Chapter 3 - Opening Up
At nine in the morning, in the old city district, Li Yiming opened the aged wooden doors to his tea shop. As he stared at the wooden panel above the entrance, he forced himself to produce a smile.
‘I’m now back at the start. What kind of road will I walk this time?’ Li Yiming entered his shop and looked around. The owner of the shop had left everything as it was. Being scared of Li Yiming going back on his words, he hurried to have all the paperwork done within three days.
The furniture was left untouched and the place had been cleaned up thoroughly. Li Yiming walked to the counter, took out a tea set, and began preparing a cup of tea for himself. As he sniffed its sweet aroma, the quietness of the moment was broken by a ruckus on the street.
On the other side of the street, two old vans stopped abruptly, and a dozen of strangely dressed young men jumped off. Led by the man who had been scared off by Li Yiming when he first visited the shop, the gang made their way towards the establishment. They had received news of Li Yiming’s purchase and arrived at the scene as soon as possible. Instead of rushing inside, however, the young men remained right outside of the entrance, blocking the way to any potential customer.
“Hey boss, are we just going to stand here?” One of the thugs whispered into the ears of their leader.
“Listen to your orders,” The leader answered coldly. However, when he looked at the entrance of the tea shop, fear briefly flashed in his eyes. Even days later, he still remembered the abysmal feeling of crossing eyes with Li Yiming. Every night, he would have nightmares waking him up from his slumber, forcing him to take drugs to just fall back asleep.
Li Yiming sipped his tea and watched as the scene unfolded. He searched the drawer beneath the table and found a small bag. Within the bag was a wooden bracelet seemingly made of rosewood, but the weight indicated that it was most likely a counterfeit artifact. He chuckled as he remembered that he had told the old owner to keep everything as it was, so the latter had chosen to even leave the bracelet he wore.
As time went by, Li Yiming continued to play around with the bracelet. He did not intend to make money from the tea shop, so he did not particularly care that the thugs were ruining his business. As dusk arrived, Li Yiming sat still like an old monk while the thugs continued to scare off any potential customers. After an entire day of fiddling with the bracelet, its wooden beads had gained an abnormal glow — Li Yiming had been transferring his energy into it the whole time.
“It’s been an entire day now. Let’s see how long this kid can last!” One of the thugs laughed as he threw his cigarette onto the ground.
“Shut up!” The leader said. If the choice was up to him, he would not have chosen to mess with Li Yiming. The latter’s air gave him a particularly ominous feeling.
Just as the thought ran through the leader’s head, a black van stopped on the opposite side of the street. It was an ordinary-looking van, but the elegant curves of the car and the sturdy feeling of the car frame suggested that it was a luxurious vehicle. As the car door slid open slowly, most of the thugs stepped to the side — knowing whom not to trifle with was an essential skill for survival on the streets.
A pair of long, slender legs appeared, followed by attractive curves wrapped by a tight, white leather miniskirt. On her bare skin revealed by the low-cut dress rested a crystal necklace, as well as tenebrous long hair, all of which were complemented by a face with delicate features framed by a pair of purple sunglasses.
The sound of saliva being gulped down was heard as the thugs collectively stared dumbly at the woman standing in front of them.
“It’s… It’s... Fang Shui’er…” One of the men with purple hair said as he scratched the area near his crotch. The star’s arrival injected a massive amount of enthusiasm into the group, most of whom now stood with straight backs and tried to make themselves as tall and handsome as possible.
Fang Shui’er frowned as she looked at the wooden panel right above the entrance, took a deep breath, and made for the entrance.
“Boss, she wants to get into the shop…”
“I know,” The leader of the thugs said as he stared at Fang Shui’er’s waist.
“Are we going to do anything about it?”
“What?” The leader of the gang was suddenly reminded of his duties. Just as he wondered about whether or not to stop Fang Shui’er, the latter turned around and pointed at him. “You, come over here.”
“Yes!” The leader smiled in excitement as he rushed towards Fang Shui’er.
“Go get twenty flower baskets from the shop across the street. You can keep the change.” Fang Shui’er said as she took out a thick pile of banknotes.
“Flower baskets?” The leader was confused.
“Do you have a problem with that?” Fang Shui’er said with a beautiful smile.
“Of... of course not!” He shook his head and made for the flower store under the envious stares of his subordinates.
Fang Shui’er saw Li Yiming as soon as she entered the shop. ‘He's back…’
“Nice atmosphere. Are the people outside security?” Fang Shui’er broke the silence as Li Yiming kept his eyes closed.
“Sit.” Li Yiming opened his eyes and poured a cup of tea for his guest.
Fang Shui’er was unnerved by the simple invitation. ‘He’s changed again…’
The first time she met Li Yiming, he seemed like a naive kid. The second time, he was a cruel, bloodthirsty demon. Now he seemed to be just an empty shell of his former self.
“So, what happened over the last year?” Li Yiming asked as he put down the tea kettle.
Li Yiming felt gratitude toward Fang Shui’er for her assistance during the music festival. When he was attacked from all sides, she was the only one who helped him, even though she was forced to do so by the spell cast on her back on the Island of Eternity.
“You don't know anything about what happened after the domain?” Fang Shui’er asked as she sat down.
“I've just woken up.” Li Yiming offered her a cup of tea.
“I don't know what happened beyond the clouds, but ever since the domain shattered, Heaven’s laws have changed completely.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“All of our life marks are gone…” Fang Shui’er did not know where to start, so she decided to start with the biggest change.
“The life marks are gone?” Li Yiming knew that life marks were the biggest limit imposed upon the guardians by Heaven’s Laws. Their existence ensured that the guardians would continue to risk their lives to accomplish their missions in different domains. However, his understanding was relatively lacking as he was not an ordinary guardian.
“Are you saying guardians aren’t being forced to obey Heavens Laws anymore?”
“Yes. In fact, no one has received direct instructions from the Heavens for a year now.”
“If your life marks are gone, then what about your talent…” Li Yiming remembered the other purpose of Life Marks — they prevented guardians from abusing their talents outside of a domain.
“We can use them freely now…” Fang Shui’er raised her left hand, and a small bow made of crystal appeared right above her palm.