As Li Yiming led Liu Meng around the campus, he looked at the willow trees by the small lake and listened to the chirping of the birds. However, he began to doubt whether this was all a moribund flashback after remembering the details of Wu Yun’s attack. The thought of not being able to see Liu Meng again brought tears to his eyes.
“What are we doing here? It’s our second time around the lake already. Where are we going exactly?” Liu Meng feigned at being irritated and complained.
“Well, it’s only ten in the morning. It’s a bit late for breakfast and too early for lunch, isn’t it?” Li Yiming stretched himself lazily.
“Are we going to eat breakfast or lunch then?” Liu Meng rolled her eyes.
“Dinner.” Li Yiming grimaced.
“I’ll be back in the evening then.” Liu Meng’s countenance sank and she turned away, unwilling to indulge further in the soothing platitude of the scenery. The stillness of the lake, the gentle autumn breeze, and most importantly, being with Li Yiming was a soothing but also anxious experience, as she had a gut feeling that something was terribly wrong.
“Aren’t meals the usual pretext for a date?” Li Yiming grinned and reached out for Liu Meng’s hand again.
“It’s still too early to eat. How about I take you around this place?” Li Yiming pulled on Liu Meng’s hand, not give her a chance to refuse.
Liu Meng wanted to pull her hand out, but she frowned when she found herself unable to do so, partly because Li Yiming was holding onto her hand very tightly, but also because it was a half-hearted effort.
“This is the place where loving couples come. They say that when you come here to puke at night after drinking too much, you’ll always run into couples chit-chatting in the darkness…”
“Oh yeah, here’s the art building. Our studio was on the third floor. I think that old janitor is cleaning the hallway now...”
“That’s cafeteria number three. They say they make the worst but also the best food in the school. I remember you loving their salt and pepper strawberries…”
“I remember that wall. This is where that guy they called the most handsome in the Chinese department confessed to you with ninety-nine candles, but you doused half of them off with your milk tea…”
“Oh! That’s the place I took you out for lunch for the first time. I didn’t bring enough money and made you pay in the end…”
Li Yiming had something to say about every place they passed by, and the tone in his voice gradually grew more emotional as time went by.
“I remember.” Liu Meng finally freed herself from Li Yiming’s grasp. Of course, she was lying as everything Li Yiming told her was new to her, and listening to those past tales made her jealous of her former self. She began desiring more than just the hatred she was born with, but at the same time, she was afraid of losing herself in it.
“I’m sorry.” Li Yiming sighed and suddenly froze still.
Li Yiming said those words with a pained expression, which made Liu Meng’s chest tighten as if someone had just stung her in the heart.
“How about we eat a snack and then go for a movie?” Li Yiming took a deep breath and recomposed himself.
“Sure.” Liu Meng did not find it in her to refuse.
The two continued wandering through the street, going through the snack stands like an ordinary couple. For the movie, Li Yiming chose an old romance movie for which he knew the story, but nevertheless shed some tears. Liu Meng remained emotionless throughout the entire movie, only glancing from time to time at her and Li Yiming’s interlocked fingers.
As the two left the movie theater, Liu Meng finally pulled Li Yiming over. She turned him around so he faced her. “Why did you…”
However, she stopped when she saw him looking behind him with a serious countenance.
“What’s wrong?” Liu Meng asked.
“That man, the one on the telephone.”
“What?” Liu Meng turned around and saw the man Li Yiming was talking about. It was a man in his thirties, with nothing about him standing out.
“Wait a second.” Li Yiming finally let go of Liu Meng’s hand and caught up to the man.
“I’m sorry, my phone ran out of battery. Can I borrow your cell phone for a call?” Li Yiming asked.
“What?” The man looked at Li Yiming with wary eyes.
“I promised my girlfriend that we would go out for dinner, but I didn’t tell her the place, and she has a bad temper so…” Li Yiming put his hands together and implored.
“But your girlfriend is right behind you.” The man frowned and took a step back.
“I’m sorry, I just wanted to confirm if you still had your phone on you.” Li Yiming smiled.
“What do you mean?”
“That bracelet… You’re a guardian.” Li Yiming squinted as he looked at the man’s wrist.
The man frowned and then just like an unsheathed blade, he began giving off a dangerous air. “You are…”
“I don’t know who you are, but why are you here? I don’t remember seeing you amongst the people who were fighting me…” Li Yiming said in a glacial tone.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” The man was confused, but the fact that the Li Yiming instantly pointed out his real identity while he failed to sense anything abnormal about the latter made him understand that Li Yiming was not someone to be trifled with. He then scrutinized Liu Meng and found her to be even more enigmatic, and potentially dangerous.
“Sorry about that.” Li Yiming’s expression softened as he turned around and walked back toward Liu Meng.
“That man...” Liu Meng started to grow suspicious.
“We can go. It’s pretty hard to get seats in that steak house. I wonder what it will taste like! Never been there before,” Li Yiming said as he pulled Liu Meng toward the exit of the cinema.
Liu Meng flashed a glance at the man before leaving.
Li Yiming chose one of the most famous restaurants in the city and even managed to reserve a seat in an isolated balcony which offered a splendid night view. On the table were all kinds of delicacies, from caviar to foie gras to expensive red wine. The luxurious chandelier which hung high above the table was lit up with aromatic candles and created a warm and romantic atmosphere.
“How do you like it?” Li Yiming put down his utensils and wiped his mouth.
“Good steak, but the wine is a little puckery.”
“Sorry, I couldn’t afford anything better.”
“Couldn’t afford it. I’ve spent my entire year of tuition on this meal.” Li Yiming smiled and signaled to the waiter. He whispered something into the latter’s ears and handed over his last remaining bills.
The waiter left with a smile.
“What did you ask him?” Liu Meng was curious.
“You’ll know soon enough. I’ll have to make up for the bad wine, don’t I?” Li Yiming smiled and emptied his cup.
The waiter soon came back, followed by a violinist wearing a dovetail suit. The musician quickly set up and began playing.
“Butterfly Lovers?” Liu Meng frowned as she recognized the tune. Li Yiming stood up slowly and began moving gracefully, following the rhythm of the music.
‘He’s dancing for me?’ Liu Meng’s heart trembled as this was the first time Li Yiming danced exclusively for her. It was a performance which conveyed more than words possibly could, and although Li Yiming’s movements were simple, every gesture expressed just how deeply he loved her.
There was but a single purpose to this dance: to thaw Liu Meng’s outer coldness in order for his feelings to reach the real Liu Meng.
Contrary to expectations, Li Yiming did not kneel down and propose to Liu Meng with a ring. Instead, he asked in a soft voice, “Can I hug you?”
Liu Meng stood up slowly from where she sat.
Li Yiming took a deep breath and wrapped his arms tightly around Liu Meng.
The sound of metal cutting through flesh was suddenly heard. Li Yiming frowned, but he continued to hold onto Liu Meng even more tightly.
“I’ve told you that I would kill you after our meal,” Liu Meng said in a cold voice as she let go of the knife planted in Li Yiming’s chest, tears rolling down her cheeks.
Liu Meng had noticed the guardian in the movie theaters. It was a guardian she did not recall seeing before, and the fact that he was there only meant one thing: that she was not in an illusion. Li Yiming and herself were somehow transported to another point in time. The fact that it was merely a different point in time meant that if she killed Li Yiming, the real Li Yiming would die as well.
As the blood that gushed out from Li Yiming’s wound tainted her white dress in a bloody red, beads of tear rolled down Li Yiming’s cheeks.
“If you meet her… Tell me that I love her,” Li Yiming said with a trembling voice.
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