Chapter 55 - Artificial Guardians
Lin Lu looked at the rather cluttered street corners around the tea shop and let out a long sigh. In only a few weeks, the entire neighborhood underwent a drastic transformation. Lin Lu had not seen Li Yiming ever since the sauna center incident, as her superiors forbid her to, but she did still keep an eye on him. She knew that Pure Water Herb Hall was no longer just a tea house, but a name for a corporation going through a meteoric rise.
“I hope I didn't make a mistake in trusting you…” Lin Lu took a deep breath and walked towards the entrance of the tea shop. Her curiosity grew at the sight of a large makeshift building with the sign “Headquarters Development in Progress”. The location chosen for the building was particularly strange, as it seemed to block the way to the tea shop.
Just as Lin Lu stepped into the tea shop, a closed-door of the soon-to-be headquarters was suddenly flung open. Li Yiming walked out, looking tired with his disheveled hair and unshaven beard.
Despite his best efforts, Li Yiming had achieved very little progress. During his time spent studying, he had been able to memorize the orientation, the size, and even the depths of each footprint perfectly, and yet he still could not figure out a single thing about Aunt Wu’s technique. ‘I even remember the way she walked and her facial expression. Was she just playing with me?’
Li Yiming sighed and locked the door behind him.
“Hey! Kid! What are you doing here?” An angry voice was heard from behind.
Li Yiming turned around, only to find an overweight middle-aged man.
“Which department are you from? Haven't I told you that you shouldn't get near here?” The man said as he glanced back at the tea shop.
“A foreman?” Only now did Li Yiming realize that the buildings around the tea shop had been made completely new.
“Which team are you from? Why are you standing there? Come here!” The man yelled out. It seemed like he wanted to avoid the area where Li Yiming was standing at all costs.
Li Yiming look at the ground and found a line traced in yellow paint. Right beside it was written “Forbidden Area” in red. It finally dawned on Li Yiming that the perimeter had most likely been set up by Fang Shui’er for his purpose, only the middle-aged man had mistaken him for a construction worker.
‘Who is this guy?’ Upon extending his senses, Li Yiming concluded that the man in front of him was simply an ordinary person.
“Trying to act tough, eh?” The man raised his fist to strike Li Yiming as soon as he approached.
“And you are?” Li Yiming wanted to laugh and kept his distance.
“Captain Wang. I'm responsible for the third term of the project.” The man rolled his eyes and craned his neck proudly, deciding to keep his temper in check rather than get angry at a young worker.
“Alright, are you here for the summer?” The man examined Li Yiming from head to toe. Upon seeing his pale skin and tired expression, he concluded that the latter was a college student working for the summer that had most likely not received the proper instructions.
“I…” Li Yiming forced a smile. The foreman looked intimidating but Li Yiming did not feel any ill intentions from him.
“Whatever. Just go buy a pack of cigarettes for me, okay? You can keep the change. Keep in mind that you can’t go into the areas past the yellow lines, alright? Especially the tea house. I wouldn’t even dare go in there. If we mess up, business is going to be over for all of us.” The man sighed as he handed a one hundred yuan bill over.
“Thank you. I am quite tired.” Li Yiming nodded. He could feel the foreman’s kindness despite the attitude.
“Hey! What are you…” The man was baffled at seeing Li Yiming walk toward the entrance of the tea shop in spite of his warning.
“Boss?” Just as the middle-aged man was about to burst out in anger, someone came out of the tea house and greeted Li Yiming.
“Ahh! Mr. Chen! You can call me Wang!” The man's expression instantly shifted from anger to a radiant smile as he went up to meet Chen Jiawang, who had the reputation of being Fang Shui’er’s right-hand man.
“Who are you?” Chen Jiawang was confused.
“I…” The middle-aged man’s smile froze when he realized that Chen Jiawang’s welcoming gesture was directed toward Li Yiming.
“I’m responsible for the third term, my name is Wang Dan… May I know who he…?”
“My boss.” Chen Jiawang said as he helped Li Yiming into the tea shop.
“Your boss?” Wang Dan glanced at the “Pure Water Herb Hall” panel right above the entrance to the tea shop.
“Thank you for earlier. Do you want to come in for a cup of tea? I just don't know if we have any cigarettes.” Li Yiming turned toward Wang Dan before stepping into the shop, finding the latter to be quite amusing.
“Ah… Haha, I’m alright. I don’t smoke…” Wang Dan immediately declined the invitation.
“Come visit us when you have the chance.” Li Yiming turned around.
Bai Ze was playing on her cell phone as always when Li Yiming entered the shop. She had been keenly aware of what Li Yiming had been doing due to their sharing the same spirit, so she did not even look up to greet him. Lin Lu, however, stood up in surprise from the sofa.
“Are you planning on doing all of this construction yourself?” Lin Lu was surprised by Li Yiming’s appearance.
“Let me wash my face first.” Li Yiming shook his head and walked toward the second floor. After ten minutes of waiting, he came back down, looking neat and tidy, only he was still wearing the same dirty shirt.
“I’m sorry, I’ve been a bit busy recently… The Shadowless Stone…” Li Yiming started with an apology. He was feeling guilty for being unable to hold his promise, especially when Lin Lu’s fiance’s life was at risk.
“About that… we managed to find a cure.” Lin Lu said.
“Someone came to the military and took over A309, he was able to save him.”
“Pan Junwei?” Li Yiming uttered the name of the only person he could think of that could have accomplished such a feat.
“Yes.” Lin Lu nodded. It was a difficult subject to broach for her, as she had promised him that the vampiric virus would stay untouched.
“Well…” Lin Lu looked at Li Yiming’s emotionless face and did not find the courage to ask for his help again.
“So why are you here today?”
“I’d like to keep this short since I’m tired, so if you could, please get to the point.” Li Yiming said as he sipped his tea. Even for him, not taking a rest for such an extended period of time was taking a toll on his body.
“Alright. I'll be honest with you, we need your help. Pan Junwei is at his limits,” Lin Lu revealed, knowing that she could not hide anything from Li Yiming.
“At his limits? What do you mean?”
“There are more and more monsters... We don't have enough people…” Lin Lu was suddenly interrupted by her cell phone's ringing.
“We’ve sacrificed a lot of people…” Lin Lu hung up after looking at her cell phone screen.
“What?” Li Yiming frowned. He was unsure if Lin Lu was talking about guardians or ordinary soldiers.
“Yes. Despite being enhanced with the virus, it's not enough…” Lin Lu said with a severe countenance, but her cell phone’s ringing interrupted her again.
“What do you want?” Lin Lu picked up her phone with impatience.
“Go deal with it yourself! Can’t you see I'm in the middle of something important? Stop wasting my time!” Lin Lu yelled into her phone angrily and turned it off.
“I'm sorry, it's some petty matter about a police captain being bribed to investigate some case about the theft of a piece of jade.”
“So… that enhancement you were talking about…”
“We’ve found a way to make the soldiers stronger using the vampiric virus, but it’s still not enough to handle the monsters…” Lin Lu revealed the truth to Li Yiming, though she was nervous at how Li Yiming would react upon learning that they had advanced with human experimentations.
“You’ve succeeded in creating guardians?”