Fang Shui’er picked up Shao Xiao and laid down right next to Chen Quan. Her glance went from their two unconscious bodies to the tsunami generated by Li Yiming’s blow.
‘Li Yiming…’ Fang Shui’er’s display of friendship was genuine on the Pandaria, and she would have given up avenging her sister if Bing Shuai had not found her. She had not anticipated that even with the help of a sage, her endeavor would utterly fail.
“What should I do with you?” A voice that let through some frustration was heard.
‘It’s over? Already?’ Fang Shui’er turned around, finding Li Yiming sitting on top of his giant staff, playing around with his own long hair.
“Whatever you wish.” Li Yiming’s quick return made the results of the battle clear. She would be lucky to get away with a quick death. If it really were Li Yiming she was facing, she could see hope in convincing him to spare her life, but she knew from the eyes of the person standing in front of her that this was not the case.
“Well, that’s a hard one…” Li Yiming continued playing with his hair. “People who betray me are truly despicable… So death will be your punishment.”
“As you desire.” Fang Shui’er shrugged her shoulders. The only consolation she could have was that it would at least be an honor to perish struck down by the legendary staff.
“But I don’t kill women…” Li Yiming became pensive.
“What do you want me to do?” Fang Shui’er’s heart raced, knowing that she might have a chance at life.
“Do you know how to cut hair? It’s strange to have such long hair.” Li Yiming landed and sat down on the ground. His staff had shifted into a pair of delicate-looking scissors and flew into Fang Shui’er hand.
“I’ll do my best…” Fang Shui’er did not know what Li Yiming was up to, but holding the pair of scissors that was once the renowned staff made her hands tremble, and she almost even threw them away.
As Li Yiming’s hair fell, one thread after another, Li Yiming played around the bits and pieces of it and then raised his left hand.
“Sign this…” Li Yiming said.
“This…” Fang Shui’er examined the piece of paper — it was a contract for selling her soul.
“What about Li Yiming?” Fang Shui’er hesitated.
“I’m just borrowing his body.”
“Who am I signing this with? You or him?”
“It doesn’t matter…” Li Yiming said as his hair fell piece by piece.
* * *
In the otherwise rowdy small restaurant at the edge of the village, a dead silence reigned. Yu Yiyuan pushed open the wooden door slowly and picked up a piece of steamed cake from the front counter. He took a whiff before finally taking a bite.
“Not bad…” Yu Yiyuan commented as he looked at the corpses around the table.
“Careless, aren’t you? This mushroom is poisonous, and you’re making soup out of it?” Yu Yiyuan finished his cake and picked up a bottle of red wine. After one sweep of the finger, the neck of the bottle was cut into two.
“This isn’t even good..” Yun Yiyuan drank a large mouthful and frowned. He put down the wine bottle and exited the room.
“One day left, I guess they’re getting impatient. Have they decided who it’s going to be? Oh well, one more day of fun.” Yu Yiyuan looked at the row of luxurious cars outside of the restaurant, which stood out particularly in a landscape of misery and poverty. He chose a car to his liking, found the key from a long key chain he had, and left the quiet countryside within a few minutes.
* * *
Qing Qiaoqiao looked at her sister with a serious countenance. “That’s impossible, how could there be a mission like that?” She could not believe what she had just heard.
“This is a punishment domain,” her sister answered.
“So who killed all the people from before?”
“Yun Yiyuan, and he committed clever murders too. He’s taken care to make every single kill look like an accidental death so he can’t be directly responsible.”
“What about those headless corpses, are those accidents too?” Qiaoqiao asked.
“Sai Gao’s responsible for those. He’s a camouflager, which means that he’s bound by a different set of rules. I don’t really know why he’s here.”
“Is there really no other way?” Qing Qiaoqiao found it hard to accept the truth.
Qing Linglong shook her head.
“And you’re telling me that everyone knows?” Qing Qiaoqiao said.
“Everyone except Liu Meng…”
“I need to tell her then.” Qing Qiaoqiao instantly picked up her transmitter, but her sister stopped her before she could talk.
“We need to make a choice.” Qing Linglong said with difficulty.
“So you’re choosing… her?” Qing Qiaoqiao’s could not comprehend her sister’s decision.
Qing Linglong shook her head again.
“Why aren’t you telling her then?”
“Because we can’t make the choice by ourselves. So it’s only fair that…”
“Fair? She doesn’t even know what’s happening!” Qing Qiaoqiao’s voice jumped up.
“It’s her responsibility to if she’s to be a guardian…”
“You’re betraying her…” Qing Qiaoqiao said with bitterness.
“Betrayal? So tell me, what should we do? Who would you pick? Yourself? Me? Eyeglasses? Big Beard?” Qing Linglong finally lost her calm and shouted with a hoarse voice.
“Don’t even think about asking for help from Stargaze and Li Huaibei. They won’t be able to save us, but they can at least guarantee their own survival. Unlike them, we don’t have that luxury. If we fail the mission, then everyone will die. So tell me, who are you going to choose? Or would you rather all of us die happily together?”
Qing Qiaoqiao had no answer. This was the impossible dilemma Heaven’s Laws had given them. Not only would they be forced to take the lives of innocent people, something they were so reluctant to do in Tianshan, but they would also need to betray one of their own.
* * *
Big Beard picked up his duffle bag and emptied the cash piles it contained on the bed. He left the room he had reserved in an irritated mood, despite having just engaged himself in a moment of satisfying his every need.
“Eyeglasses, we need to talk…” Big Beard stopped walking and finally picked up his transmitter by the time he reached the staircase.
“I’m downstairs.” A weary voice answered him.
“Coming.” Big Beard pushed the elevator button.
After renting out a room for another hefty sum, Big Beard and Eyeglasses sat down on opposite ends of the table.
“We’re men. We need to take responsibility in difficult situations.” Big Beard said.
“My thoughts exactly,” Eyeglasses said.
“Li Yiming’s not here, so I’m the captain,” Big Beard said.
“It doesn’t matter in times like this.” Eyeglasses’ eyebrows raised slightly.
“Li Yiming saved my life.” Big Beard said with conviction.
“He also saved mine.” Eyeglasses replied.
“I’ve been a captain for more than ten years. I know how valuable you are to the team. You have to stay.”
“No one in our team is replaceable, you’re not going to convince me with that argument.”
“My friends are all dead, I’m alone now…” Big Beard said despondently.
“I’m not dead yet.” Eyeglasses looked at Big Beard with anger in his eyes.
“That’s not what I meant.” Big Beard realized his misuse of words.
“Just because you said that…” Eyeglasses got up from his seat and brandished a small remote controller.
“You…!” Big Beard stared in disbelief. He rushed forward, but Eyeglasses retreated swiftly.
“I won’t last long if I fight you, but you won’t be able to stop me from pressing a button. Not at this moment…” Eyeglasses said.
“Eyeglasses…” Water filled up Big Beard’s eyes.
“I’ve set up everything already. It’ll only take thirty-one minutes for this to spread to the entire city. The only reason I told you is because I didn’t want both of us to go out this way. Tell Li Yiming that I’ve made my choice because I’ve wanted it, and not because I owe him anything. He can be awfully emotional at times.” Eyeglasses smiled.
“Yeah, sure…” Big Beard forced a smile.
“Thanks, I’ll be leaving now.” Eyeglasses turned and walked toward the exit.
“Farewell…” Big Beard clenched his fists. His voice was choked up by a sob.
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