7 Elevator at the 27th Floor
Nine hours later, we arrived at the district line.
While the Eastern and Western Districts are located to the east and west, respectively, the distribution isn’t entirely precise. Next to the Western Marketplace is a border forest. Beyond that is the district line that separates the Western and Eastern Districts. Then there’s another stretch of forest that belongs to the Eastern District. Finally, after passing through the forest, you’ll reach the Eastern Residence.
The Southern District is located past the Eastern Marketplace. Since I’ve never been to the Southern District, and since Mr Blond always teleported me to him in the Northern District, I don’t know how those districts are arranged.
There was less than an hour before the darkness of night arrived. After passing through the border forest, we soon came across the long, white district line that divided the Western and Eastern Districts. The line had already started to glow faintly. The moment that night starts, the district line will glow brightly, forming a protective barrier that people cannot pass through.
I looked towards the Eastern Forest. It was still daytime, so our vision wasn’t impaired, but because the forest near the district line was very thick, I couldn’t really see much.
I turned my head to look at Nie Zun, and the two of us made our way to other side of the district line. With light steps, we stepped across and into the Eastern Forest.
I bent over and reached inside my boot to touch my split symbol. I still had 47 MF remaining. After I straightened up, I grabbed my bow and arranged my arrows on my back. My bow wasn’t very large, and it was very light. The arrows were also thin and slender, so my bag could hold more than a hundred of them. I held the bow with my left hand and swept away the hair from my face with my right.
Nie Zun stood with his hands in his pockets, unconcerned as usual. I’d rarely seen him engage in hand to hand combat, and of course, I don’t know what kinds of weapons he might use. I didn’t much care for his life, and in fact, I sometimes found myself looking forward to his death.
I turned and looked at him coldly. Feeling my gaze on him, Nie Zun smiled. He looked at me with a pair of bright eyes, before motioning for me to look ahead. We’d already passed through the forest.
The Eastern Residence and the streets in front of it entered my line of sight. There were a lot of people on the street, but they weren’t as I’d imagined. I’d thought that strange monsters would roam about the Eastern District, and although there were many fantastic creatures, a lot of people also just looked human. The people here didn’t look much different from the ones residing in the Western District. But after they saw Nie Zun and me walk out from the forest, they cast unfriendly eyes our way.
The two of us didn’t look around much longer, lest we attract even more attention to the fact that we were outsiders. We passed through street after street, and we soon blended into the crowd and arrived at the residential building. Since we didn’t look like newcomers with with no experience in the world, others didn’t pay much attention to us. Additionally, I wasn’t wearing my blood-red dress, and everyone’s image of the Western Commander was simply a figure dressed in red—nothing more.
The residence had an entrance every few meters, but I knew nothing of the Eastern District. Fortunately, You Ji had mentioned that Jiao S should be living in the first room on the 30th floor. I exchanged a glance with Nie Zun, and then we walked into the building.
The number of people inside was uncountable, so a few more unfamiliar faces wasn’t an unusual sight. As we weren’t glowing like a new arrival, no one cared about us. But as Nie Zun and I walked through the halls, there were some people who looked at us strangely. I didn’t quite understand why, but in any case, Nie Zun and I successfully made it into an elevator.
Two others got onto the elevator with us. One was a large and tall man, wearing a gray tank top and gray sports pants. His strong and muscular build made him look quite formidable. The other was bandaged up and had the appearance of a mummy, but he didn’t look gross. Instead, he was kind of handsome. His face was bandaged, revealing only a pair of piercing, bright eyes. The only thing that made him look relatively strange was that green glow in his eyes. The bandages on his face also appeared to be stained with dried blood. All together, there were four of us in the elevator. After the door closed, the elevator started to move slowly.
The elevator itself was as ordinary as could be. As the elevator traveled upwards, a few people got on and off, but otherwise it was just the four of us, so it wasn’t very crowded. After we passed the 20th floor, the elevator seemed to stop less frequently. When we reached the 24th floor, the people who got on at the 20th floor left. The last one to get off turned back and looked at me pensively.
I found it a bit curious, so I turned to the two guys who had gotten on the elevator with us on the first floor. I hadn’t been concerned at first, but after I looked them over, I started to feel uneasy. Because at some point, the two of them had started looking at me. When I looked them in the eyes, they both continued to stare me down, without batting an eyelash. I didn’t know what to do, and then the elevator suddenly stopped, with a crunch.
What was going on? This didn’t seem to be an ordinary stop. I frowned as I checked the display: 27th floor. The elevator had suddenly stopped, but the doors hadn’t opened. I knew something wasn’t right, so I quietly grabbed my bow.
The muscular man standing closest to the elevator buttons suddenly said, “You guys aren’t from here.”
My hand tightened on my bow, and I responded calmly, “How could you tell?”
The muscular man chuckled. His face twisted a bit and it looked both like he was and wasn’t laughing at the same time. “Because everyone in the Eastern District knows that floors 27 to 29 are reserved for S Clan officials ranked C and higher. Ordinarily, elevators will stop at the 27th floor, but even at the 26th floor, the two of you didn’t look like you planned on getting off. You’re not wearing anything that indicates that you’re an S Clan official, which means that you must be from a different district with no understanding of our rules.”
“Since you two also haven’t gotten off yet, that must mean that you live on the 27th floor or higher. So, why don’t you guys have any ID that suggests you’re part of S Clan?” I didn’t panic.
The mummy suddenly laughed. “Every member of S Clan wears contact lenses made from a special material. We have an S mark on the left side of our face that only someone wearing the contacts can see.” No wonder people had been looking at Nie Zun and me so strangely. Perhaps those people were part of S Clan? But how did they know that I wasn’t just another ordinary Eastern District resident?
I’d heard of S Clan. They were a group formed by and named for that strange woman, Jiao S. The group was comprised of those who were loyal to her, and perhaps you might call them her fans. They say that S Clan has seven ranks, A through G. The closer to the start of the alphabet, the higher your ranking and abilities. I don’t know all the specifics about the number of people in their clan, just that there are only three people ranked A and seven ranked B.
Eastern’s Jiao S is the most famous woman in all of the Split Zone, and I’d heard about her when I first arrived. I thought back to the first time I saw her. She wore a high school uniform and her hair was shoulder length with bangs. She looked like an obedient and good student, but the strange aura that emanated from her couldn’t be hidden by that woman—Jiao S.
Every time I thought of her, the air around me grew cold. She rarely made appearances and she rarely spoke to anyone. Anywhere she went, there was always a group of people protecting her. It’s said that those people swore loyalty to her. Even before I arrived in the Split Zone, her power was already unquestionable. It was also rumored by some that the last Western Commander died by Jiao S’ hands.
A lot of people follow her blindly, but no one really knows why. And she always wore that high school uniform, fashioned rather like Japanese school uniforms. Her face was always white as snow, and her eyes looked empty and lifeless. Some say that she simply kept the appearance she had when she died. As for what sent her to the Split Zone, no one seemed to know about it. All I know is that the first time I saw her and accidentally exchanged glances with her, those emotionless, lifeless, stagnant eyes sent a cold chill all across my body.
I didn’t have too much time to think because the mummy suddenly pulled off a piece of his bandaging, and turned to attack. I didn’t move because Nie Zun had already extended his left hand from his pocket and stopped the attack.
Nie Zun wore a black glove on his hand. Well, he wore black gloves on both of his hands. He’d always been like that, never exposing any skin, always wrapped up from head to toe, like a dark zongzi (t/n: also called a rice dumpling). I’d always thought it was because he was scared of dying, so he wrapped himself up so as to not expose his split symbol.
I’m the only one who knew about his split symbol, since I saw it when we first met. Mr Blond had made him expose the crescent moon on his neck to explain split symbols to me.
Even as Nie Zun’s left hand stopped right in front of my face, his lips carried an unfazed smile. “If she dies, things will be hard on me. So, good sirs, if you must attack, please attack me first.” His alluring voice sounded clearly in the elevator.
The muscular man extended a hand to stop the mummy. He gave a nod to Nie Zun. “Apologies. It’s not that we must use violence against you. It’s just that even members of my family who are not a part of S Clan cannot travel past the 26th floor. And well, the two of you are uninvited guests whose purpose we do not know.” After the muscular man stopped him, the mummy also retracted his bandages.
The muscular man nodded to me. “Pretty miss, the two of you should head back. If you’d like to stay for a visit, we welcome you, but you cannot travel past this point.”
“I’m here to see the Eastern Commander.” Without loosening my grip on my bow, I looked at the muscular man.
Glancing at the bow in my left hand, he finally nodded. “It’s a rare occasion for the Western Commander Li Shen to pay a visit to the Eastern District. It’s obvious that you’re here to see our commander, but without her agreement, I still cannot allow you to travel any further. Apologies, Ms Li Shen.”
It wasn’t strange that he could identify me. After all, not everyone is as oblivious to the world around them as I am. As a member of S Clan, with at least a rank of C, he’d likely already learned about my appearance and choice of weaponry. Suddenly, I couldn’t help being annoyed at myself for recklessly running here without first learning more about the Eastern District’s rules and customs.
I looked at the elevator door. The muscular man held a hand against the gap in the doors. This was the 27th floor, a place where only officers ranked C or higher could go. It was clear that the muscular man’s intent was that, unless Nie Zun and I returned to a lower floor, we wouldn’t be able to leave this elevator at all. What? Were the corridors of these floors filled with unspeakable secrets?