72 A Hand in the Dark
Tao Lie nodded. “Ms Li Shen, please be rest assured that we’ll protect Mr Jie Pa to the best of our abilities. We swear it on our reputation as Rank A officials of the S Clan.”
I nodded fervently, then swept my gaze towards Nie Zun. He was looking back at me with his usual indifferent and calm gaze but I understood the meaning behind them.
I turned towards Ta Lai once more. “Alright, since you’re adamant about bringing me with you then I might as well follow along. I’d like to know if I’m truly the Western District Commander too!”
I was firm with my declaration.
There was a trace of appreciation in Ta Lai’s eyes. “All things considered, there are still aspects to you that I can look forward to. Don’t worry, I don’t want to kill you. Through this journey with me, you’ll definitely achieve something unexpected.”
I shook my head. “I’m not worried about whether you plan on harming or helping me and neither am I curious about where you’re taking me. I just really want to know what I’ve forgotten!”
Ta Lai smiled but didn’t answer.
“But wherever I go, I’ll have to bring him along.” I pointed towards Nie Zun.
It was only then that Ta Lai shifted his attention to Nie Zun. At the moment he looked over, Ta Lai’s eyes glistened.
“You can control with your pupils?” He asked with a tug of a smile.
“Yes.” Nie Zun responded with a faint smile of his own.
“Alright.” The word seemed to be directed at Nie Zun even though he was nodding his head at me. Either way, he appeared to have agreed to the proposal of Nie Zun accompanying me.
I dipped my head in ponder for a moment before taking in a deep breath again, flashing a radiant smile at Tao Lie and Mu Li. “Alright then, you should go. Bring Jie Pa along with you and return to the Eastern District. Inform Jiao S about everything that has happened here but tell her not to worry about me; I’ll definitely visit her again.”
Worried, Mu Li shot a skeptical glances at Ta Lai who remained at his spot opposite us.
Tao Lie nodded. “Don’t worry, Ms Li Shen. We will convey this to our commander without missing a single word.” As though in warning, he looked towards Ta Lai when he spoke. His eyes seemed to be expressing a hidden message, conveying that Jiao S would send someone for me if he dared to harm me in any way.
Ta Lai maintained his elegant and casual smile without responding.
I waved my hand. “Let’s go on our separate ways then. You should hurry up and get through the boundary forest before night fall. Don’t stay here overnight; staying in this wasteland seems pretty frightening too.”
Tao Lie and Mu Li shot one last unease glance at Ta Lai, but nodded their head eventually.
Jie Pa remained unperturbed through it all. Adjusting his glasses, he held out a small black bottle from his bag and passed it to Nie Zun.
Likewise, Nie Zun received it casually, placing it safely in the pocket of his windbreaker.
Jie Pa gave a nod towards Nie Zun who dipped his head in return.
There’s a mutual understanding that I didn’t understand. Nonetheless, I could sense the immeasurable trust between them.
“It’s settled then. Ms Ah Shen, go on and head off with Nie Zun. We’ll be leaving Western District before dark as well.”
Thereafter, the three of them sprinted towards the boundary forest after one last glance towards me.
“Alright, let’s talk about this. Where are you bringing me? Apart from the three established districts, it doesn’t seem like there’s anywhere else to go in the split zone.” I said to Ta Lai.
Ta Lai flashed his usual smile. “That’s not true. There’s a lot of other places within the split zone. Where I’m bring you now is just one of them.”
Lifting his slender finger, he pointed towards the opposite of Eastern-Western boundary forest.
“But this is the end of Western District and in that, the end of the split zone.”
Before the setting of the sun, we followed Ta Lai to the edge of Western District where the Western Residence was.
There were no boundary lines on this side of Western District, for there isn’t a district beyond here. The area was occupied by vast area of boundary forest which was only lined with dense trees on the outer rim. Within the forest, there were more empty voids and was a spot where many would come to practice their MF.
At the end of the forest, there were clouds of black fog that were impossible to cut across.
This… is the end of the split zone.
As we stepped into the core of the boundary forest, Ta Lai took position on a vacant stone ground. All of a sudden, he lifted his hand and grasped at the void.
With his movement, a gust of wind surged from the ground beneath his feet! Nie Zun and I were standing in the midst of it all, and the strong burst of wind whipped my hair and red dress around haphazardly.
Freaking hell, I’m about to expose myself!
Just as I was about to weigh my dress down with a hand, the piece of ground beneath us seemed to come to life!
By the time I reacted to the situation, I was already falling.
The three of us, along with the ground that had just breached open in a square, plunged at full speed as though we were taking an elevator!
“Ahhhhhh!!” I screamed as the grey ray of light slowly disappeared from above our head and all around us was covered in stone walls. With the speed of my fall, the wind that was rushing from below blew my hair in the opposite direction, making it stand atop my head.
During the entire process, the two graceful and calm men watched me as if they were looking at a monster!
Although I could understand that the image must have been horrifying—a screaming woman with her long, red hair standing upright atop her head, pressing down on her equally red dress with both hands in vain. Even so, the feeling of weightlessness was seriously uncomfortable! I could care less about how I must have looked, I just screamed on.
After falling for several metres, the right hand where Ta Lai donned the ring twitched again and the stone ground that carried us floated in mid-air!
Yet, the only thing on all four ends were stone walls, as though we’ve sunk into a well. I still haven’t recovered from the terror but my thoughts had already began to wander.
Why is this scene so familiar?
A deep tunnel? Could it be that the boundary forest here has a tunnel of its own?
Could it be that Ta Lai wants to turn Nie Zun and I into experiment subjects as well and stuff us into a big bucket…
The thought of those hideous leeches made my lips quiver and I shot my glance towards Ta Lai but he didn’t return my gaze. Instead, he lifted a finger on his right hand and pointed to one of the stone wall.
It was when I followed the direction of his finger, that I realised there was a stone door fixed upon it.
Is there a stone room behind that door too…
I feel faint just wondering about this!
Still, despite my reluctance, the situation is no longer within my control. Ta Lai walked over to the door and with a turn of his ring, the door began to open gradually but all I could see within it was darkness. There wasn’t even a shred of light.
Nie Zun and I caught each other’s eyes, and just as Ta Lai was about to step in, the two of us caught up to him in haste.
The moment our feet stepped through the door, the stone piece that transported us here rumbled to life and rose towards the ground above again, just like an elevator.
While I was looking back in horror as the stone floor disappeared into view, the stone door closed with a swoosh!
When I turned back, I realized… I realized that I couldn’t see anything!
My vision was pitch-black, and everywhere I looked was filled with darkness. I couldn’t even make out the silhouette of my own fingers!
Even if it had turned dark outside, being bodies of consciousness in the split zone, we still had our circumference of visibility. So how was it that I could see nothing in here?!
I swiftly directed MF towards my eyes, enhancing my vision but there was still nothing at all, only a vast area of pitch-black darkness!
“Nie Zun? Ta Lai?” I cried out.
In the midst of the darkness, I could hear Nie Zun’s reply, “I’m here.”
But Ta Lai said nothing.
Like a blind person, I stretched both my arms forward and began feeling my surrounding aimlessly. If I remember correctly, Nie Zun shouldn’t be too far ahead of me.
“Nie Zun, you didn’t move, right? Don’t move around.” I tried to calm myself down but the usual panic that one would face in darkness was slowly creeping up to me.
“I didn’t move.” Nie Zun’s voice was still composed like always and that put me more at ease.
Guided by my subconsciousness, my outstretched arms continued searching as I moved forward.
On my left… Nothing.
On my right? … Still nothing.
My feet took a careful step forward, followed by a light movement of my hands, exploring the area ahead.
I couldn’t feel anything, and it made me feel a wave of helplessness.
This feeling of helplessness seems familiar…
“Nie Zun?!” I was getting scared. Ever since I’ve arrived into the split zone, I was able to see even in the night. I’ve never been faced with such darkness.
“I’m here.” Nie Zun replied calmly.
I could hear Nie Zun’s voice from somewhere not far away from me, but why can’t I reach him?
Gritting my teeth, I took a huge step forward. With the long stride, my heart sank with it as well.
It was a good thing that my feet was still in contact with the ground. It seems like there wasn’t an abyss or anything strange like that here.
I really don’t want to imagine myself falling into any strange pits.
With a small sigh of relief, I took another huge stride forward then began feeling around my surrounding again.
Finally, I seemed to have reached his arm.
I felt a burst of glee and was just about to speak up when the arm I felt began moving vigorously!
I haven’t had time to respond before the hand in the dark grabbed onto my own right hand and yanked forcefully!
A chill ran down my arms, then with a sound of splatter, my entire right arm was pulled apart by the hand I felt.
I could feel the deluge of blood spraying from my right shoulder, the sharp pain began to spread from there to my entire being.
With my scream, I staggered three steps back and at the same time, placed pressure on my right shoulder with my left hand, heaving for air.
“Li Shen, what happened?!” Nie Zun’s anxious voice sounded once again from ahead of me.
Despite this blindness in the peculiar darkness, my eyes were still staring wide open, sweeping around me in the dark.
As for the hand that pulled my arm off, it seemed to cease its breathing after that single action.
For now, three steps back seemed to be a safe range. I could feel my right arm beginning to heal.