59 War at Sea
In the midst of dodging, Guan Nie leapt, his white hair flowing behind him. With a glance, he overflowed with grace. “I hate fighting and the like; they are not beautiful at all! You’re very beautiful yet you chose to do such unbeautiful things, so don’t blame my beautiful self for being discourteous!”
His words went right over my head; forget about that tongue-twister, did he really have to refer to himself as ‘my beautiful self’?!
Guan Nie squinted his almond eyes and shouted, “Sleep!”
What?? What is he playing at? Sleep… What sleep?! Sleep where, with who?
To hear such a ridiculous cry coming from him in the middle of this constant evasion, at such a time of confusion, it was a moment before I suddenly realized our surroundings had changed drastically. In an instant, the boundary forest disappeared and was instead replaced by the vast ocean. Countless rocks lined upon the sea and each of us stood upon a different piece.
I haven’t seen the ocean in such a long time, it was with uncontrollable awe that I stayed stupefied by the sight. Could it be… that this is an illusion? If it truly is an illusion, I suddenly wished to never wake up.
A wave crashed against the rock underneath my feet.
The giant shields were gone. Just as the rest of us, Li Wen was standing atop a rock not far away from me, the slender sword in her hand had vanished. I looked around me: except for the absence of Guan Nie, everyone else was in the same position, each standing on a different rock. Above us the sky was still grey but the water beneath us was a sea of dark blue.
Li Wen stopped smiling, her eyes taking in the new surroundings with a cursory glance. “An illusion?”
It seemed Jiao S didn’t intend to dwell on that possibility nor had she planned to give Li Wen a breather. She narrowed her eyes and waves after waves of airstream surged from the surface of the sea.
Caught between the drastic tumbling of airflow, I wobbled on my spot. From a distance away, I could see Jie Pa balancing unsteadily as well and grew worried. If it was true that you could get hurt even in an illusion, then in Jie Pa’s vulnerable state––with the body of a regular person from the real world––there was no way he could fight this battle at sea!
Before I was done fretting, Nie Zun had already begun jumping his way towards Jie Pa along the lined rocks. He grabbed onto Jie Pa with an outstretched arm and the latter immediately flashed a grateful smile. With Nie Zun by Jie Pa’s side, there was not much left to be anxious over.
Securing my Piercer back into the waistband of my dress, I took aim at Li Wen with my bow. Jiao S’ airstream had raised giant tides which were now charging towards Li Wen. Billows of water vapor hissed in the air––there was simply no way I could take aim!
Li Wen curled her lips. “Combining the power of illusion with your air manipulation? He lives up to his reputation indeed; I have long heard rumors that the skill of Eastern District’s Guan Nie is on an equal footing with Southern District’s top illusionist!”
Right after her high praises, she pulled both hands from her dress and made an intersection with her arms, into the shape of a cross. “Fall!” With her soft command, the sky began raining innumerable cruciform swords. Although they appeared smaller than the shields, all four points of the sword were extremely sharp.
With nowhere to hide from the attack, I held up the Piercer and braced myself in deflecting any falling swords. At the speed they were dropping, however, it seemed this would be a difficult task to follow through.
Jiao S yelled out suddenly, “Freeze!”
Bang, bang, bang!
At the sound of her shout, layers of water vapor solidified rapidly over our heads. Still, it was apparent that the intensity of the cruciform swords’ fall was powerful as layer after layer of frozen vapor shattered upon impact.
A violent storm was whirling in Jiao S’ eyes. As her black hair whipped behind her, it was obvious that she was exhausting a extensive amount of MF just to protect us.
The frozen layers of vapor above Nie Zun were splintering as well. He retained an arm around Jie Pa as his lips pulled into a smirk, slowly bringing his free gloved hand to his slightly pale lips then pressed them around the tip of fabric around his middle finger. Before he was done with his delicate movement, the surface of the water around us suddenly swelled into huge waves.
Countless waves lashed themselves towards the sky, smashing the remaining barriers into smithereens along with the cruciform swords. Relentlessly, the waves rushed and in a blink of an eye the swords were all thrusted out of sight.
Li Wen bit her lips lightly at the scene before her, face tinted with restrained anger. “Guan Nie, it seems that I won’t be able win this battle without escaping your illusion first.”
She shut her eyes abruptly, then exclaimed again, “Shatter!”
The myriad of cruciform swords appeared once again from all directions but instead of attacking us, they formed a ring and tore away at full speed towards the far corners of our surrounding.
“Let’s see how expansive an illusion you’re capable of constructing––I refuse to believe I won’t be able to destroy it!” Right as she finished speaking, the swords seemed to collide with the edge, emitting a continuous cacophony of banging.
All of a sudden, a devilish laughter rang out from the skies. “Actually, the rumor isn’t all that accurate; saying I’m on equal footing with the number one illusionist in Southern District isn’t all that true but—Ah, but what about it? Heh… Why don’t you witness it for yourself?”
In the distance, the tumbling sound of endless tsunamis seemed to roll in from the edge of the shattered illusion. I couldn’t see them clearly, and neither did I understand what was happening. In the midst of the air turbulence and waves, I was only focused on staying steady on this rock. On the other hand, Nie Zun’s gaze seemed hold a gleam of strange anticipation. He stopped clamping the glove between his lips and had instead grabbed the unstable Jie Pa with both hands.
Li Wen’s expression shifted upon hearing the distant roaring. “Are you able to manipulate elements of nature now? Without bounds? That’s not possible, my cruciform swords collided with the edge of your illusion earlier!
“But… ehehe… Even if I’m not powerful enough to attack an illusionist, aren’t you underestimating me a little too much, Guan Nie?” Li Wen murmured under her breath, raising both arms up high at the same time. The action heralded the arrival of an endless number of giant cruciform swords from the bottom of the sea.
Their emergence caused the surface to shake once more and I swayed along with the momentum. Just like before, we weren’t the target of those giant swords. Instead, they soared upwards towards the grey sky. In the midst of my swaying, I could see Nie Zun lifting a hand, still wearing his black glove. He was gazing intently at one of the swords not far behind me, shooting towards the sky like all the others. He reached a hand towards the sword with an open palm and suddenly curled his fingers into a tight grip.
I looked back in haste––the sword had changed direction with Nie Zun’s gesture and rushed towards him instead. Witnessing the scene, shock swept across Li Wen’s eyes. Attracted to Nie Zun’s unknown magnetism, the giant sword whistled as it whizzed past me.
Right before it reached Nie Zun, he jerked his hands in another direction and an even more inconceivable thing happened. It was as though his hand could stretch limitlessly to wield that giant sword as the weapon began altering its direction on his whim. This time it flew in a spiral, like the darts in movies and it rushed towards Li Wen.
“Such a minor trick!” Li Wen scoffed. Lifting her right hand, the slender sword appeared again. She drew a cross in front of her chest vigorously and her shield materialized once more. The cruciform sword charged decisively towards it.
My mind was filled with trivially irrelevant thoughts: Was this a contest between the strongest sword and the strongest shield? Which would win?
However, reality soon hit when the sword collided against the shield––it swiftly rebounded back at Nie Zun. Still, he looked as composed as ever; from the corner of my eyes, I caught a glint of wicked slyness flashing across his. With an effortless flick of his wrist he deflected the sword just as it was about to graze him.
It was then that I suddenly realized Jiao S had snuck up behind Li Wen without my knowledge.
She raised the sword high above her head and in that instant, it grew tenfold in size and into the image of a large sword. Jiao S hacked towards the back of Li Wen’s head with immense strength, seemingly without hesitation. By the time Li Wen tore her eyes from Nie Zun and reacted to Jiao S’ attack, the sword was already by the top of her head.
My face twitched. What was deal about bringing a gun loaded with those mental inhibitor bullets when we first arrived, then? These people… Once they have activated their split symbol, they gained the ability to manipulate the elements of nature. What use would a gun be towards them?
Just as Jiao S’ sword was about to strike Li Wen’s forehead, something hit me.
Li Wen’s a soul splitter––does that mean she possesses the same powers as us? Could she activate her split symbol? Did she have a splitting key? I didn’t see one when she revealed her symbol to us… Did that mean her powers were not activated? If that’s the case… then it means all her current strength was in spite of an unsplit symbol.
I shuddered, but there was no need to ponder any further––Jiao S’ sword had relentlessly split Li Wen into half.
Puuu! Fresh blood splattered.
Jiao S did not hold back nor did she hesitate. From head to toe, she sliced Li Wen into clean halves and the once beautiful Li Wen was not even remotely as charming anymore. Her eyes were now in separate bodies while fresh blood spouted from each side. The seemingly endless sprays of blood stained the rocks and ocean, before the droplets were soon swallowed by the sea, gone without a trace.
That was a truly gruesome style of fighting, Jiao S… I felt sickened just thinking about it. That’s definitely not the style for me.
Of course, Li Wen would definitely heal. Which was why, when both parts of her body collapsed against the rock, Jiao S called out, “Jie Pa!”
Jie Pa stood not too far away alongside Nie Zun, and he seemed to understand Jiao S’ intention. He lifted both hands calmly and faced the slowly healing body of Li Wen with a gesture that signified stop. He whispered a soft, “Seal!”
Just like that, the two halves of Li Wen’s body stopped moving mid-way through healing. My vision was suddenly overwhelmed by the gruesome sight of her body. Her lower body had completely healed and was covered in fresh blood, but anything above her waist had stopped its recovery and remained a huge crack. Li Wen’s face was likewise split into two. With her torso teetering on her lower body, it made her exceptionally horrifying to look at.
Yet Li Wen’s lips, which had not managed to reconnect, were still able to move. Her eyes seemed to move with them.
“You… You really are belittling me.”
I couldn’t tell if the tugging at her lips was a smile; with her split into halves, there was simply no way of telling if she was smiling or crying.