Chapter 40 - What Is Love?
Li Yiming frowned as he pulled the heavy suitcase all the way to the student’s residence — after trying to call upon his guardian abilities, he realized that they had all disappeared.
‘Nothing I can do but see where this leads me to. This can’t be good news if I’m really trapped in an illusion,’ Li Yiming thought as he stared at the window on the left side of the third floor: this was where he had lived for four years.
Walking his way to his dorm was a trip down memory lane. Li Yiming passed by the cafeteria, whose food he remembered as being incredibly bland but he somehow missed; the self-study classrooms, which were only packed right before an exam; the library, which was completely empty during the winter but full of “studious” students during the summer, when air conditioning was available; and the small convenience store, with its products always out of stock despite the lack of variety.
Going back to the places where he lived as an ordinary college student made Li Yiming wonder about what would happen if he did not go to the top of that building, or if he chose to not believe Mr. Kong and enter Pure Water Herb Hall.
‘Maybe I’d be a teacher trying my best to make my students love dancing. Maybe I’d be a celebrity, rising to fame with a single choreography, or maybe I’d be living a simple life and enjoying the pleasures it brings… No! If I didn’t become a guardian, I wouldn’t have been able to understand her feelings… She’s always been my side… Liu Meng…’ Li Yiming snapped out of his nostalgia.
Early autumn in Hangzhou was still warm, and continuous rainfalls knocked down some of the slightly golden leaves from the rows of tree flanking the asphalt road. Li Yiming smiled as he remembered Liu Meng when he first met her; the girl who liked to pinch his neck playfully, kick his leg lightly when she sat behind him in class, tell inappropriate jokes, and pretend to be cold and distant with others, only to warm up when they were together.
‘Old place, old times, but she’s…’ Li Yiming was about to sigh when someone suddenly jumped in front and pushed him on the chest with all of her strength.
Li Yiming was knocked back into the ground from the unexpected blow. His suitcase handle, under the stress, broke earlier than he remembered.
“You…” Li Yiming said as he rubbed his chest to alleviate the pain and looked up at the person who pushed him: it was Liu Meng.
Liu Meng herself was examining her hand, as if there was something wrong with it.
“Okay, let’s talk.” Li Yiming let out a cough to relieve the pressure and tapped the dust away from his wet pants. He could tell that this was still not the true Liu Meng.
“What is this place? What happened to my power?” Liu Meng stared at Li Yiming venomously.
“We’re stuck inside an illusion. My powers are also gone. How about we take some time and talk this out.” Li Yiming proposed with a smile as he picked up his luggage.
“What is there to talk about?!” Liu Meng cried out, which further attracted the attention of those who turned their heads when they noticed the commotion.
“Sorry, my girlfriend…” Li Yiming came up with an excuse. Some of the passersby looked at him with envy, while others were laughing at his misfortune and still others seemed baffled.
“Don’t think you can take me down so easily. Besides, you don’t even know if it’s still here. Let’s go, you used to like the sweets shop around the corner a lot,” Li Yiming said as he pushed his suitcase to a corner and reached out for Liu Meng’s hand. As he kneaded Liu Meng’s hand, her body went stiff, but she did not resist violently.
Li Yiming sat down with Liu Meng at the shop. One of the student-workers there, having noticed Li Yiming’s fight with Li Yiming, raised his thumb in the latter’s direction to show that he was impressed. Li Yiming grimaced back, evidently happy at what he had achieved.
“Here. Crispy durian cake. This isn’t cheap. I used to buy it for you all the time.” Li Yiming pushed the golden dessert toward Liu Meng.
“What do you want? You know I won’t give up on killing you,” Liu Meng said coldly. She was still wondering why she did not resist being led around by Li Yiming, especially when she thought about how he might attack her the moment she lets her guard down.
“I don’t know if you still have her memories, but I think you have a right to know…”
“I don’t, and I’m not interested in what happened between you two,” Liu Meng interrupted Li Yiming hastily, but she seemed scared. Li Yiming’s gentle tone and his eyes full of love softened her heart despite herself.
“No need to overreact. I just want to tell you that I’ve been through the same thing,” Li Yiming said as he sipped his drink.
“You’ve been hit with a Heart Trial before?” Liu Meng frowned.
“Yes.” Li Yiming shrugged his shoulders.
“How did you escape from it?”
“I killed him.” Li Yiming said as he bit his straw.
“Are you threatening me?”
“I told you that I want to be on good terms with you. Even if I kill you, she won’t come back. I want to rescue her, that’s all.”
“I'll have to die for her to come back.”
“That’s not going to work and you know it.”
Liu Meng stayed silent and continued staring at Li Yiming.
“I’d gladly give my life for her to come back, but even if I let you kill me, she won’t.” Li Yiming sighed. He picked up the dessert on the plate, unwrapped the aluminum foil slightly and gave it to Liu Meng.
Liu Meng picked the dessert and took a small bite out of habit. It was not until the sweet aroma spread in her mouth that she realized what she was doing and froze still.
“I don’t know what the purpose of this illusion is, but we’re stuck here with all of our powers gone.”
“What are you trying to get at?” Liu Meng threw the dessert back onto the table.
“I propose a truce until we get out powers back.”
“You want me to work with you to break this illusion?”
“No, no. That will come in time. For now, I just want to have a meal with you.”
“Yeah. You know, I’ve never have had the chance to have a meal with her.” Li Yiming sighed and said earnestly.
The tone Li Yiming used made Liu Meng’s heart tremble.
“You’ve seen what happened outside. I don’t know what’s going on, but I doubt Mr. Kong would gather that many sages for no reason at all. There must be something big happening. I’ve been led by the nose ever since I became a guardian. Now that I can finally settle down for a bit, I just want to do the things I’ve always wanted to do.”
“Are we just going out for a meal?” Liu Meng regretted the moment she asked and her ears turned red.
“Of course!” Li Yiming laughed as he looked at her. He had to stop himself from wrapping his arms around her.
“Do you really care that much for her?” Liu Meng’s heart raced as she stared at Li Yiming.
“I almost lost her.” Li Yiming said and stared at Liu Meng with eyes full of emotions.
Liu Meng looked away and pulled on her skirt nervously. She knew that Li Yiming was not looking at her, but she could not disregard the intensity of his gaze.
“I’ll kill you after our meal.” Liu Meng snorted in discontent.
“Let’s go.” Li Yiming approached Liu Meng with a grin and offered her his arm.
“Hmmpft!” Liu Meng pretended that she did not understand Li Yiming’s gesture, picked up her dessert from the table, and walked out.