Chapter 2 - Revisiting Pure Water Herb Hall
After refusing the offer of having a chauffeur to drive him, Li Yiming left the hospital and wandered the streets alone. It had only been a year, and he could already tell how much has changed as he observed the cars and pedestrians on the street.
‘Is this reality? Or am I still in a domain…’ Li Yiming made straight for the sports stadium. When he arrived in front of the empty stadium, everything was perfectly intact, which ruled out the possibility of being inside a domain.
Li Yiming looked around, he saw four black cars trailing him which he knew were from National Security. ‘Monsters and Guardians using their abilities in plain, public view… This should be a domain… but…’ He then took out a pack of cigarettes from his storage device and lit one up.
“Did he buy the cigarettes earlier?” One of the agents asked.
“I’m positive he didn’t.” The other agent holding a binocular shook his head. He was the one who was responsible for providing the living necessities to Li Yiming, and he was certain that there were no pack of cigarettes nor lighter in the items he had prepared.
“I want a detailed report for the secretary.” The captain of the squad ordered as he picked up the radio transmitter.
Li Yiming ignored the fact that he was being watched, sat down on the stone bench and smoke three cigarettes one after another. He thought about his friends, Li Huaibei, Stargaze, Mr. Kong, and the rooftop of the skyscraper where everything had started.
‘Pure Water Herb Hall... That’s where everything started…’ Li Yiming extinguished his cigarette and called for a taxi.
As Li Yiming entered the small tea shop, he saw everything to be exactly the same as it was before, only this time, he was not greeted by Qing Qiaoqiao’ sweet smile.
“You... You bastards!” A loud voice suddenly heard, Li Yiming skirted around the wooden panel and peeked inside.
“Old man, why so angry?” One of the young men from the group of four or five who sat around the table playing cards asked. The room was filled with the choking stench of tobacco, and the floor was littered with cigarette butts. An old man stood, looking at the scene, his body shaking with anger.
“Go tell your boss that if you do this again I'll call the police!” The old man cried out.
“The police? Don't you see that we are clients here? We ordered a cup of water each,” One of them retorted.
“I know what you're up to! I'm never going to sell my shop!” The old man yelled angrily.
“We'll see about that! Straight!” One of the young men smashed his cards on the table while throwing a cigarette toward the intricately-made wallpaper.
“You!” The old man rushed forward to stomp on the cigarette butt. Just as he was about to pick it up, he froze in place, baffled by the number of butts which littered the floor.
“My straight is bigger than yours!” The other man showed his hand and began to celebrate.
“Pffft, what a shitty game!” The man who lost spat on a decorative plant, sending his saliva rolling down its emerald leaves.
“I'll kill you!” The old man could no longer suppress his anger.
“Oh yeah?” The group of troublemakers stood up and stared at the old man coldly, delighted by their success in arousing the shopkeeper’s anger.
The old man’s outrage immediately waned after realizing he was both outnumbered and outmatched. However, the veins on his forehead still protruded from his pale skin as he tried to contain his fury.
“Who the hell are you? Get out of here! We're closed today!” One of the thugs noticed Li Yiming standing at the door.
“Are you married?” Li Yiming asked as he entered the room and picked up a coffee spoon.
“What?” Everyone in the roop was stupefied by the question. Li Yiming then proceeded to twist the stainless steel spoon into a rose, and even split the body into three parts, creating three beautiful metallic leaves.
“If you're not married, then you should give this to your girlfriend. I think she'll like it,” Li Yiming said as he handed the flower to one of the men.
“Who... who are you?” The young man with the glasses picked up the flower and grazed the leaves with his finger. Blood instantly began to seep out.
“I'm a guest.” Li Yiming said. He walked up to one of the wooden chairs and sat down, reminiscing his meeting with his friends as he looked around.
“I don't know who you are, but you should stay out of this. We…” The young man's threat was cut short the moment he looked at Li Yiming’s eyes and he felt a chill run down his spine. He felt as if he was a helpless prey in front of a giant bear who had just woken up.
“Let’s… Go…” One of the young men stammered and the gang quickly made for the exit.
“Thank you,” The old man expressed his gratitude.
“Are you the owner of this shop?” Li Yiming asked.
“Yes.” The old man answered truthfully as he could feel that Li Yiming did not mean any evil.
“What about the sisters who owned this shop?”
“You mean Ms. Qing? You know her?”
“We used to be friends.”
“They rented this place from me. They left a year ago, but I kept running the shop because I liked the atmosphere,” The old man said as he took out a cup and poured water for Li Yiming.
‘A year ago…’ Li Yiming held his chin as he sank into his own thoughts.
“What about those thugs earlier?”
“They're probably hired by the land developers. They're trying to redevelop the neighborhood into a residential area. I would’ve gone along with it since I don't really know how to operate this business, but the prize they offered is only one-fifth of what I expected. There’s no way I could sell this shop at that price, it's the only thing I can rely on for retirement!”
Li Yiming nodded as he understood the thug’s motives.
“It’s true that the world has not been so peaceful recently, but to cut down the price by that much…” The old man seemed to have found a confidant in Li Yiming.
“What about the other shop owners? If the entire neighborhood is being developed, it shouldn’t only be this shop, right?”
“They've all agreed….”
“To the same price cut?”
The old man nodded with a sunken countenance.
“Bah… Thank you for everything today. If they come back tomorrow, I think I'll give in and sell my shop.” The old man let out a sigh, as he began to have suspicions as to whether Li Yiming was another hiree by the land developers.
“You’re going to concede? “
“What else am I going to do? This business isn’t exactly profitable.”
“How about you sell it to me? I can buy it according to market prices,” Li Yiming proposed as he looked at the crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling.
“You want to buy it? I thought you were…”
Li Yiming looked at the old man and waited patiently for an answer.
“By market price’, you mean…”
“The price from one year ago.”
* * *
In the garden of the imperial palace, a concubine put on a lustful smile as she fell into the arms of one of the imperial surgeons. The poor man seemed to be terrified as he could be put to death if someone found out, but nevertheless put his hands on her shoulders, unable to repress his love for her.
“Cut! Very good Ms. Fang!” The director said with a satisfied smile as he stood up from his seat.
Fang Shui’er nodded in the direction of the director, her smile vanishing instantly. She broke free from the embrace of the male actor and made for the resting area. The latter obviously was still in the heat of the moment and stared at Fang Shui’er’s back dumbly.
“I'm sorry, may I request two days of vacation?” Fang Shui’er suddenly turned around and said.
“Not a problem. ”
“I have some personal business to attend to in Hangzhou,” Fang Shui’er said as she looked into the city’s direction.