73 What She Taught You
If there was a way to retrieve the arm that had been yanked off, it would have taken no time at all for it to mend. Unfortunately, the chances of that was lost in the midst of this darkness and considering the fact that my body has to grow a full limb, the rate of recovery was slow; it will take at least ten minutes for it to be healed.
“What exactly happened to you? Li Shen?” Nie Zun’s voice sounded in the dark again.
I continued applying pressure to my injury and did my best to calm my breathing. Even when my tolerance for pain had multiplied after the time spent in the split zone, it had still been a long while since I’ve sustained injuries of this extent.
Keeping my voice as steady as I could manage, I replied, “Nie Zun, be careful. We’re not the only ones here.”
“You’re hurt? Where are you? I can smell blood.” The rustling sound of his movement told me that he must have started searching for me yet, for some odd reason, I couldn’t pinpoint his location. It was as though the place could distort your five senses, there was simply no way of locating him.
“I am, but it’s fine. You can feel it too, right? This place can make a person lose all their senses. Be careful.” I warned in a soft voice.
“Mmh.” With a hum, the stone room fell back into silence until all I could hear was my own suppressed panting.
Bearing the pain of my arm’s regrowth, I began shifting forward with increased vigilance. Removing the Piercer from my calf, I gripped it tightly in my left hand.
“Ta Lai, what’s the meaning of this?” I asked softly but there was no response.
I swung my Piercer lightly against the ground.
“Nie Zun, can you determine the location of this sound?” I questioned. At the same time, staring at the spot where the Piercer should have been, I came to the realization that I was blind even to the violet glow it should be emitting.
“I can’t. This place seemed to have messed up my senses.” Nie Zun responded calmly.
“I guess all we can do is wait.” I sighed.
“Are you alright?”
“I’m fine, don’t worry.” Once again, I raised my Piercer and struck it forcefully towards the front.
I could hear the sound of the whip, but not the light that it should be giving off.
“Nie Zun, I’m going to use my MF. In a while, I’ll whip a Violet Blade in all directions so there’s a chance I may hit you, but you can use that to determine where I am.” I explained.
At the moment when I lifted my Piercer, ready to initiate the Violet Blade, I felt a hand latching around my right feet!
It was a knee-jerk reaction when I struck the Piercer towards its direction.
The hand loosened their grip when the Piercer made contact with my feet. However, with the strike came an agonizing pain that shot through my leg and I grew unsteady where I stood.
“I can’t feel your Violet Blade.” Nie Zun spoke up.
“Tsst… That hurt like hell.” I muttered under my breath as I endured the pain of my flesh being torn open by the whip.
“It’s futile, Li Shen. This stone room will distort your senses.” Composed as always, Ta Lai’s voice rang from the depths of this darkness.
“What the hell are you doing?” Baring my teeth, I retorted. Never once did the grumbling in my heart stop—this hurts so damn much!
“Eheh, I’ve told you before, I’m going to help you remember everything Li Qing had taught.” Ta Lai’s laughter was graceful and serene.
I froze at his words.
In that instant, a snippet of memory seemed to rush into mind.
It was like an incident that had happened in the past which you’ve never forgotten but, for some unknown reason, you’ve never thought about it either. Yet when the day comes, when it gets triggered again, it seems to drown your mind with vividness of the memory.
I was brought back to that very day, about a month into my arrival at the split zone.
“Ah Shen, you’re slacking off again. If we are not done with planting these trees by the time Li Qing gets back, we’ll get punished again.” Li Wen flashed a smile at me while I was stuck in a daze, perched on a tree.
I stared blankly at the branches above me. “How did trees appear in the split zone?”
Pouring the growth agent into the pit she had just dug, she responded, “What’s the use of over thinking it? Now that we’re here, we should just get used to this lifestyle. Weren’t there also plants and greenery in our previous life? Just treat it as though we’re still in that world, then.”
I was quiet for a moment.
“Hey, you guys aren’t done yet? I’ve already planted dozens of them.” You Ji’s cheerful voice rang from afar. Lifting my gaze, her pale green hair upon that serpent body fluttered in the wind.
I couldn’t help the bitter smile from forming. “How do we pretend that this is still the previous world?”
Li Wen seemed to have sense my thoughts. Her gaze flitted from You Ji’s approaching body, then back to me. “Ah Shen, you’re always this pessimistic.”
Am I pessimistic…? I just… really want to go back…
I’m really not used to this…
“What are you thinking about, Ah Shen? Come on down and help us! With the three of us, we might just be able to finish planting them before Li Qing returns.” You Ji beckoned me over as she reached out to help Li Wen.
I responded with a soft and simple, “Coming.”
“Do you need my help?”
A timid voice suddenly spoke up from behind me.
I turned back to see Nie Zun in his black turtleneck shirt, a pair of black jeans, with both hands tucked in his pocket. He shot a gaze that would have been able to melt anyone else’s heart and gain their sympathy, but I hate it. I hate it when he looks at me that way.
“No, just stay away from me.” I replied callously.
Hopping down from the tree, I dusted my hands then asked Li Wen and You Ji begrudgingly. “Why do we have to plant trees?”
You Ji ignored my whining. Instead, her intrigued gaze was fixed at a spot behind the tree I had just leapt from. “Ah Shen, he’s always following you around. Does he like you?”
My brows knitted together. “Don’t bring him up; I don’t like him.”
“Tch, tch, tch.” Making a fuss about our relationship, You Ji curled her lips. It was with that look of hers that amused me into laughter and as a result, both Li Wen and You Ji guffawed along.
A sense of glee swelled in my chest and perhaps it was because of this contagious joy that a soft spot in my heart began to sink. I turned back subconsciously and watched the tree where Nie Zun was.
Nie Zun was sitting on top of it, he had a dazed, distant look to his eyes, and I have no idea what could be on his mind.
“How can a person like you resonate with her…” I couldn’t help muttering to myself.
“What did you say?” You Ji nudged me.
“Oh—oh, it’s nothing.” I forced a smile in return.
“Was this all you have planted after one whole day?” Li Qing’s hearty laughter reverberated from behind us.
I turned my head and regarded the woman quietly.
When I first met her, I called her “Li Qing jie”
She frowned, her face contorted while she waved her hand. “Don’t call me that! Call me Li Qing!”
I didn’t understand anything when I was assigned to the Western District. I didn’t even dare to speak as I pleased. Yet, as a district commander, she would always drag a newcomer like me with her. She loved wearing that silver armor of hers, and with a valiant flick of her short, indigo hair, she always looked so bright and full of life.
Li Qing was someone whom everyone in the split zone worshipped and looked up to.
“Was Ah Shen slacking again?” Li Qing opened her arms casually. Wearing her armor, she stopped beside me and wrapped an arm around my neck.
The refreshing scent of her seemed to drown me in an instant. Regardless whether we were in the split zone or the real world, I’ve never been this intimate with anyone, and it left me feeling uneasy.
I tried to twist my shoulders but Li Qing’s strength forbids me to.
Li Wen smiled. “Of course she was. I realized that being in a trance is her hobby. We should just call her ‘Trance Girl’, right, You Ji?”
You Ji beamed a charming smile, and shook her glossy green hair but did not breathe a word.
My neck was still caught in Li Qing’s tight grip. The texture of her hair was stiff and as the wind whipped them to my face, it prickled.
“The Eastern District has been chaotic recently. There’s always some old man attempting on encroaching my Western District residents on the basis of their meager MF. I’m going to fight back one of these days, and put them in their place.” Li Qing’s voice was melodious and clear, with a hint of a man’s arrogance.
“Those kind of violent acts aren’t up my alley.” Li Wen’s eyes were soft, donning a sweet smile.
“Bring me along, then. I want to learn how to properly use my MF too.” You Ji touched the green hair that cascaded down her chest.
Li Qing loosened her grip around my neck, her lips curved upwards into a smile. “Sure, I’ll bring all of you along and teach you through actual combat while I’m at it! The split zone is different from your previous lives; there isn’t a difference in strength between genders, but a difference in your MF. Anyway, being able to protect yourself is the main focus. All of you will follow me this time.”
I lowered my head; my voice was neither loud nor soft when I spoke. “I don’t want to go.”
Li Qing rejected my declaration without hesitation, “No, you must go.”
I turned my head, meeting her bright and limpid eyes. “Why must we fight?”
Li Qing’s smile was cool as a breeze. “Because the split zone is too boring. The result of this boredom is either to bully others, or be bullied.”
With that, she let go of my neck and stepped forward. Her head was tilted upwards, and the smile that tugged at her lips was even more striking than her eyes. “So, which do you want to be? The bully or the bullied?”
At that moment, I really wanted to open up my arms and say, “It doesn’t matter, I’ve always been the one to get bullied anyway.”
But I remembered as quickly that that had been my previous life. In the split zone, I’m now a newcomer who possessed a MF of 52.
And so I acquiesced.
Li Qing seemed to be overjoyed by my silence, and let out another ebullient laugh. After a few seconds, as though an abrupt idea had crept to her, or perhaps she knew it all along but had just now found an opportunity to say it, her eyes shifted sideways towards something to her back. Towards the spot not far away from us, his quiet presence on top of the tree felt as if he didn’t exist at all. “Nie Zun, you’re coming along too.”