Chapter 45 – Dead-end
Rain had started to fall in the city of Shangbei. It was not long before the entire city was showered by droplets of liquid jade.
The rain that cascaded onto the city looked like a beautiful green waterfall that turned both the sky and the city into a single realm of lush greenness. The humidity in the air carried a fascinating scent. Wine from the heavens had come down to Earth, and the smell of it alone was enough to make one want to go out and have a long drink.
The citizens of Shangbei stood in awe at this miracle, and most of them rushed outside to be showered by the rain… Until nothing was left…
The rain disintegrated everything that it touched. It eroded the pillars of concrete and destroyed the steel beams that supported the skyscrapers. The buildings, the bridges, nothing was left. The metropolis that had the highest population density, one of the greatest cities in the world, had melted away in this sublime downpour.
Li Yiming entered the third nuclear underground shelter of Shangbei and looked at the few refugees that were hiding there. The shelter was a location found by Eyeglasses and it was one of the few left in the city that escaped the destruction that came from the sky. Barely two hundred people were there when they arrived, and no one had come in ever since then.
“Thirty million people in the city… and they’re the only ones left?” Li Yiming put his head on Liu Meng’s shoulders, sunken into a low mood.
“Don’t think too much about it. There are only two days left. It’ll all be over in two days.” Liu Meng brushed Li Yiming’s hair gently. She was trying her best to repress a sob.
The fear of death overshadowed the minds of all those who stayed in the shelter. The occasional sob that echoed through the hall reminded the survivors that even those who were physically unharmed had endured some kind of emotional trauma. Some were praying while others were cursing, but most of them were simply numb. To them, it was all real, and this was the end of the world.
Eyeglasses tried to use the cameras outside of the shelter, but all he could see were snowflakes. He switched the input feed, but to no avail. They had the choice to go out and have a look, since they could very easily resist the corrosion of the rain for a short while, but the rain was not the only danger outside; there was also a frenzied camouflager waiting for them. The will of the domain was survival, yet a guardian had kill everything that lived, so it was no surprise that the camouflager would become infuriated.
‘What about the punishment? The rules were clear: the law of the jungle, but the jungle itself was not to be touched. Yet everything has been razed down, what about the punishment for that? Was is the rain?’ Eyeglasses’ worry grew.
Qing Qiaoqiao was down on the ground in the middle of the group, with her legs crossed. Although her expression was serene, the thin layer of sweat that covered her face indicated that she had been making an effort for quite a while already. The focus barrier she had created would have been broken a long time ago if it was not for Li Yiming’s ki-recovering pills.
Qing Linglong could not bear looking at her sister overexerting herself. The barrier was to stop Duan Mu from finding out about them. Although its size was small and did not require a great amount of focus to maintain it, Qing Qiaoqiao had gone sleepless for several nights already.
“If you really can’t keep going, it’s okay to stop. Even if the camouflager does find us, we still have a chance at winning against him. It’s not worth it to overexert yourself right now.” Big Beard looked at Qing Qiaoqiao, who stabilized her breath. ‘Who would have thought that such a little girl could endure this burden for so long? I wonder what’s keeping her going…’
‘The rain has stopped,’ Bai Ze said.
“I think the rain stopped,” Eyeglasses said immediately after Bai Ze.
Whispering and chattering spread throughout the crowd of survivors when they heard Eyeglasses. Some seemed hopeful while others doubted the veracity of Eyeglasses’ assertion, but above all, most were lost at what to even do about the newly found freedom. They would go out to a barren wasteland instead of the places they called home not so long ago.
“My friend confirmed it. The rain has stopped, but I suggest that you wait for two more days. It’ll be safer outside after two more days, I’m sure. Everything’s going to be fine, trust me.” Li Yiming saw the reactions from the survivors and knew that it was his time to step up; the survivors in the shelters needed hope, and he would give it to them. ‘Just two more days, two days. After two days, all of this will be over.’
* * *
“You worthless scum!” The camouflager raised his foot and crushed Duan Mu’s right leg pitilessly. A loud crack was heard and the latter shrieked in pain.
“I’ll make you regret being born if you don’t find them soon!” The camouflager seemed ready to slaughter anyone he could set his eyes upon. He ignored Duan Mu’s screams, pulled him up from the ground and threw it toward Ya Yu. “From now on, you will take a bite out of him every hour until he finds the group guardians.”
Duan Mu remained curled up in Ya Yu’s grip. His eyes lit up with despair when he heard the camouflager’s order. He had thought about fighting for his life and dignity, but every single time the thought occurred to him, his will would collapse under the stare of Ya Yu.
“Tsk tsk tsk, how cruel!” A sweet and elegant voice was heard.
“Who is it?” The camouflager turned around and found a woman standing in a puddle of rainwater. She wore a green robe and her long hair touched the ground beneath her feet. Her eyes were of a dark color, but they also possessed a green tint that reminded one of an emerald gem. She looked like someone who had walked out of a painting, with each of her features having been worked on carefully by a master painter, a perfect combination of elegance and allurement.
“It’s you?” The camouflager was surprised when he saw the woman. ‘Fang Shui’er?’ He was pleased by the fact that he was being spared the trouble to go look for her, but then he threw a venomous stare at Duan Mu. ‘She’s right there and you didn’t tell me about it?’
Duan Mu felt very wronged when he saw the camouflager’s stare. ‘I couldn’t sense her! My talent was active the whole time!’ He had started to doubt his own talent after the numerous failures he had suffered in this domain. ‘How many time has it been already? Has my talent ever worked properly here?’
“You know me?” The woman asked. She frowned lightly and brushed her hair back gently with her right hand.
“A path to heaven and you won’t walk, no door to hell…”
A cracking noise was heard. Before the camouflager could finish his sentence, the woman had closed her fingers together, and with it, Duan Mu’s head blew up in a firework of blood.
“Are all camouflagers this wordy?” The woman chuckled. Her smile was as beautiful as the full blossoms of peach flowers in the spring.
“You… you’re not Fang Shui’er!” The camouflager was baffled. He was not shocked by the woman’s sudden attack, but rather by the fact that he could not even see what happened.
“Look at you. The game has just started.” The woman walked out of the puddle of water calmly, as if she was just taking a casual afternoon stroll. She looked at Ya Yu, who had begun to flash with a yellow glow, at Bai Xi, who had revealed her long tail, and at the camouflager; she was playing a game, and they were all going to be her prey.
* * *
Bai Ze suddenly appeared in front of Li Yiming after a flash of white light. She showed up as a two-meter tall white lion with a horn on her head and wings on her back instead of the little girl that Li Yiming was used to seeing. She seemed shocked and her eyes concealed panic and fear.
Her sudden appearance had caused a ruckus among the survivors. Li Yiming’s friends sprang to action. Qing Linglong lowered her blades, two guns appeared in Big Beard’s hand, Qing Qiaoqiao opened her eyes suddenly, her irises glowing pink, while Eyeglasses jumped back and took out his sniper rifle.
“She’s a friend!” Li Yiming yelled and placed himself in front of Bai Ze.
‘A friend?’ The weapons were lowered. ‘Li Yiming, he still has a trump card? This… Bai Ze?’
“What is it?” Li Yiming was surprised by Bai Ze’s sudden appearance. There was no reason for her to show up as she could talk to his mind directly.
“Tell that little girl to remove her barrier. There’s no point now,” Bai Ze sighed. She looked at Qing Qiaoqiao briefly and turned back to stare at Li Yiming.
“What’s going on?” Liu Meng asked. She was the one who knew the most about Bai Ze in the group.
“The thing I worried about the most just happened.” Bai Ze’s eyes swept across the team of guardians as she calculated what each could provide in direct combat.
“Do you mean Heaven’s Punishment?” Li Yiming hesitantly asked.
“Yes. The punishment has come.”
“What? The punishment?” Qing Linglong promptly asked. Bai Ze’s appearance gave her some confidence. As to why Li Yiming had a mythical beast with him, she had already given up cracking the Li Yiming enigma.
“Xiang Liu!” Bai Ze spat out.
“Xiang Liu? Are you sure?” Big Beard frowned and sat down slowly. Qing Linglong and the others also looked relieved. All of them, including Li Yiming, still thought of Xiang Liu as being what was summoned by Grandma Wang. After seeing Bi Fang, Bai Xi, Ya Yu, and Bai Ze, they were not even surprised to hear Xiang Liu’s name.
“I don’t think you understand what I’m saying.” Bai Ze read their expressions. “This Xiang Liu is different from the one you know. The other beasts you’ve met before, Bi Fang, Bai Xi, Ya Yu, and even myself, even though we are high-level mythical beasts, our power is limited by Heaven’s Laws. We are not in our complete form But this Xiang Liu…”
“You’re saying that this Xiang Liu is in its complete form?” Big Beard jumped back up in astonishment.
Bai Ze did not answer him and instead looked at Li Yiming.
“Complete form? What’s the difference?” Li Yiming asked. He had seen his fair share of high-level beasts, and he was the master of one. Even Liu Meng had her own summon.
“You’ve seen the power of that phoenix in Ning Village. She was about to die too. Don’t you think that she’s different from Ya Yu and Bai Xi?” Bai Ze seemed to have lost all hope; there was very little she could do now.
Li Yiming’s thoughts went back to Ning Village. He remembered the power Liu Meng possessed and the power of Bi Fang from Li Huaibei’s memories. ‘There’s a big difference indeed.’
“That’s impossible. How can Xiang Liu show up in its full form here? It’s a legendary monster!” Qing Linglong stared at Bai Ze. The latter looked imposing and powerful, but she brought nothing but bad news.
“The domain is in shambles, and so its will has changed. I was worried this was going to happen. Thirty million souls, all of their wills converging into one… Xiang Liu…” Big Beard muttered his thoughts to himself.
“We have two choices. We can try to hide from Xiang Liu for the two days remaining. Shangbei isn’t small, but neither is it big enough to make it hard for Xiang Liu to find us. The other option is that we work with that camouflager outside and try to take down Xiang Liu.” Qing Linglong quickly came up with two plans. She was still confident in Li Yiming’s abilities.
“What’s the level-equivalent power for the full form of Xiang Liu?” Li Yiming reluctantly asked.
“Level seven.” Bai Ze answered slowly.
‘Level seven… Sage…’ Li Yiming’s heart sank into dread. He had seen what a sage-level guardian was capable of in Eden. All were but insects beneath a sage.
So about the title of Book 3, “Monster’s in the city.” I find interesting, as mr.tanen pointed out with the name of the previous chapter, that there are a lot of ways you can interpret it. The original wording in Chinese makes it very clear that it’s monsters as in “non-human beasts” more than anything. The English version is more nuanced and suits my tastes more :).
By the way, I would say that Zeng Qian is the real monster. I mean sure, Ya Yu likes to eat humans, but maybe that’s because he has no other choice, but Zeng Qian… oh ho ho. Also thinking about our world…