Chapter 4 - A New Star
“Secretary Lin, Fang Shui’er entered the tea shop five minutes ago.” An old woman across the street from Pure Water Herb Hall reported as she took off her scarf.
“Fang Shui’er? Which one?” Lin Lu’s voice came from the transmitter.
“The one who's always on TV dramas. Over eighty percent match with facial recognition.” The old woman said as she glanced at the black van and the gang of thugs who were busy setting up the flower baskets.
“Keep monitoring. I'll have someone verify the authenticity of the information.” Lin Lu put down her receiver and began to check the surveillance feed from the nearby area.
‘It really is her… but what would a celebrity have anything to do with him? Unless…’
“I want a detailed report about Fang Shui’er’s activities in recent years,” Lin Lu ordered.
“Give me twenty minutes,” A voice answered.
* * *
Inside a high-rise office building, a young woman hurried across the corridor to a conference room.
“Eyeglasses? You’re here? Is sis looking for me?” Qing Qiaoqiao did not seem to expect to see the two people waiting for her inside the room. Ever since what happened a year ago, she has had no contact with her former teammates. Eyeglasses’ showing up must have meant that something important came up.
“He's woken up.” Qing Linglong told her younger sister.
“What? When?” Qing Qiaoqiao’s face was lit up with surprise and excitement.
“Three days ago.” Eyeglasses said as he smiled bitterly.
“Three days ago? And you're telling us now?” Qing Qiaoqiao said.
“What are we going to do about it?” Eyeglasses took off his glasses and rubbed his nose.
“We’re going to find him, of…” Qing Qiaoqiao suddenly cut her sentence halfway through. She realized that even though they were no longer under the influence of Heaven's Laws, their previous actions could not be undone.
“He bought our tea house.” Seeing the change of expression of her younger sister pained Qing Linglong’s heart.
“Pure Water Herb Hall?” Qing Qiaoqiao questioned.
“Yiming… He’s someone who cherishes old friendships.” Eyeglasses sighed as he looked at the smog outside of the window.
“What are we going to do then?” Qing Qiaoqiao had been aware that Eyeglasses had been paying attention to Li Yiming’s whereabouts ever since the collapse of the domain, and that he had been searching for Liu Meng for a year now.
“We’ll reunite with him, eventually. But before that…” Qing Linglong pointed at her own chest.
Knowing full well that the effects of the Heart Trial Punishment had only been suppressed, they could not help but feel apprehensive about the possibility of being controlled once more. That was why none of them dared to approach Li Yiming in their current state.
“What about Big Beard?” Qing Linglong asked after a long moment of silence.
“He's searching for Stargaze. Rumor has it that she helped Li Yiming snap out of it back in Lianyun City…”
“We can't find her. If she doesn't want to be found, then there's no way…” Eyeglasses shook his head in resignation.
“Not even the people in the Star Alliance?”
Eyeglasses shook his head again as he slid his finger on the pendant hanging by his neck, which had been a gift of Li Yiming’s.
“Then we'll join the Star Alliance first! If Stargaze has taken the time to create such an organization, then she's bound to show up sometime in the future,” Qing Linglong proposed.
* * *
‘So all of the limitations are gone… What exactly are you up to, Mr. Kong?” Li Yiming sank into his own thoughts as Fang Shui’er left the shop.
“I haven't found a way to break the soul-binding spell, but I’ll do my best. Until then, I promise you that I won’t interfere with your life.”
Fang Shui’er was unsure whether she could trust Li Yiming’s promise. While it was true that he had never forced her to do anything against her will, and she even benefited from being linked to him, having her life depend on someone else entirely was a discomfiting feeling.
As Fang Shui’er got back into her black van and left the neighborhood, another more conspicuous car, arrived at the scene. It was a yellow hummer with its front and back reinforced by metallic bars. Twelve lamps were set up on the roof of the vehicle, and the bright light they emitted caught the attention of every person the moment the car showed up.
The thugs immediately rushed to welcome whoever was in the vehicle, and the leader of the gang opened the car door with a sycophantic smile, waiting for instructions from his boss.
Instead of receiving instructions, he received a powerful slap in the face.
“What the hell are you doing? I told you to stop the clients from going in, and you're buying flower baskets?” An obese man came out of the car while shouting angrily.
“Mr. Ma...” The leader struggled to answer as his head was still spinning from the force of the blow. He looked at the thug with purple hair venomously as the latter was one of Mr. Ma’s lieutenants.
“Get out of here!” Mr. Ma slapped the leader once more and turned his attention towards the neatly arranged flower baskets in front of the shop.
“Not bad, maybe you have a talent for this? I didn't see you work this hard when I opened my bar!” Mr. Ma was about to deliver another slap, but the leader jumped out of the way just in time.
“What are you doing? Are you waiting for money? Go throw these baskets away!” Mr. Ma shouted angrily at his minions, who scrambled to put away the flower baskets they had taken so much care putting down just a moment ago.
“You, come over! We’ll go see who's the little punk who dares to stand up to me.” Mr. Ma gestured toward the thug with the purple hair. The latter followed while laughing at the misfortune of the thug with glasses.
As Mr. Ma made his way into the tea shop, his countenance instantly shifted. He had risen to prominence after a clever scheme in which he submitted himself to the police for a petty crime to escape being arrested as his organization was dismantled.
Mr. Ma gained quite a reputation even while in prison for his intelligence and his determination in executing his plan. He quickly obtained enough money to pay for bail and was subsequently recruited by another organization, rising to an even higher position than in his previous one.
The only thing which had changed drastically about him is that after coming out of prison, he became much more prudent. Now, his cautiousness proved to be life-saving, as he immediately frowned the moment he saw the familiar-looking young man sitting in front of him.
Minding his own business and ignoring the two people who entered his shop, Li Yiming continued to fiddle with his bracelet.
“Hello brother.” Mr. Ma greeted with an intimidating voice. He knew right away that he was not dealing with just any ordinary young man, and that Li Yiming was potentially the head of an organization much more powerful than the one he belonged to.
Regardless, he needed to tread carefully, as he had a strange feeling that he had seen Li Yiming somewhere before, which most likely meant that the latter also had a criminal background.