“Ha, so it brightens up when after we make a fire?” Eyeglasses chuckled and turned off his torchlight. The sun was gone, but the stars lit up the sky and a bright moonlight fell on the jungle, allowing the group to see almost as well as during the day.
“Let’s take a break and eat.” Lin Lu looked up briefly and went back to what she was doing, disinterested by the spectacular sight.
Shen Jianming poured the water Li Yiming brought back into a saucepan and added some pressed beef. Before long, the aroma of cooked beef spread throughout the campsite. Unaffected by the fragrance, Shen Jianming kept his upright posture and looked around alarmingly with his weapon ready.
“We’ll take turns eating.”Lin Lu handed out a few metal lunchboxes and scooped up some beef for herself. She was not particularly hungry, but she needed to hurry for the sake of the next guarding shift.
Both Li Yiming and Liu Meng each took a bowl of beef and began their meal. Liu Meng was visibly excited at her first time eating something of the sort. The beef was salty and had a strange flavor to it, but she enjoyed its peculiar taste and even offered to feed a spoonful to Li Yiming from time to time.
‘Do they think this is a picnic? How can they be so calm? Is it confidence or ignorance?’ Li Lu was becoming increasingly perplexed about Liu Meng and Li Yiming’s behavior.
“Are we going to be eating this for the next few days?” Mr. You took a bite of the beef and put down his box with disgust.
“Our combat rations will last fifteen days.” Lin Lu answered.
“Fifteen days…” Mr. You muttered to himself. “We have to live on this for fifteen days? But wait… what about after that?” A thought suddenly struck him.
The question was met with silence.
“Mr. You Fang, you specialize in astrology. Take a look at the stars above you. Do you see anything?” Chen Quan gulped down the last bit of his beef and taunted. He hated people like You Fang, who wanted nothing but money and a luxurious life with the little knowledge they had acquired from a few books.
“The stars…” Faced with a sudden question about his expertise, Mr. You put down his metal container and looked upward.
“This…” As You Feng stared into the stars above, his apparent tiredness from the journey thus far was slowly replaced by his usual air of dispassion and confidence.
“…Impossible!” You Fang leaped up from his seat with widened eyes, pointing at the skies with a shaking finger.
“Did you notice something?” Lin Lu looked upwards and asked. Regardless of what she thought, You Fang was still an expert sent by her superiors, and she had learned her lesson after witnessing Liu Meng’s abilities. ‘Who knows what the famous You Fang is capable of.’
“This… This formation…” You Fang stammered.
“Just spit it out!” Chen Quan called out, surprised that his taunting might have actually led to an important clue.
“The Dawn of Chaos… Impossible!” Mr. You turned to the others in disbelief, as if they would understand his words.
“How would we know? You’re the expert! What is this ’Dawn of Chaos’?” Chen Quan clawed at his pants in frustration. ‘It seems like the rumors about his expertise in astrology are true. I can only guess that something’s off, and yet he’s able to find the exact cause.’
“According to the legends, when the Heavens and Earth were first formed, this particular astrological formation lit up the skies… No, this wasn’t even found in legends. It was drawn from some kind of reverse calculation of ancient masters. This is not supposed to exist…”
“Dawn of Chaos…” Eyeglasses repeated under his breath as he looked at the sea of stars.
Suddenly, Li Yiming let go of Liu Meng’s hand and dashed into the woods. “Stay here with Eyeglasses!”
“What are you doing?” Lin Lu called out, but Li Yiming had already disappeared.
“Yiming!” Liu Meng was stopped by Eyeglasses before she could chase after her boyfriend.
“Trust him.” Eyeglasses said to Liu Meng. Guardians that belong to a team must follow and trust their leader’s decision without question. Liu Meng was no exception to this rule, despite her relationship with Li Yiming.
Li Yiming’s confusion grew as he picked up speed in his search. ‘It’s gone? How is this possible?’
Just as everyone’s attention was on the star formation, Li Yiming lowered his head and caught a glimpse of something that shocked him. Not so far in the distance, a couple dressed in blue robes were looking at the sky together, hand in hand, joy, and satisfaction apparent on their faces.
However, in the blink of an eye, the couple disappeared. Li Yiming dashed into the forest, even using Thunderflash twice once he was out of sight, but he still could not find anything.
‘It’s not a mistake. I definitely saw them.’ Li Yiming stopped and closed his eyes.
About twenty minutes later, Li Yiming emerged slowly from the thick bushes and was met with nervous expectations from his teammates.
“You didn’t find you wanted?” Eyeglasses asked bluntly. His question spoke volumes about his experience as a guardian. He understood that Li Yiming must have seen something if he chose to leave Liu Meng behind. ‘Guess that chase was inconclusive.’
“What did you see?” Instead of blaming Li Yiming for wandering off on his own, Lin Lu was more concerned with what he had seen.
“I saw two people. A man and a woman, standing right there.” After some thinking, Li Yiming decided to answer honestly.
“A man and a woman?” Lin Lu furrowed her brows and turned to look at where Li Yiming was pointing.
Chen Quan did not look at the jungle. Instead, he directed his attention to the flickering candle flames right next to him.
“They escaped?” Eyeglasses looked at Li Yiming, unable to believe that anyone could escape easily from Li Yiming.
“You mean, you didn’t see them?” Li Yiming asked as he recalled the position the couple was standing in. ‘They stood in the open…’
The rest of the group shook their heads in puzzlement.
‘I didn’t see them either…’ Li Yiming’s heart skipped a beat when he heard Bai Ze.
“Be on guard and secure the perimeter. We should take shifts sleeping. We’ll search the area tomorrow morning.” Lin Lu took one last look at the bushes and continued, “Zhang Shanjun and I will take the first shift. Li Yiming and Shen Jianming, we’ll leave the second to you. Let’s rest while we can.”
Li Yiming nodded in agreement before pulling Liu Meng and Eyeglasses aside.
“You guys didn’t see them either, did you?” Li Yiming asked with a severe countenance.
“No, I didn’t see anything at all.”
“Be on your guard. This mission is more complicated than it seems.”
* * *
“To go along or against the flow of fate…” Li Huaibei muttered to himself as he stood before the empty fishing hut.
After meditating for three days, separated by a wooden door, Mr. Kong left. Before leaving, he gave Li Huaibei a cryptic message.
‘Accept the flow of fate and all shall prosper…’
‘Or seek the truth and fight it.’
Li Yiming brought out the half-broken blade from his storage ring. As he touched the broken inscriptions on the metal, the hesitation in his eyes was replaced by resolve. ‘Did I not come here for the truth?’
When he closed his eyes, flashbacks of Eden began to overtake his mind again.
* * *
Stargaze pushed her glasses upwards and gazed at the seemingly endless mountain range before her.
This was the second time that something made her feel uncomfortable since she had broken through to the sage realm. The first time was in Hangzhou, and now…
* * *
Within the office of Liping Consulting, a young woman wearing shades sat silently on a wooden chair. Facing her was Wang Liping, the CEO of the company.
“What’s over here?” The young lady pointed at the window.
“That? I believe that is the graveyard of heroes of the revolution,” Wang Li Ping answered with a smile, feeling pity for the beautiful but blind girl.
“No. Somewhere further, much further in that direction…”
“Yes. Where your boss has gone to. Where’s that place?
“Where my boss went?” Wang Liping asked, taken by surprise.
“Your disguises don’t work on the blind. I know that you are not her. Where is she?” Tian Yan raised her finger again.
“That place…:” ‘Wang Liping frowned. ‘That’s Tianshan.’
* * *
Recently, the news of an advertisement panel in disrepair falling on a young man has made the headlines. However, just as the tragic incident was about to occur, the falling board suddenly changed its course. In the surveillance footage, it was clear that its initial trajectory should have cut the victim into two halves, yet the board grazed past his shoulders instead, not even causing a single scratch. Several experts proposed possible explanations and some even delved into religion and the occult. But there was none that was widely accepted and it was simply classified as a miracle.
Just as no one noticed the skinny man sitting on the stairs of the mall in the surveillance footage, no one bothered to pay attention to him now, when he returned to the same spot.
The man was still dressed shabbily with a plastic bag by his side. He held a crumpled cigarette while an empty plastic bottle serving as an ashtray was placed before him.
The large advertisement board across from him was broadcasting the trailer for a new movie of a muscled man wearing a red cape who flew around and saved the world.
‘Red cape… Purple crown and golden armor…Boots of feather steps… How long has it been?’ The man unconsciously clenched his fist, his knuckles turning white from the force he put in. He was expressionless, but his eyes betrayed his anguish and a well-hidden resentment.
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