25 Inner Demons
By the time we reached the shop, Ku Fei appeared to have recovered. His robust forearms were exposed as he wiped the counter with a cloth. He was visibly surprised by the return of our group, but still, he flashed his teeth in a smile at us. “You’re already missing my tea?”
I curled my lips. “We hadn’t even gotten the chance to try your tea.”
In an awkward move, he rubbed his head. “Haha. Then I’ll bring some now.”
Jiao S stiffly raised her arm and waved her hand. “We didn’t come for tea. We just met your (paternal) grandmother, and she passed away a moment ago. She asked us to help you. Are you still going to keep the truth from us?”
I exchanged a look with Jiao S. How could she reveal everything so quickly? I was afraid that Ku Fei would have a hard time taking it all in. But Jiao S paid me no heed.
More surprising though, was Ku Fei’s confused expression. He looked at us blankly and replied, “What are you saying? My grandmother? I don’t have a grandmother.”
“Your grandmother, from the real world. She followed you to the Split Zone without letting you know. After you became a vegetable, she nearly went mad.” I frowned. How could he have forgotten his own grandmother?
Ku Fei’s expression grew more confused. “The real world? When I was alive? I didn’t have a grandmother then either. I was an orphan.”
I watched Ku Fei carefully, but I didn’t see anything that suggested he’d lied. It seemed true that he didn’t have a grandmother.
Then… Who had we just met with?
My whole body shivered.
I turned to Nie Zun. He gave his indifferent smile. Stepping forward, he said, “That’s fine then. But can you tell us why, when Mi Fu arrived, she immediately set out to cause you trouble? If you’re having any difficulties, we hope to be able to help.”
At the mention of Mi Fu, Ku Fei’s expression stiffened. He rubbed his head, and then spoke with a bit of embarrassment. “It’s nothing, really. I’m afraid it will sully her reputation if I speak of it. She means no ill-will. She’s just trying to get my attention, though her means are a bit excessive. You needn’t worry about me.” He gave another bright smile. “Thenk you. It’s been a long time since anyone has shown me such concern. Even more so, because you are outsiders.”
I grumbled inwardly. Her means were a bit excessive? She’d been ruthless, but you say it was just a bit excessive? She’s clearly a madwoman.
“In your district, what kind of person is Mi Fu?” Song Lu asked warmly, speaking up when I didn’t.
When the sexy Song Lu started to speak to him, Ku Fei’s face reddened. “Lady Mi Fu is the goddess of the South. As for how, I’m not very sure myself. Lord Si Luo regards her importantly, so naturally, we all give our allegiance to her as well. Lord Huan Qing is always with her as a protector.”
Jiao S’ brows knit together. “Si Luo thinks highly of her?”
Ku Fei nodded.
“Where can we find Si Luo?” Jiao S asked sternly.
I hadn’t anticipated for her to ask that so suddenly. I shivered. I really couldn’t stand this devil woman.
Ku Fei shook his head. “I don’t know either. No one knows where Lord Si Luo lives. He often comes and goes without a trace.”
Ha. See, there’s a district commander less qualified than me. You can’t even find his shadow in his own distict.
As if seeing through my thoughts, Ni Zun glanced over at me. With a light laugh, he said, “He and you are different. While he may remain mysterious, he governs his district well.”
I shot him a fierce glare. Basically, you’re saying that I don’t govern the Western District well? Hmph.
“Might I ask why you’ve come to visit the Southern District?” Ku Fei asked with curiosity.
“We are…” I started to speak when Jiao S suddenly glared at me.
I quickly shut my mouth.
Jiao S spoke slowly, “We’re here in search of two kids. They went missing from our district, into yours. Have there been any strange occurences in your district recently?”
“Right, right, two kids,” I hurried to say. “One is a 15 or 16 year old girl with blond hair. Her face is like a doll’s, with large, pretty eyes. The other is…” I suddenly realized that I didn’t know what the other kid looked like, so I turned to Jiao S.
Jiao S continued, “The other is also a girl, about 14 years old. She was dressed in a princess gown. She has a mole by her lip and dark hair.”
Ku Fei thought for a moment. “I haven’t seen a girl with a mole, but I have seen a golden-haired, doll-faced girl. I’m not sure if she’s the one you’re looking for.”
I quickly asked, “Where did you see her?”
Ku Fei scratched his head. “Lady Mi Fu’s new toy…”
My expression immediately hardened at his words. “What?”
Ku Fei looked to be in a difficult spot. “Promise that you won’t harm her. She’s really a good person. She’s just a bit headstrong…”
I scoffed, my appearance flipping 180 from the warm and welcoming demeanor I had at the start. I stared at Ku Fei and said coldly, “Tell me. What do you mean ‘Mi Fu’s toy’?”
Ku Fei sighed. He explained, “Mi Fu likes kids. She will often find a pretty and cute girl to become her playmate. She dresses the girl in new clothes and makeup. You’d call that a toy, right? But! But, she treats the girls very well!”
Treats them well? Laurel was still young, and she suddenly became someone’s plaything? Are you kidding me? His explanation caused anger to burst within me.
Song Lu was also visibly upset, but she was better at putting on a calm facade. She reached out and pat Ku Fei’s shoulder. “Kid, you do seem like a nice person. But that girl is still young, and she’d be upset at being separated from us, so we came here to find her. We only attacked earlier because Mi Fu had hurt you. We promise that, as long as we find the girl, we won’t bother your Lady Mi Fu. So, tell me, where is Lady Mi Fu?”
I shook my head at Song Lu’s patience and guidance. Ugh. I would never want to be a calm, water-like woman like that. Although, being stuck in this damned Split Zone place, it’d be difficult to even be a woman.
Ku Fei awkwardly scratched his head. “I’d like to help you out, since you don’t seem like bad people. But I really can’t help you. Lady Mi Fu lives at the top of the Southern Residence. But even if you know that, it will be of no use to you. The top floor of the residence has 99 barrier masters guarding it all day long. You won’t be able to get inside.”
So the barrier masters, who would ordinarily be in the border forests were hanging out at the residence to protect a girl. What kind of power did this girl have?
Nie Zun suddenly asked, “Where do you live? If we ever need some help, can we go find you?”
Ku Fei laughed. “I live on the first floor. Room 133113. Come any time you’d like.”
Nie Zun nodded. “Then we’ll head to the academy and sign in to the dorm. Let us meet again.” He signaled for us to go. All of us looked at each other a moment. Then we bid farewell to Ku Fei and then followed Nie Zun out of the shop.
“Why are we just leaving?” I asked, puzzled.
Nie Zun ignored me, but Jiao S spoke up. “Since we can’t go to the top floor of the residence to find her, we’ll just have to wait until she leaves. Nie Zun asked about where the young man lives, presumably because the girl will go to find him. Now, we wait.”
Was that so.
Wait. That young man? Ha… Jiao S, how old are you to call Ku Fei in that way?
All around us were the suspicious eyes of the weak Southern residents. We decided to leave the marketplace from the first exit we came across. Once outside, we headed to the academy.
Jie Pa proposed, “We’ll go to the academy to apply for temporary housing now. Tomorrow, we’ll figure out how to approach Ku Fei’s room.” The rest of us nodded in agreement.
Jiao S suddenly halted and stretched her neck with a loud cracking. Every time she turned her neck, I thought it was going to snap apart.
“You guys go first. Remember to reserve two rooms for me and Guan Nie. I want to take a look around.” When Jiao S finished speaking, she disappeared without a trace.
Guan Nie covered his mouth with disdain. “One room. As if I would tag along with her.”
I couldn’t help rolling my eyes. “How will we let her know which room she’s staying in? Does she have a phone?”
Guan Nie spoke without much care. “She never uses things like that. Don’t worry, she’ll find us.”
I couldn’t be bothered to speak to this feminine man. I grabbed Song Lu’s arm and walked ahead, leaving the group of boys behind. After walking about ten meters, Song Lu suddenly spoke to me very respectfully, “Ah Shen, do you know what I saw in my illusion in the border forest?”
“What?” I asked curiously.
A sadness passed over Song Lu’s eyes. “The penalty I received for using my splitting key was watching Yu Liang die in all kinds of ways, right before my eyes. One second, he was being stabbed by a knife. The next second, he was drowning. That’s why I was unable to use the key. And then, in my illusion, I saw those bastards who defiled me while I was alive. I saw them killing Yu Liang…”
She was unable to continue, and her eyes were moist with tears.
I turned around to make sure the boys behind us hadn’t heard, and I saw Yu Liang walking with his head hanging low.
I turned back to Song Lu and tugged her arm gently. “Don’t worry. Nothing will happen. Didn’t Jiao S say that using your splitting symbol would give you the punishment that you were most afraid of? And Huan Qing’s illusions dig out the things buried at the bottom of your heart. All this means is that you really care for Yu Liang, that you’re afraid he’ll be hurt. It doesn’t mean anything else. Don’t worry.”
“But…” Her eyes were filled with worry. “I’m still afraid. The scene felt so real. Do you think maybe—”
I quickly raised my hand and stuffed a piece of food into her mouth. “Don’t say baseless things. Nothing will happen. Trust me. I’ll definitely find a way for us to go back. When you and Yu Liang return to the real world and find each other, you’ll definitely be happy. Don’t think about that kind of nonsense.”
Song Lu lowered her eyes and said quietly, “Well, even if we never go back, it’s okay. As long as he and I can stay together forever…”
My mind drifted off as she spoke.
Forever…? Right… In the real world, forever was a rather laughable word. How long could forever be? But, here…
For some reason, I couldn’t help turning back to look at Nie Zun. He seemed to be looking in my direction as well. Even though we were far apart, I could see the sparkle in his eyes. If this devilish man and I could never go back, with our linked fates, would we be able to stay together forever?
What was I thinking about?
I shook my head. Turning back around, I held Song Lu’s hand and gave her fingers a comforting rub as we continued ahead.