“You saved my life,” Eyeglasses said after a long silence and left the room, somewhat frustrated by Li Yiming’s immovable attitude.
Liu Meng stood up and hugged Li Yiming from behind. Her thought process was simple. If she had to choose between saving the world and herself, she would undoubtedly sacrifice her own life. However, it was a different story when Li Yiming’s life was at stake.
Xu Yurong prepared a sumptuous meal with three plates full of food, a big bowl of soup, and a wok full of white rice. After Lin Lu had woken up, Eyeglasses went to check up on her, concluding that she was doing fine, aside from losing her memories. As for Chen Quan, the latter followed Eyeglasses wherever he went, like a helpless child, and from time to time, he would stare at the sky with a confused expression. As for Shen Jianming, he seemed to have completely settled into his role as the husband of Xu Yurong, and he would show that happy smile that made even Li Yiming envious whenever he looked at Xu Yurong.
Li Yiming stuffed his face with rice, almost like a machine. If it was not for Liu Meng, who added some vegetables into his bowl from time to time, he would not even have noticed the other plates on the table.
Xu Yurong noticed that her guests were quite unhappy. Her own mood sank as she wondered whether it was due to to her lacking politeness by preparing a meal which was too simple. ‘I’ll try to go get a chicken or a few fishes from the neighbors tomorrow, this should work.’
As dusk settled in, the Xu sisters busied themselves with putting the dishes away, while the men idled in the backyard, admiring the crimson clouds in the sky.
Li Yiming took out a pack of cigarettes and gave one to Shen Jianming. The latter reached out for it before having a second thought and brought it to his mouth. He only snapped out of his habit a second later, seemingly confused to why he was so familiar with the gesture.
Li Yiming shook his head, took out his lighter, and lit the cigarette up for Shen Jianming. He looked on as Shen Jianming took a puff and exhaled a mouthful of smoke.
“Are you happy right now?” Li Yiming took a deep puff himself and asked Shen Jianming.
“What?” Shen Jianming did not pay attention to Li Yiming’s question, since he was fully engrossed by the cigarette he was smoking.
“Are you happy with the life you have right now?” Li Yiming asked again.
“Of course. With a wife like Yurong, what more can I hope for?”
“Maybe… just maybe… if you had a choice. Would you want to be a general that rides on the battlefield for his country, or a peasant that works the field quietly?”
“You’ve said it. The work of a general is to protect this life, isn’t it?” Shen Jianming suddenly laughed and answered in a way that Li Yiming would have expected him to.
“Yes… you’re right.” Li Yiming also smiled. He looked at the clouds, which were beginning to turn from pink to purple, and gradually firmed his resolve.
“It’s begun.” Li Yiming extinguished his cigarette, nodded at Liu Meng, and glanced at Eyeglasses apologetically. “Take good care of them.” Li Yiming tapped Shen Jianming’s shoulder and walked toward the main entrance to the backyard.
“It’s going to be night soon, where are you going?” Shen Jianming said hesitantly.
“I’m just going for a quick walk. I’ll be back soon,” Li Yiming answered with a smile.
* * *
Li Huaibei sat on the wall near the Southern gate. He held an old gourd, a broken knife, and stared downward serenely. ‘Eight years… I was outside of the walls eight years ago… and now I’m sitting on top of them. To accept fate, or to fight against Heaven’s will…’
* * *
Stargaze held a cup of tea in one hand and chit-chatted with a middle-aged woman from Lianyun City. she turned her attention toward the distance. ‘This much trouble for the formation… what are you up to?’
* * *
The clouds turned into a darker shade of purple as the sun finally vanished between the mountain peaks. A full moon appeared in the sky, and, just like before, the nightly sky was lit up by a waterfall of starlight. However, Li Yiming, Liu Meng and Eyeglasses could feel that the formation had activated itself once again.
“Look!” Liu Meng pointed at the sky in the North, visibly shocked.
“Shooting stars?” Li Yiming stared at the sky. He could see a few specks of red light shining in the distance, and he concluded that those were definitely not stars.
“A meteor shower!” Eyeglasses was the first to assess the situation.
“This…” Liu Meng was unsure why a meteor shower would happen at this very moment.
“The power of the protective formation is not to be underestimated. A normal guardian would not even be able to enter into this realm. It’s trying to create an opening in the formation…”
“You mean Heaven’s Laws?” Li Yiming stared at the red light that grew brighter and brighter Clearly, the meteor shower was not going to stop at only a few rocks, rather, it seemed like an endless stream of fire was headed their way.
“Something of this scale can’t be done by mere mortals… Yiming…” Eyeglasses tried to convince Li Yiming one last time to stay out of the affair. Once Heaven’s Laws decided to intervene directly, the situation became much too dangerous to interfere in.
“It’s trembling…” Li Yiming ignored Eyeglasses’ warning and knelt down, putting his right hand on the ground. It was a very subtle, light vibration, but Li Yiming could tell that something was off.
“An earthquake… and a powerful one at it too…” Eyeglasses took out a metal rod and planted it into the ground. He looked at the red font: “Magnitude 12”.
* * *
“Fire from the sky and shifting of the earth? How imposing…” Stargaze bid farewell to the middle-aged woman and made for the Southern Gate.
* * *
“You’ll go first, and I’ll come right after.” Li Huaibei put away his gourd and broken knife, took out a fragment from a yellow scarf, and carefully attached the piece of fabric to his wrist. He tapped the stones from the city wall lightly and closed his eyes. “I have been wrong once, I will not repeat my mistake.”
* * *
“Look!” Liu Meng turned away from the meteor shower. To her surprise, she saw a grey pillar of dust moving slowly toward the city from the southern side.
“It’s a tornado…” Li Yiming grew more alerted when he saw the pillar of dust and debris in the distance. He had anticipated guardians to be his main foes, and with Li Huaibei by his side, at least he was somewhat reassured. However, he did not imagine that before even seeing anyone he could fight, Lianyu City would be facing a series of natural disasters that he had no answers for.
A loud shriek was suddenly heard, and a giant shadow lifted off from the Western Gate.
“It’s the Thunder Eagle!” Li Yiming looked at the gigantic shadow in the sky. It was an eagle with purple eyes, colorful feathers, and golden claws, and it flew toward the meteorites resolutely.
Another roar was heard, and the ground trembled violently before gradually settling down after a brief while.
“The Black Turtle has gone underground. It stabilized the tremors!” Eyeglasses looked at his seismograph.
‘The south…’ Li Yiming turned toward the south, and unsurprisingly, a giant snake suddenly appeared and slithered toward the tornado in the darkness.
‘Formation against Heaven’s Laws… this looks manageable.’ Li Yiming felt slightly better and clenched his fists.
“Wait, the Eastern Gate!” Li Yiming suddenly realized what was wrong. Each mythical beast was supposed to guard a single cardinal, but Bai Ze was gone.
“We need to hurry!” Li Yiming yelled and dashed eastward.
* * *
“Using Heaven’s Punishment to repress the power of the formation, and then concentrate on the single weak point. This kind of prudence. Who is it?” Stargaze hid her aura and stared at the Eastern Gate from the yard of a home nearby.
A golden barrier was erected right outside of the Eastern Gate. Rays of colorful light, like raindrops, battered against it, but to no avail. The guardians who were trying to break in finally commenced their assault.
“What is this golden wok made of? No matter, an object with no will of its own won’t last. It won’t take too long before it breaks.” Stargaze shook her head disappointingly. She then brought out a wooden chair and slowly sat down on it.
“Li Yiming? What is he doing here? He’s not thinking about…” Stargaze jumped up right after sitting down. She sensed Li Yiming’s presence, who had just arrived at the Eastern Gate along with Liu Meng and Eyeglasses.
“He’s going to work from the inside as well? I underestimated him…” Stargaze was impressed by Li Yiming acute senses. “But how are you going to achieve something that not even I have been able to?” Stargaze had attempted to approach the golden wok twice before, and failed both times.
‘Captain Li Yiming has left Dissonance… Member Liu Meng has left Dissonance…’ Eyeglasses smiled bitterly as he looked at the rays of light barraging the golden barrier. However, he still felt bitter when he heard the voice ring out in his mind.
“You…” Eyeglasses looked at the two in shock.
“It’s my personal decision. You don’t need to risk it with us…” Li Yiming turned back to let Eyeglasses know that he was sorry.
“You’ve saved my life, I owe you…” Eyeglasses was angry.
“I hope you can live on.”
“Leave. If you still think of me as a friend, then stay out of this.”
Eyeglasses smiled bitterly again. He knew what Li Yiming’s decision meant. For his own sake, he could not help Li Yiming fight the guardians that had gathered outside of the city, but he would also not lay a hand on the people inside the city out of consideration for Li Yiming.
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