Chapter 24 – Breaking the Formation
“That formation You Fang mentioned… ‘The Four Spirits that Hide the Sky’… have you ever heard of that?” Li Yiming looked at Eyeglasses and Sai Gao. It was one thing to question You Fang’s lifestyle choices, but Li Yiming did not doubt his competence in his area of expertise.
“Nope.” Eyeglasses shook his head and looked at Sai Gao.
“Don’t ask me, I’m as clueless as you are.” The “charming” way in which Sai Gao rolled his eyes made Eyeglasses look away.
“It has to be something extraordinary if it’s able to use the four legendary spirits. We know how it works now, but how are we supposed to break it…” Li Yiming shook his head in frustration; the trail was broken once more had been broken once more.
“Maybe we can ask another teacher?” Sai Gao asked.
“You want to break the formation?” Chen Quan, who had been sitting in his own corner until now, suddenly interjected.
“Oh?” Li Yiming, Eyeglasses, and Sai Gao simultaneously lowered their heads toward Chen Quan, whose height made him easy to miss. The latter had a deep frown and was taken aback at the sudden attention he received.
“You have an idea?” Eyeglasses asked. He had noticed that Chen Quan was particularly captivated by You Fang’s tale.
“This formation protects the entire city. The four key elements are obviously the statues at the gates…” Chen Quan said in a low voice. Between his sentences, he glanced at Eyeglasses nervously.
“Right,” Eyeglasses gave him some encouragement after exchanging a look with Li Yiming.
“Snakes belongs to water, tortoise to earth, \eagles to fire, Bai Ze to wood, and the golden wok to metal. All five elements are present in this formation,” Chen Quan said with a frown. “Lianyun City is aligned with the four cardinals. This makes for a perfect combination with the formation…” 1
“Are you’re just telling us how hard it is for us to break this formation?” Sai Gao complained with an “alluring” grimace.
“No no no, that’s not what I meant. What I want to say is that this formation is too perfect…” Chen Quan rushed to explain himself.
“Let him speak.” Li Yiming intervened. He had learned to not underestimate Chen Quan’s knowledge from the few times the latter had shown his wisdom.
“The statues are not of the same size… “
“You mean Bai Ze?”
“Yes. The five elements need to maintain balance with each other in order to perpetuate the cycle of energy that runs between them. However, Bai Ze, who guards the East, is visibly smaller than the three other spirits. Maybe there’s a reason for that, but if you look at the buildings in the city, you’ll notice something. Let me ask you, how are houses usually oriented?” Chen Quan pointed at a building nearby as he spoke. 2
“Front towards the North and back toward the South… but the buildings here are all facing East instead.” Eyeglasses caught onto the clue quickly. It was a simple observation that had escaped all of them.
“Yes, and that’s because the energy of the entire city is being directed toward the East to help Bai Ze…”
Li Yiming, Eyeglasses, and Sai Gao’s eyes lit up at hearing the revelation; all of three of them knew for a fact that Bai Ze had been absent in the first place, so Chen Quan’s deduction could not be wrong.
“How do you know this?” Sai Gao suddenly asked, alerted by the fact that Chen Quan had been able to make such a keen observation despite being nothing more than an ordinary man who had lost his memory.
“I… I don’t know. It was just there, in my head. I was listening to you guys talk about breaking the formation, and then I looked around and noticed the orientation of the buildings…” Chen Quan said hesitantly.
“He used to be a tomb raider,” Li Yiming explained on Chen Quan’s behalf.
“We can leave the explanations for later. So, how are suppose to break this formation?” Eyeglasses pressed on.
“There’s nothing hard about that. We just need to break the balance between the five elements here. If we can find a way to destroy the seal in the East that’s holding all of this energy inside the city, then surely the formation will be ruptured.” Chen Quan spoke with more confidence.
“Alright, great. I knew that it was worth my time saving you.” Eyeglasses slapped his thigh in contentment.
“That’s it?” Sai Gao frowned.
“How are we supposed to do that?” Li Yiming was overjoyed at hearing that there’s was way to rescue Bai Ze.
“We just need to break that statue.” Chen Quan said, obviously happy at receiving Eyeglasses’ approval.
“Break it? Is there another way?” Eyeglasses’ smile froze; Bai Ze was more than just a statue.
“We can also move it away from where it is. As long as it’s out of the way.” Chen Quan did not seem to have noticed the subtle change of expression in his three friends.
“Shit. I knew it wasn’t this simple.” Sai Gao sat down in frustration. ‘Move it around? Easier said than done. My heart was racing from just having Li Yiming put his hand on the statue…’
“Wait… He’s right!’ Sai Gao jumped right back up after sitting down for a few seconds. He stared at Li Yiming with fiery eyes. “Bai Ze belongs to you, right?”
Li Yiming nodded, despite also being somewhat disappointed.
“If I remember correctly, your talent is thunder?” Sai Gao pressed on.
“Yes.” Li Yiming nodded again. This was a convenient facade for the fact that he did not have a talent, and he was glad to be able to keep his secret.
“The fact that Bai Ze was sealed means that she’s an independent entity, which rules out the possibility of some kind of projected summon. But you’ve said that your talent was thunder, so she can’t be your talent. I’ve seen you in action… you’re way too far from being a sage, and that means that she can’t some kind of weapon-spirit…” Sai Gao’s theorizing scared Li Yiming; he finally understood why Bai Ze always urged him to keep his abilities a secret.
“You’ve defeated your own will… she’s your innate summon…” Sai Gao stared into Li Yiming’s eyes.
“Yes.” Li Yiming nodded, but he was highly alerted.
“Really? Then we might have a solution…” Sai Gao let out an enigmatic smile.
* * *
Shen Jianming had difficulty falling asleep. All he could think of was Xu Yurong’s smile and the sweets words she spoke. The door to the room was opened quietly. It was someone of average height with a rather curvy body. She seemed hesitant as she walked into the room.
‘It’s Yurong!’ Shen Jianming quickly identified the visitor as being the girl that preoccupied his mind day and night, and he jumped up from where he slept.
“Ah!” Xu Yurong was frightened by Shen Jianming’s sudden movement.
“It’s… It’s quite cold recently, so I wanted to give you another blanket…” Xu Yurong said in a low voice.
“It’s okay… I’m not cold.” Shen Jianming answered with a rather stiff voice.
“Alright… I’ll put it there then.” Xu Yurong threw the blanket onto the bed and ran for the door.
“Yurong!” Shen Jianming called out.
Xu Yurong was stopped in her tracks, but Shen Jianming did not follow up with anything. A dead silent reigned inside the room as the moonlight quietly pierced through the window. Shen Jianming’s breathing grew heavier by the second.
“I… I need to go…” Xu Yurong escaped the room, unable to bear the atmosphere any longer.
Shen Jianming raised his hand, but could not muster the courage to say anything. ‘Tomorrow, I’ll tell her everything tomorrow…’ He resolved.
The next morning, Shen Jianming waited in the courtyard with bloodshot eyes and unmasked excitement. As Yurong’s door opened slowly, she emerged from her room, also looking rather tired and nervous. She noticed Shen Jianming right away, who stood upright like a lamppost with a bouquet of cauliflower.
Before Xu Yurong could retreat back into her room, she was stopped by Shen Jianming.
“Yurong… listen to me…” Shen Jianming walked forth and suddenly got down on one knee. He upheld his cauliflowers and said as loudly as he could. “I’ll… I’ll take care of you for my entire life. Let me be your man.”
Shen Jianming did not quite know how to express his love, but he had a vague idea about flowers and being on his knees. The straw on the roof vibrated as his loud voice echoed throughout the neighborhood, scaring Xu Yurong, and even waking up her younger sister. It even attracted the attention of Liu Meng and Lin Lu, who had been searching for Li Yiming for the entire night.
“Shen Jianming?” Liu Meng climbed up and peeked into the inside of the courtyard.
Lin Lu followed suit and saw her comrade on his knees, in front of a slightly chubby young girl who had long hair that reached her waist and freckles on her face.
The scene unfolding right before her eyes somehow reached deep inside Lin Lu and tugged at her heartstrings. This something Lin Lu had also secretly hoped for many times her dreams, but the prince charming riding a white horse would be blocked away by an armored vehicle, and the roses would subside into glares of ice-cold steel daggers. The longing for love and the cruel training she had been subjected to raged a violent conflict within her mind, and she became more confused than ever.
As her distant memories faded away, Lin Lu suddenly lost the strength in her limbs and fell into Liu Meng’s arms.
“Wait! Someone’s fainted!” Xu Yurong, who had been dodging Shen Jianming’s eyes, suddenly noticed the two girls standing right outside of her house. Ignoring the man kneeling in front of her, she rushed toward the door.
1. The five elements, according to ancient Chinese, are water, fire, earth, metal, and wood. Essentially the elements that can be observed in nature. (Don’t ask me why “air” was not included, probably because it was invisible…)
2. This is according to 风水 (Fengshui) which is traditional… (well pseudoscience, I’ve said it) way to determining one’s fortune according to one’s house’s orientation, location, the furniture, etc.