Chapter 27 – Dilemma
Li Yiming sat still, pondering about Li Huaibei’s words as he stared at a pond in the backyard of Xu Yurong’s home. ‘The people here, they’ll die because of you!’
According to Liu Meng and Eyeglasses, all of the guardians had received clear instructions from Heaven’s Laws and were on their way to accomplish their mission: the complete annihilation of Lianyun City.
This was not something Li Yiming had foreseen when he broke the formation to free Bai Ze, but it was an inevitable consequence of removing what protected Lianyun City from the attention of Heaven’s Laws.
Li Yiming felt lost and confused as he looked at Xu Yurong, who was busy helping them settle, and Shen Jianming, who had a broad, happy smile. Liu Meng sat right beside Li Yiming and held his hand silently. Eyeglasses had also sunk into a dead silence ever since he returned from the city gate.
“You’re… from the same place as Jianming?” Xu Yurong had just finished washing the clothes Lin Lu had taken off and approached Li Yiming with a bowl of hot water.
“He told you that?” Li Yiming was surprised. ‘I thought Liu Meng said he forgot everything about his past?’
“No, it’s the shoes. You’re wearing the same kind of shoes Jianming wore when he arrived. You can’t find this kind of shoes here, in Lianyun City.” Xu Yurong explained with a soft voice.
“Yes. We’re from the same place. I’m sorry to intrude into your home like this…” Li Yiming stared at his rather plain-looking but good-hearted host, and a sharp pain stung his heart once again.
“Oh no, don’t worry about it. It’s good fortune that you’ve come here, it’s just that we have nothing much to welcome you with.” Xu Yurong seemed a little embarrassed as she waved her hand.
“Hey, sis, should I go to the fruit orchard right outside of town?” Lirong, the younger sister, seemed to have caught her sister’s emotion and proposed to go play outside, but she had intended to bring some fruits back for their guests.
“I don’t think you should go out of town at this time.” A warning slipped out of Liu Meng’s lips.
“What time is it now? It’s not too late, is it?” Lirong said with a grimace.
“It’s okay, let her go, she grew up playing in that forest.” Xu Yurong said with a smile, visibly happy that her little sister had finally learned to be more considerate of others. Curiously, it seemed like no one living in Lianyun City was worried or even remembered what had just occurred with the protective formation just moments ago.
“I’ll go with her.” Li Yiming put his bowl of water down and stood up slowly.
“Yiming…” Liu Meng said worriedly.
“It’s okay, I’ll go take some fresh air.” Li Yiming made a sign to his girlfriend and followed Lirong out of the house.
Li Yiming paid close attention to the people on the streets as he followed Lirong out of the city. ‘The people here… they don’t have the comforts and the luxuries of modern life, and yet they seem so peaceful and happy…’
Unlike Li Huaibei, Li Yiming did not have the wisdom to pinpoint the will which was behind the formation of Lianyun City, however, he could feel that every single person living in the city was genuinely happy, including his former teammates, Shen Jianming and Mr. Youfang. ‘Well, apparently the people from the second scouting division are also here, and they seem happy…’
‘If only I hadn’t accepted the mission from National Security… And now, this peaceful town, along with the thousands of people that live in it… It’s all my fault.”
“Big brother Yiming, are you a couple with sis Liu Meng?” Lirong seemed to have noticed Li Yiming’s dejection and tried to start a conversation.
“Yes.” Li Yiming nodded and touched Lirong’s head. The little girl was only about ten years old, and she had quite a frail body, perhaps due to a lack of proper nutrition. The smile that always hung on her lips reminded Li Yiming of her older sister, and she even had the same freckles on her face.
“Wow… your wife is really pretty!” Lirong complimented him earnestly.
“Thank you. You’ll be very pretty as well when you’re grown up…” The rest of the sentence was stuck in Li Yiming’s throat like a fishbone. ‘Is she… really going to get to grow up?’
Li Yiming and Lirong arrived at a fruit orchard right outside of the city. It was hill slope full of wild berry trees. Since the time for the ripening of the fruits was still yet to arrive, most of the trees were bare. Lirong, instead of being discouraged, put down the cloth bag she brought with her and climbed up a fruit tree without any difficulty.
“Big brother Yiming, have a taste at that! It’s kind of sour, but it should taste really good!” Li Rong threw one of the fruits she picked at Li Yiming.
Li Yiming stared at the fruit for a long while before deciding to put it in his mouth. It was kind of sour, and had a puckery taste.
“Hey, I’m wondering when I’ll be able to see a little nephew?” Lirong suddenly jumped down from the tree branch and said in a playful voice.
“It’ll happen soon enough.”
“Yeah! I’ve heard Aunt Li from the other side of the street say that girls with big bottoms are good at giving birth. Well, my older sis has a rather big one…” Lirong suddenly started to laugh, and she ran away, a little embarrassed by what she had just said.
Li Yiming heart sank once again. ‘Sparing no one… does that include Shen Jianming?’
A sudden shriek was heard. Li Yiming leaped toward Lirong and reached out with his hand.
It was an arrow, with the feathers on its rear still trembling. Li Yiming had caught the deadly projectile just a few inches away from Lirong’s heart.
“What is it?” Lirong turned back when she heard Li Yiming’s movement.
“It’s nothing…” Li Yiming quickly hid the arrow behind him and looked at the forest in the distance with a severe countenance. ‘Good thing that I reacted in time. One… two… three… they’ve arrived this quickly?’
“Oh, not bad! I didn’t think that I’d be able to find someone with such skills here.” An amused voice came from the woods.
“Careful. It’s only the two of us.” Another voice was heard.
Li Yiming squinted when he saw the two people that walked out of the forest. One had a short bow, while the other had a knife. Both of them were dressed rather strangely, each wearing a set of leather armor on top of an outfit consisting of jeans and camouflage.
‘Two of them?’ Li Yiming scrutinized his two enemies carefully. He was certain that there was a third person, perched on a branch not too far away. ‘A sniper? He’s trying to make me lower my guard…’
“Don’t worry, little girl. We’re not bad people. We just want to ask a few things,” The woman with the bow asked with a smile.
“Really? What do you want to now?” Lirong smiled innocently, completely oblivious to the situation.
“Leave, now!” Li Yiming suddenly said in a stern voice. ‘These people… Li Rong would have been dead… Guardians? Of what?’
“Oh, quite the character, I see. You think that just because…” The woman with the short bow scoffed. Just as she was about to make fun of Li Yiming, she swallowed down the rest of the sentence instantly; she saw the glowing orb on Li Yiming’s right hand. ‘Boundary… A sage?’
“Don’t make me repeat myself.” Li Yiming threatened in a glacial tone.
“So… sorry…” The woman retreated in a panic. The man with the knife, upon noticed Li Yiming’s right hand, also fled with terror, and even stumbled before retreating to the forest.
“They…” Lirong was confused by the two guardians, who had left as quickly as they had arrived.
“It’s okay, they’re just lost.” Li Yiming put the arrow away and explained with a smile.
“Lost? Then we should help them find the city…” Lirong did not realize that she had just nearly lost her life.
“They’ll get there soon enough. It’s close to the gates. We should go home soon. Otherwise, your sister will worry about us.” Li Yiming tapped at Lirong’s shoulder gently and looked at the woods once again. ‘They’re gone. Including that sniper…’
“Oh, okay.” Lirong was rather obedient and quickly climbed up another fruit tree.
Back in the backyard, Li Yiming called Liu Meng and Eyeglasses into a room and closed the door slowly. He took out the arrow he had just collected from the three guardians.
“This is?” Liu Meng picked up the arrow and examined it closely.
“They almost killed Lirong,” Li Yiming said calmly.
“What? They’re already here?”
“Yes, three of them.”
“You fought them?” Eyeglasses finally broke his long silence.
Li Yiming looked at his friend and shook his head.
“They must be the closest and the first to arrive…” Eyeglasses looked at Li Yiming and said slowly.
Li Yiming took a deep breath and stayed silent. He could overhear the laughs of Shen Jianming and Lirong outside of the room.
“Yiming…” Liu Meng hesitated.
“Yiming, you’re the captain of the team, so I might be saying things that are out of place, but… listen, this is a domain. Even without you and Bai Ze, they would still be put to the same fate…” Eyeglasses said.
“What is the will of this domain then?” Li Yiming asked calmly.
“That has nothing to do with us. Heaven’s Laws give the mission to us guardians!” Eyeglasses was getting frustrated; he had guessed what Li Yiming was thinking the moment he heard the tone of his voice.
“Guardians of what exactly?” Li Yiming pressed on with a hoarse voice.
“This is suicide…” Eyeglasses spat out.
“I can leave the team…” Li Yiming picked up the arrow and walked to the table.
To start by protecting oneself, and to make the entire world a better place if one is able to. This was Li Yiming’s understanding of what a guardian was. It was to guard and uphold what was right. 1
Li Yiming would perhaps have had no hesitation to follow the instructions given to all guardians if Lianyun City was full of people who committed evil deeds, but to slaughter everyone in the peaceful city was not something Li Yiming was willing to do, even if it meant going against the will of the Heavens.
Li Yiming had thought that sooner or later, Lianyun City would have to face the wrath of Heaven’s Laws, only he did not think that not even the slightest amount of pity would be bestowed upon the quiet town.
1. A famous passage from Meng Zi, a very famous piece of work in Confucianism)