” Big Beard said with a frown.
“He’s Li Yiming, that’s all.” Fang Shui’er lowered her head to look at the ankle chain that hung on her leg. Its metallic design was not impressive, but nevertheless enough to add a modern style of beauty and a certain suggestiveness its owner This was a guardian equipment given to her by Li Yiming, and she forgot to give it back before leaving.
“Li Yiming…” Big Beard sank into his own thoughts while mumbling the name.
Ahh, good ol’ Bai Ze. Also I have three exams tomorrow, wish me luck… (Hopefully I won’t need it.)
1. For those of you wondering, China still does have the death penalty. It is seen as a natural component of the crime code, although recently there has been reforms to change the kind of crimes that could be subject to capital punishment.
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