Chapter 4 – Trial by Lightning
‘Outside of the cabin? Are you crazy? We’re not in a domain.’ Li Yiming’s crazy idea scared Bai Ze, but she did not have a better alternative. It was indeed possible for Li Yiming to use his technique to blink out of the plane cabin and intercept the bolt of lightning right before it strikes the plane. It was a dangerous idea, but not an impossible one.
‘You’re exactly right. This isn’t a domain. That’s another reason to not stand around and watch.’ Li Yiming was firm in his decision.
‘Who do you think you are?’ Bai Ze was slightly irritated by Li Yiming’s response.
‘You know what they say, with great power comes great responsibility. I can’t change the world, but I can at least save the people around me. I want to try before giving up.’ Li Yiming closed his eyes once more and tried to look for the best opportunity to intervene.
‘Well, there’s nothing I can do for you. If I even show up in my true form, I’ll cause another Punishment.’ Bai Ze stayed silent for a moment, having no words to convince Li Yiming to abandon his endeavor. Her final protest amounted to giving Li Yiming a grim reminder that he was in it alone.
‘Alright. So don’t do anything. Even if I fail, it wouldn’t amount to anything terrible, would it?’
‘Remember, level three. Level three is the red line you can’t cross. If you go beyond that, you’ll bring the wrath of Heaven’s Laws.’ Bai Ze knew that Li Yiming had already decided. ‘Well, that’s Li Yiming for you. Yes, the same one who was ready to sacrifice himself to save me from a bolt of lightning, come to think of it. It wouldn’t be him otherwise, would it?’
As sky around the plane darkened further, the turbulences also became more violent. Even if the flight crew tried their best to reassure the passengers that nothing bad was going to happen, some of them still grew worried. The passengers and the flight crew alike were slowly falling prey to panic and anxiety. Li Yiming glanced at the young man behind him and noticed that he was looking outside, visibly scared, instead of scrutinizing him.
‘Now!’ Li Yiming could feel a particularly strong bolt of lightning coming for the plane’s right wing. If it was to hit, then the plane would be doomed.
The cabin suddenly went pitch-black; Li Yiming had cut off the power to the lights. It was enough to provoke an outburst of panic amongst the passengers, but it also gave Li Yiming the opportunity to blink himself out of the plane unseen. He appeared on top of the plane with a flash of purple light. However, before he could land on the plane fuselage, he was blown off of his feet. Li Yiming, without minding his own dire situation, focused on the bolt of lightning and tried his best to deviate it from its course.
‘Move!’ Li Yiming stared at the bolt of lightning and managed to bend it slightly, causing it to miss the wing of the plane by inches. The proximity of it was enough to produce another violent tremor within the cabin.
‘I did it!’ Li Yiming was overjoyed. He looked at the plane, who made it into the distance unscathed. ‘This is what it means to be a guardian, to protect the world and the people living in it.’
Li Yiming tried his best to stabilize himself and catch up to the plane using Thunderflash. A final blink brought him to the tail of the plane, and he clamped onto the fuselage, laying down as low as possible to reduce the intensity of the wind. Unlike when he rode on Bai Ze’s back, he had difficulty even keeping his eyes open in the storm.
‘I think you should give up. This is only the beginning. We’re not even in the heart of the thunderstorm yet.’ Bai Ze reminded him once again. She was worried that he would use powers beyond the limit of what was possible without suffering dire consequences.
‘I can’t give up without trying!’ Li Yiming squeezed out an answer. He closed his eyes. Since it was so difficult to keep them open and they didn’t help much anyways, he would rely on his other senses instead.
‘It’s coming.’ Bai Ze warned Li Yiming. She tried her best to help him detect any oncoming bolts of lightning ahead of time.
Li Yiming launched himself into intercepting another bolt lightning that came with his control ability. However, the second thunderbolt, which was much stronger than the previous one, barely bent itself, and it grazed past the tip of the plane’s wing. The effort required made blood gush out of Li Yiming’s nostrils, producing a line of crimson in the air as the wind blew away the beads of blood one by one.
‘You’re already going beyond your limits. If you continue on like this, you won’t be able to survive.’ Bai Ze reminded Li Yiming again in a worried voice.
Li Yiming stayed silent. He frowned when he thought about what had just happened. ‘That bolt of lightning, it grazed the plane. That should have done at least something… But I didn’t see anything. Did I absorb it? Wait a second! Absorb? Why didn’t I think of this before? Heaven’s Punishment didn’t kill me, so why am I trying to redirect the lightning instead of trying to absorb it?’ A brilliant idea hatched in Li Yiming’s mind. Now was the best time to follow Mr. Kong’s advice and test his luck with normal lightning.
The next bolt came. Although it was still very far away from the plane, Li Yiming gritted teeth, activated Thunderflash, and met bolt of lightning head one.
‘What are you…?’ Bai Ze yelled out in surprise, but she swallowed down the rest of the sentence when she saw what happened.
The bolt of lightning that hit Li Yiming’s body caused an explosion of purple light. The veins on Li Yiming’s forehead became obvious visible, and his limbs almost turned transparent. The veins and bones within him all flashed with a purple glow.
‘Are you serious?’ Bai Ze could feel first-hand the change that was occurring within Li Yiming’s body, and she was more excited than even Li Yiming himself.
‘Yes! I knew it!’ Li Yiming was overjoyed. Not only was it painless, but he had also recovered entirely. Every bit of his body was now filled with energy, and he was itching to do more to save the plane and its passengers.
Another flash of light and Li Yiming blinked not toward the plane, but above it. As another bolt of lightning struck him, Li Yiming’s body was stained with an even more prominent purple. Even the blood that ran through his veins gained a violet tint.
Meanwhile, inside the plane, after witnessing the raging storm outside, the flight crew had abandoned their efforts to calm down the passengers and began to pray instead. However, what they could not see due to the heavy rain and the limited field of view from the windows was a god-like silhouette who was teleporting himself between the clouds and using his own body to intercept the blows of thunder that would have hit the plane instead.
Li Yiming felt something inside of him had been set loose. He suddenly stopped moving and stayed still in the air. Every single cell inside his body was ripped apart and remade stronger than before. His bones turned into a purple, crystalline liquid, and light orbs replaced his flesh.
Li Yiming let out a long scream, but it was suffocated into something barely audible by the raging thunder around him. The sparks in the clouds converged toward him, as if they were being summoned by some kind of mysterious force, and merged with the light around his body.
The sky and the earth were colored into a single purple realm, and Li Yiming stood in the middle of it like a deity that had just awakened. Specks of light could be seen in his dark irises, just like the stars that illuminated the nightly sky.
‘Source of Thunder awakened. Thunder Immunity improved into Thunder Purity’
‘Thunder Purity awakened. Thunder spells cost reduced by half and power doubled.’
‘Heavenly Vein promoted. Spell is now level five.’
As Li Yiming heard the voice inside of his head, a gently smile climbed up Li Yiming’s lips.
The clouds around him quickly dissipated, as if all of their power had been sucked out. It did not take long before the sun returned, without any traces of the purple light or the storm being left behind.
‘I did it.’ Li Yiming was relieved as he watched the plane fly away into the distance. ‘This is my first step. To acquire great power and to protect the world with it.’
‘It’s not over yet!’ Bai Ze did not share Li Yiming’s light mood. She spoke with a grim voice, just like when she found out about Xiang Liu back in Shangbei.
‘What’s wrong? The storm is over, and this kind of height…’ The space in front of him warped before Li Yiming could finish his sentence. A stream of black gas came out of nowhere and formed a shadow that looked like a human being.
Li Yiming was shocked when he saw the sudden apparition. He tried to back off, but he found himself unable to do so quickly enough with nothing around him to launch himself off from.
The shadow in front of him showed a creepy smile and rushed toward Li Yiming.
Li Yiming pushed forward with both of his hands and shot a blast of lightning at the shadow. However, his attack passed through the shadow without doing anything. The next moment, the shadow dashed toward him and melted into his body.
‘What was that?’ Li Yiming was horrified; when the shadow closed in, he recognized his own features on the shadow’s face.
‘Heart Trial Punishment.’ Bai Ze spoke in a grave tone, but it also sounded like she was relieved.
‘Heaven’s Punishment?’ Li Yiming frowned. He could feel that something had changed within him, but he did not know what exactly.
‘Of course it’s Heaven’s Punishment. What else? What you did at the end exceeded level five! Do you really think that you can get away with anything simply because you’re a bug?’ Bai Ze was annoyed. According to her plan, Li Yiming should have been able to progress to level five without causing any major problems, but now…
‘Well, at least you’re lucky that the punishment that came was the Heart’s Trial. It’s going to take some time before it manifests itself, so we still have time on our side. But you shouldn’t let your guard down. It’s a terrifying thing that will corrupt your mind and your thoughts until you lose sight of yourself and become its slave.’
‘Is there anything I can do to remove it?’ Li Yiming asked.
‘Have you ever heard of slaying your own inner demon?’
‘Alright, I’ll explain that to you. The inner demon is the fire of evil karma from the Buddhist scriptures and the vile spawn from Taoism. Guardians obey the will of the Heaven’s Laws, but at the same time they pay a price for changing the fate of the world with their mortal bodies. These changes will accumulate inside their own body until it forms something with a will of its own.’
‘The self-will?’ Li Yiming said hesitantly.
‘Yes. Exactly that.’
‘But I thought that my self-will…’ Li Yiming remembered the camouflager back in Hangzhou.
‘Well, there’s a new one now, and it comes from Heaven’s Punishment.’ Bai Ze grew frustrated when she thought about the fact that Li Yiming had cleared the biggest obstacle to becoming a sage, only to have an even more difficult challenge imposed upon him now.
‘Well, that’ll be a problem for the future then, and I’ll think of something. At least I did what I could today, and I saved that plane.’ Li Yiming suddenly smiled. He did not know where Heaven’s Laws lie, or what it meant to follow the way, but he knew that he should do something to help those he could see. If he saw someone begging for food in the streets, he would at least share what he can, be it a piece of bread or a bottle of water. Perhaps he could not do much to change their lives or lift them out of their poverty, but at least he could help relieve their hunger for a moment, and that was enough.
As the gusts of wind that lifted him into the air from being promoted to level five slowly faded away, Li Yiming fell down. He relaxed his limbs as he crashed through what remained of the thunderstorm clouds. Li Yiming smiled when he saw the azure sky once again; he had found what he wanted to fight for, and he knew what he wanted to do now. He closed his eyes and smiled again as he listened to the wind roared in his ears. He now had a purpose and he was at peace with himself.
Li Yiming did not worry at all about the outcome of his fall. His level three stamina meant that he did not need to worry about losing consciousness from the speed of the fall, and he could always activate Thunderflash when he was about to touch the ground to secure his landing. It was particularly easy for him to activate the spell now, since it was a whole two levels below his current level five spell.
Li Yiming enjoyed a brief moment of quietness and tranquility.
‘Alright, I’ll concede that you don’t worry about things as much as I do, and maybe that’s a good thing. But, I just wanted to ask something. You used your own ID when you bought the plane ticket, right?’ Li Yiming’s answer seemed to have had quite an impact on Bai Ze. After a long moment of silence, she finally asked about an entirely different topic, only this time she sounded amused instead of angry.
‘Yeah, of course. This isn’t a domain, so I didn’t need to fake anything, right?’
‘Well, the plane is gone.’
‘Yeah. So what?’ Li Yiming could tell that Bai Ze was waiting to make fun of him, as if she wanted to have her revenge.
‘You know, I was just wondering what the reaction would be once the people on the plane find out that someone is missing? You’re going to make the headlines!’
‘Shit!’ Li Yiming opened his eyes wide. He looked at the direction in which the plane flew away, and left behind him a trail of after-images and purple light as he chased after the plane with difficulty.
This chapter has made me think quite a bit. And you? :3