Chapter 3 – Catastrophe in the Sky
“Yiming, are you sure you don’t want to come with us?” The way Qing Qiaoqiao looked at Li Yiming showed that she was going to miss him dearly. She held her boarding pass and lingered at the lobby of the airport instead of walking toward the gate. Qiaoqiao had to go back with her elder sister to the Northern part of the country. Qing Linglong owned an oil field there, and it was fair to say that she was the true hidden millionaire in the group.
“I can’t. I have things to do back in Hangzhou.” Li Yiming refused politely. He knew Qing Qiaoqiao’s intentions, but, right now, it was simply impossible for anyone else to find a place inside his heart.
“The plane is about to leave. It’s not like you’re never going to see each other again, so why be this dramatic.” Eyeglasses waited on the side. He was fashionably dressed, and his suit, together with his pale countenance from his vampiric transformation, gave him an air of coldness that was much more imposing than the image of someone who seemed socially awkward.
“Call me then.” Qing Qiaoqiao pursed her lips as her sister pulled her into the boarding gate. Eyeglasses turned back and waved his hand at Li Yiming before following the Qing sisters. He was headed for the same place, since they lived in the same city.
“Alright. Time to do some work.” After seeing his friends leave, Li Yiming made a long, lazy stretch and took out his boarding pass. He needed to go back to Hangzhou and start the mission Mr. Kong had assigned to him.
After receiving the generous rewards from the Shangbei domain, Li Yiming suggested for the team to take some time off and to rest at least three months before going into the next one. The plan was to meet up at the end of the long vacation and to discuss their next course of action. Li Yiming had chosen three months for a specific purpose; Mr. Kong asked his help for precisely three months.
“Flight H3882 from Shangbei to Hangzhou will soon depart. Please…” Li Yiming stood up from his seat and queued up at the end of the line.
“Excuse me…” The voice belonging to a middle-aged man was heard as he squeezed his way through the crowd. Unfortunately, his course came to a halt when he collided against a frail-looking young man who was behind Li Yiming. The young man was thrown to the ground from the impact and his computer bag slid several meters on the floor.
“I’m sorry. I got the wrong gate.” The middle-aged man apologized but did not slow down. He ran away from the crowd and disappeared after a few seconds.
“What’s wrong with him?” A few were revolted by the man’s recklessness, but no one did anything about it. Li Yiming looked at the young man on the ground but did not intervene as he noticed that the young man seemed uninjured. After all, there was no point in risking a complication when his plane was about to depart. ‘Well, that other guy was in a heck of a hurry… This young man, he’s going to Hangzhou too?’
“Are you okay?” Li Yiming did what he could. He turned around and helped the young man stand up. It was someone who looked barely in his twenties, with soft features and about a few inches shorter than him. His pale skin and his skinny limbs suggested at a lifestyle with a lack of exercise.
“Yeah. I’m fine. I’m used to stuff like this. Thank you.” The young man stood up and smiled. However, his warm smile turned into bafflement when he saw Li Yiming’s face. After a long pause, he finally recovered from the shock. What followed surprise was a strange expression. It was as if the young man knew Li Yiming, but he hesitated to speak to him, and he even seemed to doubt whether Li Yiming was a real person or some kind of spectral apparition.
“Do we know… each other?” Li Yiming was a little frightened by the young man’s intense gaze, and he took a step back.
“No. I don’t think so. But you really do look like a friend of mine. Oh, thank you, by the way.” The young man smiled shyly once again, picked up his bag and examined it carefully.
Li Yiming returned to where he stood in the line. However, as he inched forward slowly, he could feel that the young man behind him was staring at him. ‘Wait… he? I don’t think that I know him.’
* * *
Li Yiming looked out of the cabin’s window as the plane took off. He stared at the buildings and the streets as they shrank in size. Images of the post-apocalyptic Shangbei from the domain flashed in his mind, and he thought about what Xiang Liu said. ‘Heaven’s Laws… Manipulating everyone and the entire world?’
Thinking about Xiang Liu’s words brought a sudden unease to Li Yiming. He shook his head and suddenly noticed that the young man from earlier was seated behind him, and he seemed to have been observing him for a good while already. As their eyes met, the young man, who seemed a little embarrassed at being caught peeking, nodded with a smile and looked away.
‘Don’t tell me he’s interested in me in that way?’ Li Yiming shivered and shook his head as hard as he could to remove all of the distracting thoughts from his mind. He then tried to express where his interest lie by staring into the slender legs of one of the air stewardesses who happened to walk by.
“Is there anything I can do for you?” The stewardess noticed Li Yiming’s invasive gaze, and her well-kept professional habits compelled her to stop right in front of him with a smile that hid away her complacency and pride. ‘Well, this boy sure has good taste.’
“Uh… Could I have a cup of water please? I feel a little sick.” Li Yiming looked away while trying his best to maintain his facade of calmness and hide his embarrassment.
“Of course. Please wait for a moment.” The stewardess nodded politely and turned away.
Li Yiming let out a long sigh of relief, but it was not long before another bead of cold sweat rolled down his forehead; he could sense the young man behind him scrutinizing him again. ‘This isn’t going to be fun for me, is it…’
‘Yiming, we’re in trouble.’ Bai Ze’s voice came right as Li Yiming was thinking about his misfortune, as if everything had been concerted in advance.
“What is it?” Li Yiming awareness was brought to a peak. He adjusted his seating position so that he would not be caught off-guard if the young man behind him was ever to attack him.
‘There’s a thunderstorm ahead.’ Bai Ze sounded like she was about to laugh; they had been waiting for lightning for days in Shangbei, only to be met with a cloudless sky. Yet, as soon as they hopped on a plane, they run into a thunderstorm.
‘A thunderstorm? Wasn’t it a clear sky a moment ago? Is it going to rain?’ Li Yiming recalled the blue sky from the airport and looked out. The sun which shone so brightly earlier was hidden behind a grey curtain of clouds.
‘Well, that’s just bad luck then. There’s nothing we can do about it. We’ll get the next one.’ Li Yiming thought that Bai Ze was simply unhappy due to the fact that they had missed a chance to be struck by lightning.
‘Do you even understand what I’m saying? I’m saying that we’re in trouble.’ Bai Ze was unimpressed by Li Yiming’s slow reaction.
‘Trouble? You mean the storm ahead?’
‘Yes. The clouds ahead carry a violent storm.’ Bai Ze said in a worried voice.
‘So what?’ Li Yiming was perplexed. ‘It’s just a normal thunderstorm. It’s not like as if it’s going to be stronger than Heaven’s Punishment.’
“Here’s your water, sir.” The stewardess came back with the cup of water that Li Yiming had asked for. She bowed down and gave the paper cup to Li Yiming.
Li Yiming did not notice the stewardess’s arrival, being solely focused on his conversation with Bai Ze. He stared forward vacantly, and any ordinary onlooker would have thought that he was looking at the stewardess’ chest.
‘Don’t forget where we are right now.’ Bai Ze reminded him.
‘I’m on a plane… Wait a second…’ Li Yiming suddenly gasped, and his eyes widened. “I’m on a plane!”
“Sir! Your water.” The stewardess looked away, a little shy at being looked at like that. She could feel the blood rush into her head and cause her cheeks to burn, and she bit her lower lip to try to contain her embarrassment. Li Yiming’s Heavenly Vein added a certain unique charm to his usual warm-hearted attitude. Deep within his eyes, one would be able to find a shade of purple from the trial of lightning he had endured. Even traces of Mr. Kong’s composure and Li Huaibei’s elegance remained within him. All of these elements combined to make Li Yiming extremely attractive.
Li Yiming did not pay any attention to the stewardess, emptied his cup of water in one gulp and gave it back to her. When Li Yiming lowered his head, the stewardess brought her legs in together and tried her best to show her attractive side to Li Yiming. She was already thinking about the exchange of contact information that was going to happen soon.
‘We’re heading toward the storm?’ Li Yiming finally understood the gravity of the situation.
‘At our current speed, we’re going to enter the danger in three minutes and the center area in about ten.’
‘Is the plane going to be affected?’
‘The plane won’t make it out in one piece.’ Bai Ze made her conviction clear. 1
‘Are there no alarms on the plane?’ Li Yiming knew Bai Ze well enough to tell that she was not going to joke with him on a matter of such importance. He craned his neck to look at the head of the plane, where the pilot’s cabin was, only to find the air stewardess from earlier looking back at him with rosy cheeks, watery eyes, and a suggestive gaze.
‘What’s wrong with her?’ Li Yiming frowned and looked outside. The sky was getting even darker.
“Dear passengers, due to the storm ahead, we will be asking you to return to your seats and attach your seat belt. Please refrain from using the bathrooms. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.” The announcement Li Yiming had waited for finally came.
‘That’s it? No changes in the flight course?’ This was not at all what Li Yiming wanted to hear.
‘Even Heaven’s Laws make mistakes from time to time, and you expect the forecast to be always accurate?’ Bai Ze scoffed at Li Yiming’s expectation of the pilot to save himself and all of the passengers.
‘What do we do now?’ Li Yiming looked around him. The other passengers did not seem to be even slightly aware of the danger they were heading into. People were chatting, sleeping, reading newspapers, or eating their meal; no one seemed to think that they were in any kind of danger.
‘What can we do about it? Prepare yourself. You’re not going to die, but the people on this plane…’ Bai Ze was hinting at the obvious.
‘No way!’ Li Yiming loosened his seatbelt and stood up. There was no way he was going to let the hundreds of passengers on the plane die.
‘What are you doing? There’s nothing you can do! Even if you went to the captain and told him that the plane is going blow up, you’ll make a fool out of yourself! Also, It’s too late for a course change anyways.’ Bai Ze advised against any kind of direct intervention.
“Sir, please return to your seat and fasten your seatbelt. The thunderstorm could cause some turbulence,” The stewardess raised her voice as soon as she saw Li Yiming stand up. She did seem genuinely worried about Li Yiming’s well-being.
The airplane cabin shook before Li Yiming could come up with an answer. Li Yiming fell back into his seat and looked outside. The purple sparks in the clouds seemed more and more menacing. He looked around and saw that the stewardesses were also settling down in their seats and tying their seatbelts. One of them was instructing the passengers about the routine emergency procedures. The nervousness that was present on their faces suggested that they had received the bad news from the pilot.
“I can’t let this happen.’ Li Yiming leaned against his seat and closed his eye. He tried to use his focus to sense whatever that was happening outside of the cabin.
‘It’s no use. There are too many hindrances. The airplane is mostly made of insulating material, so even if you could control thunder, you wouldn’t be able to do anything.’ Bai Ze knew what Li Yiming was planning, and she felt the need to remind him that it was going to be a futile attempt.
‘If I can’t do it inside, then what about outside of the cabin?’ Li Yiming could now hear the thunder outside, and a crazy idea suddenly entered his mind.
If you can’t save the world. You should at least save those around you.
1. Bai Ze is not a reader of Scientific American, and neither is she familiar with the rigorousness of safety standards in aerospace engineering. Here is an excerpt of an interesting article:
The last confirmed commercial plane crash in the U.S. directly attributed to lightning occurred in 1967, when lightning caused a catastrophic fuel tank explosion. Since then, much has been learned about how lightning can affect airplanes. As a result, protection techniques have improved. Today, airplanes receive a rigorous set of lightning certification tests to verify the safety of their designs.
Although passengers and crew may see a flash and hear a loud noise if lightning strikes their plane, nothing serious should happen because of the careful lightning protection engineered into the aircraft and its sensitive components. Initially, the lightning will attach to an extremity such as the nose or wing tip. The airplane then flies through the lightning flash, which reattaches itself to the fuselage at other locations while the airplane is in the electric “circuit” between the cloud regions of opposite polarity. The current will travel through the conductive exterior skin and structures of the aircraft and exit off some other extremity, such as the tail. Pilots occasionally report temporary flickering of lights or short-lived interference with instruments.
Most aircraft skins consist primarily of aluminum, which conducts electricity very well. By making sure that no gaps exist in this conductive path, the engineer can assure that most of the lightning current will remain on the exterior of the aircraft. Some modern aircraft are made of advanced composite materials, which by themselves are significantly less conductive than aluminum. In this case, the composites contain an embedded layer of conductive fibers or screens designed to carry lightning currents.
Fair point, the above doesn’t include troll bolts of lightning produced by Heaven’s Laws though.