Chapter 8 – It’s You?
Li Yiming pushed on his neighbor’s doorbell button and waited anxiously. He formed a seal with his right hand behind his back and prepared to use Thunderflash at the first sign of danger.
Although he was resolved to unfold the truth, Li Yiming was still afraid. After all, the existence of an unknown threatening enough for Bai Ze to feel an instinctive fear warranted all of his nervousness.
When the metal door opened, Li Yiming was surprised when he recognized the person beyond the door, and he could see this surprise mirrored in his interlocutor.
What followed was a long and enduring awkward silence. Li Yiming released the lightning that coalesced at his fingertips. Cold sweat trickled on the side of his face as the quietude of the situation began to become unbearable.
‘Why is Ji Xiaoqin here?’ This was the only question in Li Yiming’s mind. He looked at her polka-dot outfit and her pink hairpin. Her face was still a little damp; it seemed like she had a facial mask just a second ago..
“How…How did you know I’m staying here?” Ji Xiaoqin stammered as she desperately tried to hide her panic.
“I live here. I just wanted to come over and greet my neighbor. That’s all…” Li Yiming formulated an incoherent answer. Before ringing the doorbell, he had imagined an old man, a mean-looking thug, a bewitching woman, or even a devilish imp coming to answer him. He also thought about what kind of attack would greet him when he opened the door. A wall of fire? A cloud of poison gas? A flying dagger or even a ferocious beast? Alas, what greeted him was beyond his wildest imaginations. Who would have thought that it would be his ex-girlfriend, Ji Xiaoqin?
“You, you live here?” From her expression, it was clear that Ji Xiaoqin was just as shocked by this unexpected twist of fate as Li Yiming was.
“Uhh…Yeah, in the apartment just across from you.” Li Yiming sidestepped and pointed behind.
Ji Xiaoqin’s gaze followed his finger and landed on the opened door. A blend of surprise, confusion, helplessness, and guilt began to brew inside of her.
The motion sensor controlled corridor lights began to flicker on and off following the fidgeting of the two as if they were also participating in toying with them.
“Do you want to come in?” Ji Xiaoqin finally offered hesitantly as she could no longer withstand the awkward silence.
“No… No, it’s fine… It’s getting late and I wouldn’t want to… I… I’m gonna go back.” Li Yiming shook his hands in refusal and ran back to his apartment.
Ji Xiaoqin sighed in relief when she saw the door across the hallway closed shut. Although she offered to welcome Li Yiming into her home, she was actually really worried about him accepting. She knew that if he came in, the situation would have quickly gotten out of control. Not because she did not trust Li Yiming but because she did not think that she could stop herself.
Deep inside Ji Xiaoqin, there was always a part of her that cannot forgive herself for two-timing Li Yiming. Her guilt and self-loathing only grew when she thought about Li Yiming’s understanding of her and forgiving her. Often, in the dead of night, she would recall her past with Li Yiming, especially the words he left for her. She could never forget his bright personality and gentleness, his respect for her opinions, and his willingness to spoil her. Sometimes, Li Yiming’s name almost came out of her lips instead of Guo Xiang’s in the middle of the night, as she woke up from a dream from her past.
In the end, as if she was cutting ties with her past and her youthful years, Ji Xiaoqin decided to move out of her apartment that haunted her dreams and memories. In the end, it seemed that her sacrifice had not been in vain. Although Guo Xiang neglected her, he still gifted her an apartment without hesitation when he heard that she was looking for a new home. The apartment was not very large, with only two bedrooms and a living room, but being at the heart of Hangzhou ensured that its price was still very high, at almost three million yen. To have an apartment in such a prime location was once Ji Xiaoqin’s dream, and she had paid for it with genuine love.
Contrary to her expectations, she found that the flood of memories about her time with Li Yiming did not cease at all, and along with came the same stream of negative emotions. Not only does she think of him when she was alone, but Li Yiming also started to appear in her dreams. She began to distinctly remember the attractive parts of Li Yiming — his gentle smile, his long and slim figure, wide shoulders and toned abs…
Panic began to slowly creep up on Ji Xiaoqin, who had no idea why this was happening to her or why she was feeling this way. ‘I decided to give everything up, I have no other option, and it paid off, so why am I still thinking about him? Why can’t I forget him? Is it because he was my first lover?’
As confusion, fear, and panic consumed her, Ji Xiaoqin had no choice but to look for an answer by forcing herself to love Guo Xiang. She knew that this was the only option left for her.
However, at the crucial moment, Guo Xiang suddenly disappeared. Nothing she did could reach him, whether it was telephone or text messages. If not for the apartment, she would have assumed that she had been abandoned after he had his fill of fun with her.
‘Is this it? Is this the end?’ It seemed that she got a fair deal; a few months of her time for a three million yuan apartment. However, she did not care about money right now. She needed to know that she made the right choice; she wanted more, she wanted love.
Ji Xiaoqin mustered her courage and went to Guo Xiang’s home. There, she learned that he was overseas for an investment project. This came to her as a relief. Just as she was about to leave, someone who proclaimed himself to be Guo Xiang’s uncle came in and greeted her. Ji Xiaoqin was extremely anxious, since it was the first time she was meeting Guo Xiang’s family, and this “uncle” exuded the mannerism of someone who was used to be in a position of authority. She also noticed that the obedience of the butler around this man, which cemented her belief she was talking to someone who was held in extremely high regard, even in the Guo family.
Guo Xiang’s uncle was very courteous and, despite his unmoved countenance, he talked amicably and spoke to her as if she was a future family member. His questions were specific and they ranged from her education to her job, her hobbies, her eating habits, and even the exact time and date of her birth. When Ji Xiaoqin departed, he arranged for someone to send her home. The driver, probably with specific instructions in mind, accompanied her all the way to the lift, and Ji Xiaoqin only saw the Lincoln leave the neighborhood twenty minutes later.
The attention given to her by an elder from the Guo family set Ji Xiaoqin back in her old path toward money and prestige and washed away her worry and panic. It satisfied her because it strengthened her conviction.
* * *
However, Li Yiming came knocking at this precise moment at her door, and it was a call that reached her soul. Ji Xiaoqin’s heart once again sank into confusion, and the peace that she had previously attained was completely dismantled.
‘So, the person whom you said that we can’t afford to displease is Ji Xiaoqin? What is going on?’ Li Yiming asked Bai Ze as he leaned against his front door, wiping off the cold sweat on his forehead with the back of his hand. ‘Well, on one hand, it is true that I really don’t want to have anything to do with her anymore…’
The sight of Ji Xiaoqin did not stir up any emotion Li Yiming anymore. He had chosen to accept Ji Xiaoqin as someone from his past at the end of the first domain. After the illusion of Bai Xi, he knew that his relationship with her had been a mistake from the very start. It seemed that Ji Xiaoqin’s betrayal led to a good for him. Now, he had only one girl in his heart, someone he had once lost but had the good fortune to find again, someone who willingly waited for him and devoted everything without expecting reciprocation. When Liu Meng attacked Xiang Liu in a last-ditch attempt to save his life with no regard of her own, Li Yiming knew that there was no way for him to think of anyone else now.
But what happened earlier was a complete shock; after all the foreboding phenomenon and Bai Ze’s warning, Ji Xiaoqin of all people would be the one to open the door. Li Yiming found a stare into his past still too much for him, and he decided to flee instead of fighting to endure it.
‘When did I ever say that domain originated from the apartment right across? On another note, that girl was your ex? She pales in comparison to Liu Meng. How did you end up with her? I feel really bad for Liu Meng.’ Bai Ze teased Li Yiming. She wanted Li Yiming to relinquish his idea of meeting whoever that was behind the domain, so she did not tell him exactly which apartment it was, but she would have never thought it would end with such a bizarre twist of fate.
‘Not from the apartment across? I thought it was pretty clear that it came from the neighbor?’ Li Yiming hurried back to the study. When he entered the room, the scenery outside the window rippled. It was a subtle change that he would have missed had he not been paying attention. Li Yiming stared at the wall and he knew that beyond it was Ji Xiaoqin.
‘First of all, the term ‘neighbor’ is general and doesn’t just include the people living on the same floor as you. Secondly, there are six walls here, and three are connected with another apartment.’ Bai Ze hesitated for a second, but she gave in to Li Yiming’s insistence. She knew enough about Li Yiming’s personality at this point to hope for him to give up for prudence’s sake when Liu Meng’s life was at stake. Li Yiming was emotional and indecisive at times, but he would do anything within his means to help those he cared for.
“You mean…” Li Yiming understood what Bai Ze meant and glanced above and below. “Above us or below?”
“Below… Are you sure you still want to do this?”
“Of course.” Li Yiming replied. The confusion Ji Xiaoqin brought about was superseded by the sole thought of getting to the bottom of Mr. Kong’s mission.
* * *
“Ying Mei, what’s your opinion?” Bing Shuai asked as he fidgeted with a thumb ring made of jade.
“Ji Xiaoqin, twenty-five years old. She just graduated this year, two-timed her boyfriend three months ago with Guo Xiang. The strange thing is, I’ve checked her background and I didn’t find anything remote out of the ordinary. None of her relatives, not even five generations back, had any sign of being or being related to a guardian,” Ying Mei answered with a frown.
“Could it be because of Guo Xiang?” Bing Shuai leaned forward and peeked at the stack of documents in Ying Mei’s hands.
“You mean because of her relation with Guo Xiang? Unlikely. I’ve discussed with Tian Yan and she told me that even if she herself used her powers, the density of karma would not be at such a high percentage. It’s at thirty percent right now. Even what we’ve gathered in Guo Xiang pales in comparison to her.” Ying Mei rejected Bing Shuai’s hypothesis with a shake of her head.
“Thirty percent… Heavenly karma is closely tied to one’s fate from birth. It’s either zero for an average person of or one hundred percent for a future. Thirty… there’s something wrong with her ”
“Tian Yan also thinks so. Do you think someone else is doing the same thing?” Ying Mei carefully suggested an alternative.
“Regardless, we must find out the reason behind this. If…” Bing Shuai’s expression darkened. The emerald thumb ring suddenly split into halves and fell on the desk.
Ying Mei’s heart trembled at Bing Shuai’s outburst and backed off a step in fear. “That was no ordinary ring. It was guardian equipment…’
“Go approach her tomorrow as Guo Xiang’s cousin. Observe her closely and look out for those around her.” Bing Shuai took a deep breath to compose himself and picked up the broken pieces of his thumb ring.
“Very well. It seems Guo Xiang cares about this girl, having gifted her an apartment just recently. She seems to wish to marry into the Guo family so it should not be too difficult of a task.” Ying Mei steeled her nerves against Bing Shuai’s cold eyes, closed her notebook, and tried her best to say something positive to lighten the mood.
“Be cautious. If she turns out to be an experiment, do not alarm whoever’s behind her.”
“I understand. I’ll keep my guard up.” Ying Mei nodded and left.
“Ji Xiaoqin…” Bing Shuai muttered as he crossed his hands together and put his chin down. He seemed colder than ever.