Chapter 10 – A Turn for the Stranger
Li Yiming stared at the sky for the entire night, completely absorbed by the silvery river that streamed through the sky and the occasional flash of purple light.
‘That You Fang guy’s got it right. This is the Dawn of Chaos…’ Bai Ze’s final verdict came. Bai Ze was even more shocked than You Fang, since she was much more well-versed in the implications of what she was seeing.
‘You know, I don’t really care about this Dawn of Chaos thing. I’m just worried…’ Li Yiming continued staring at the sky.
‘Worried about what?’
‘I’ve seen this sky before…’
‘What? Where? How?’ Bai Ze was baffled.
‘Eden…’ After an entire night spent scrutinizing the stars, Li Yiming finally remembered what he thought he had forgotten. The sky was the exact same under which Li Huaibei struggled for his life for three consecutive days.
‘You’re saying that…’ Before Bai Ze could finish, a ripple propagated across the sea of stars, blurring them out. An instant later, and the burning sun appeared once again, hanging high.
The sudden sunlight blinded Li Yiming. When he opened his eyes, he saw that aside from You Fang, who was still asleep, the rest of the team had woken up to the sudden change.
“Let’s pack up. Liu Meng, Eyeglasses, head south. Zhang Shanjun, Chen Quan, you’re going east. Shen Jianming, Li Yiming, go north. You Fang and I are going to take care of the west. If you find anything, call the rest of the team before doing anything rash. Head back after one kilometer. I’ll be seeing all of you here.” After a quick breakfast, Lin Lu gave out instructions. Li Yiming’s discovery last night was no small matter, and it needed to be investigated thoroughly.
“Be careful, okay?” Li Yiming nodded at Liu Meng, exchanged a glance with Eyeglasses, and followed Shen Jianming.
Northward happened to be the direction in which Li Yiming chased the people he had seen the previous night, so he made sure to fully heighten his senses as soon as he entered the woods.
“This was where you saw them last night?” Shen Jiaming walked slowly with a handgun ready and an assault rifle on his back. He was taking as many precautions as he could.
“When I saw them, they were standing at the start of this trail, right next to that big rock.” Li Yiming was much more composed, not because he was ignorant of the potential dangers, but rather because he could rely on senses which were sharper than his sight alone.
“You’re saying that you saw two people? But there’s only one set of footprints here, and it’s probably yours.” Shen Jianming looked at Li Yiming’s shoes. ‘But the distance between these footprints…’
“We’ve found something!” Li Yiming realized his mistake and was scrambling for an explanation when a cry suddenly came from the east side.
“Go!” Shen Jianming recognized his friend’s voice and quickly turned around. Li Yiming followed close behind.
“What did you find?” Lin Lu arrived around the same time as Li Yiming. Instead of going to the site direction, she raised her assault rifle and looked around with vigilance.
“There’s nothing abnormal here. Look as this! Chen Quan dug that out.” Zhang Shanjun came close to Lin Lu and showed her three golden bullet casings.
“This… Desert Eagle rounds?” Lin Lu knew right away, but she still unloaded a bullet from the handgun at her waist to make sure.
“Where did you find this?” Lin Lu asked Chen Quan.
“Over there. Under that tree.” Chen Quan pointed at a pine tree nearby.
Lin Lu walked to the tree in question and knelt down. Chen Quan had been careful enough to not disrupt the surroundings. Lin Lu knelt down as well and started to aim around with her gun.
“There are only two possible angles for firing a round from this place. Zhang Shanjun, Shen Jianming, go look for the rounds.” Lin Lu gave her orders. ‘These rounds must belong to the second team. But they were well-trained soldiers and wouldn’t easily open fire…’
“From the rust marks, I’d think that they’re from the second team. I wonder what happened…” Chen Quan brushed the grass away with his shovel and searched for more clues.
“Did you find anything?” You Fang finally arrived. His breaths were short and shallow, and he clung onto his handgun.
“Didn’t I tell you that you should never point the gun at a teammate?’ Lin Lu grabbed the gun from You Fang’s hand.
“It’s not like I was going to shoot…” You Fang muttered and walked to the side.
It was not long before the duo sent out to investigate the traces of the rounds fired returned.
“We didn’t find anything,” The two said with a defeated voice.
“Really?” Lin Lu was surprised.
“We’ve checked all around. A bullet of that caliber would have left an obvious mark if it hit anything in that area.”
“Did I get the angles wrong?” Lin Lu looked at the pine tree once again. “Let’s check at a different angle. The rest of you, wait here.” Lin Lu said as she and her two subordinates dove into a different part of the woods.
“I’ll go help out.” Chen Quan said calmly and walked off with his shovel.
“Should we help too?” Liu Meng looked at Li Yiming; they would be much more efficient at searching for clues with their heightened senses.
Li Yiming shook his head and did not say a world.
The search party returned after one long hour to no avail.
“This makes no sense. The bullets shouldn’t just disappear like that.” Lin Lu’s worry grew as she looked at the three bullet casings in her hand. ‘This is the first useful clue we’ve found and nothing…?’
“Maybe they aimed at something in the air? You wouldn’t be able to find the bullet so easily then.” Eyeglasses proposed when he saw his teammates return empty-handed.
“That’s the only possibility left,” Lin Lu said hesitantly. However, Li Yiming suddenly leaped in front of Liu Meng and raised his gun.
Lin Lu and Zhang Shanjun reacted instantly. They ducked down and turned around, drawing their weapons, whereas Shen Jianmin rolled to behind a tree nearby. Liu Meng walked forward, and put her hand behind her back, hiding a fiery spark that danced between her fingers. As for Eyeglasses, he vanished, only to appear on a tree branch nearby the next instant, ready to face any oncoming threat.
“What is it?” Chen Quan asked nervously. He held a dagger with one hand and pushed You Fang to the ground with his other one.
Li Yiming stayed silent. He stared forward with a grave countenance and held his pistol still.
‘Yiming?’ Bai Ze asked.
“You didn’t see?” Li Yiming asked slowly.
“See what?” Lin Lu asked without turning her head back.
“He’s gone… “ Li Yiming put his gun down.
“What did you see? Explain yourself!” Lin Lu was a little irritated by the same thing happening again.
“I saw a man. A man with a bamboo basket on his back.” Li Yiming pointed at a tree about twenty meters away.
“A man? He came down from the tree?” Chen Quan and the rest of the team rushed to the tree and stared into the tree trunk.
“Where is he now?’
“I don’t see any climbing marks here.” Chen Quan glanced at Li Yiming, evidently unconvinced. “I’ll go have a look.” He put his dagger between his teeth and quickly climbed up.
Li Yiming stayed silent, but let Eyeglasses know with a glance that there was something terribly wrong.
“The only explanation is a hallucination. There’s something here that made him see things that don’t exist.” Two hours later, Chen Quan and Lin Lu tried to make sense of situation while the team was still hiking through the mountain.
“I agree. We need to be careful then. Li Yiming is probably the strongest in our team, and yet he still fell for it…” Lin Lu looked at Li Yiming with worry. ‘This guy… No doubt he’s very strong, but also over-confident. Why would he refuse to take the resistance drug earlier?’
Not only had Li Yiming refused to take the drug specially prepared for the purpose, but he also advised against the rest of the team taking it. In the end, only Lin Lu, her two subordinates, and You Fang injected the drug, and Chen Quan took some pills of his own.
Li Yiming walked quietly. He went over the scene where he saw that man in his head. ‘No. That wasn’t an illusion. I didn’t just see it, I felt his heartbeat with my senses. But what happened? He completely ignored us, and he just left with a smile on his face, just like the people I saw last night. They wore the same kind of clothing, too.’