Book 2 Chapter 3 – Newborn Hope
Original and most updated translations are from volare. Please don’t read elsewhere and stop supporting theft.
“However, I can help you with that.” It seemed like Bai Ze took pity of Li Yiming’s dejection, and gave him at least some semblance of good news. “I am your innate summon, so, technically speaking, we are but two parts from the same whole. If I can use it, then so can you.”
Little Bai Ze took the bracelet from Li Yiming’s hands and held it on her palm with her eyes closed. A glow could be seen coming from the object and Li Yiming suddenly noticed that some kind of link appeared between himself and the trinket, as if an invisible pocket of about three cubic meters hovered over it.
“So I can put things inside of it now?” It all seemed surreal to Li Yiming.
Bai Ze nodded without saying anything.
Li Yiming looked around and picked up the remote controller by the bed. He thought about putting the controller away. The next moment, it vanished, and he could feel it appear inside the pocket. The instant Li Yiming thought about bringing it out of the pocket, it appeared right in his hand. ‘Oh hey, that’s so cool… So this is how Qing Qiaoqiao made her weapons appear out of nowhere.’ Li Yiming smiled with pleasure.
Vanish, appear, vanish, appear… Li Yiming played around with the bracelet.
“You…” Bai Ze was about to stop him, but her eyes suddenly opened wide, and she transformed again into a ray of light that shot into Li Yiming’s body.
“Quick.. Redo what you just did.” Li Yiming heard Bai Ze’s voice in his mind.
Li Yiming did not quite know the reason behind the request, but still obeyed it. He put the remote controller into the bracelet and waited a moment before taking it back out. Another flash of light and Bai Ze reappeared in front of him, in a state of shocked thrill.
“What is it?” Li Yiming asked.
“You…” Bai Ze quirked her lips.
“What is it?”
“When you use your abilities outside of domains, you need to pay with life marks. This is a rule. Therefore, every time you use your bracelet or any other storage item, you will consume a life mark.”
“Ah?” Li Yiming froze in horror. He knew that the life marks could be thought as an indication of how much time a guardian had left to live, dwindling with every usage until the host’s demise. This was the main reason that compelled guardians to brave the difficulties of domains without rest.
“But your marks have not decreased.” Bai Ze’s puzzlement furthered.
“So you’re saying…”
“You’re not a guardian.” Little Bai Ze grinned, and she resumed her affectation of cuteness.
“How long does it take for a domain to appear?”
“What about where?”
“What about its nature?”
“Do dragons exist?”
“What about gods?”
“Guardians are the closest to becoming one…”
“Why do you know everything?”
“I was born this way…”
To see light at the end of the darkest tunnel, or for hope to burn once again from the embers of despair. 1 Satisfied by the long-awaited favorable constatations, Li Yiming and Bai Ze spent a happy night chit-chatting with each other. As dawn was about to break, Li Yiming suddenly thought about the leaf inside the wooden box and asked, “Oh yeah, what’s this thing?”
“A bodhi leaf? Where did you get that from?”
Li Yiming explained what happened with Qing Linglong. “What can I do with this? Should I eat it?”
“Eat it? It’ll come out exactly the same as when you ingested it.”
“How am I supposed to use it then?”
“Let it sit in water, and its essence will slowly diffuse out. If you drink that water, it’lll sharpen your mind,” explained Bai Ze.
“Tea?” asked Li Yiming.
“Don’t underestimate this. It will improve your percipience significantly.”
“That’s it?” Li Yiming was a little disappointed.
“But…” Bai Ze hesitated.
“The bodhi leaf, along with the Water of the Past Life and the Fruit of Nirvana can be used to make a Fate Pill.” Bai Ze’s expression brightened as she spoke.
“What’s the use for that?”
“It allows one to reset one’s talent randomly…”
“Reset? You mean…”
“Yes, it might just grant you the talent you seek. Just maybe… And, maybe it can also bestow a heavenly vein.”
The two exchanged a glance and saw the fiery hope burning in each other’s eyes.
When Li Yiming checked out in the morning, the clerk at the front desk intentionally slowed down her movements to have more time to observe Li Yiming. Bai Ze’s appearance alone was enough to incite a desire to protect her within the heart of every observer. After making sure that the intimacy between Li Yiming and her was not feigned, and that she was not being held against her will, the clerk finally completed the procedure and let Li Yiming walk out. After all, the train station was a hotspot for child abduction. 2
Li Yiming let out a long sigh of relief once he reached his seat on the train set for Lishui. The short distance he had to travel with Bai Ze from the hotel to the vehicle was filled with more than a dozen interrogations. Policemen, passers-by, train crew members, college students and even the people who profited from selling overpriced tickets to those in a rush right outside of the station. One was poor-looking and plainly dressed, whereas the other was a princess-like little girl. One’s countenance was pale from the lack of rest, while the other seemed energetic and innocent. Most importantly, the lack of luggage made the pair very apt at arousing the suspicions of any observer.
“Could you…?” Li Yiming pointed at his chest, but was answered by a menacing stare from his summon.
Li Yiming turned his head around in exasperation. Before boarding the train, they had passed by an ice-cream stand. Bai Ze’s demand for a fudge stick was refused by Li Yiming with the explanation that children ought to not eat icy desserts in the morning. However, after Bai Ze sudden cried out for her life to be saved, the merchant almost hammered Li Yiming down with a swing of his bench. In the end, once the misunderstanding was cleared, Bai Ze was offered a larger-than-usual treat.
“Brother, I want to eat chicken feet.”
“Oh, sorry, can I have a pack of chicken feet please?”
“Brother, I want popcorn.”
“Brother, I want instant noodles.”
“Brother, I want…”
“Xiao Ze 3 , look at your brother’s wallet. Take it, and help me count the money that’s left, will you?” In the end, Li Yiming simply gave his wallet to Bai Ze. If it were not for the fact that Bai Ze’s height was below 1.2 meter, he might not even have the money to buy her a train ticket. Even so, after a while on the road, the content of Li Yiming’s wallet was reduced to a pittance of 50 yuan. ‘Well, it seems like Heaven’s Laws dug a trap for me.’
‘Why are you so poor?” asked Bai Ze with amazement as she rummaged through Li Yiming’s wallet.
“Why wouldn’t I be? I just graduated, and I have yet to find a job,” said Li Yiming as he licked his teeth to brush away the pieces of instant noodle.
“But guardians shouldn’t be short on money.”
“But I’m not one…” spat out Li Yiming.
“This has nothing to do with being a guardian. The most important thing is that you’ve been in a domain.” Bai Ze looked around, bent over and whispered into Li Yiming’s ears.
“What does this have to do with anything?” Li Yiming was confused and asked back in a low, discreet voice.
“Domains are fake, but the things inside them are real,” hinted Bai Ze. “Yes, you’ve guessed it. You can go rob a bank inside the domain and bring back out all the money.” Her casual tone made it seem more like a trip to the supermarket rather than a bank heist.
“Really?” Li Yiming suddenly remembered the pack of cigarettes he brought out of the domain…
“Of course, benefits courtesy of Heaven’s Laws, you could say. After all, you should get at least a few things back for all your efforts. How can an emperor expect to conquer the world with hungry soldiers? How can you save the world without first saving your own stomach?”
‘It seems like I still have much to learn. A complex world we live in indeed…’
The middle-aged woman who sat across them smiled with contentment as she noticed the two siblings whispering to each other. To her, it was a warm scene of affection between brother and sister, for it did not seem like the brother was well off, yet he did everything to satisfy his little sister. ‘Well, it seems like I was indeed wrong in thinking that he could be a child abductor…’ thought the woman as she stopped recording “evidence” on her cellphone and put it back into her pocket.
After a tiresome voyage, the two finally arrived at Li Yiming’s home town, Lishui. Li Yiming took a deep breath as he stood still in the middle of the public square in front of the train station. He glanced at the Horse-on-a-Sparrow monument in the middle of the square and felt relieved by the nostalgic smell of home. Before he could exit the train station, however, he had to go through another screening as a potential child abductor. ‘Who said that the citizens from the motherland lacked sympathy? Those who claim that have only seen the tip of the iceberg. I say, look at our core socialist values: prosperity, democracy, civility, harmony, freedom, equality, justice, rule of law, patriotism, dedication, integrity and friendship…’ 4
“All are governed by Heaven’s rules. What are these rules? I say that it’s the life we live. The different experiences we go through, the different opinions we hear in this big city. This is everyday life. To understand it is to understand the essence of these rules. See through it and you will see the truth. These are Heaven’s rules… Let us go, and experience life as it is.”
“Brother, it’s the first time I’ve heard someone elevate ‘being squished in a bus’ to such a grand philosophical consideration…”
Li Yiming’s parents divorced when he was still young, and each remarried. In the pursuit of their own happiness, they gave Li Yiming ample freedom. A 70 square meters apartment, usually big enough to house a family of three, was reserved for Li Yiming’s personal usage. For someone like Li Yiming, who had just graduated from College, it was reassuring to have property within the city, and, right now, rather fortunate, or else he would have a hard time explaining things to his family about Bai Ze.
Li Yiming returned to his own home, it was messy and somewhat battered, but had the comforting feeling of home to it. Li Yiming called his father, and could find nothing to say but to respond with broken sentences to his exhortations, warnings, advices and finally notice that 2000 yuan was abound for his bank account. ‘Next time, even if I don’t finish my mission, I’ll rob a bank at least,’ Li Yiming decided.
“Oh yeah, what happens if guardians participate in a domain but are unable to finish the mission?” The question suddenly occurred to Li Yiming.
“Zeroing of life marks…” Bai Ze picked up Li Yiming’s bed sheets with disgust and sniffed it carefully.
“What? Immediate death?” asked Li Yiming. ‘No wonder Grandma Wang and Qing Linglong put their lives on the line against that camouflager, despite knowing that they were no match for him.’
“I wouldn’t call it immediate. In fact, you won’t die immediately when you lose all your life marks. Heaven’s Laws will grant you a last-chance period, it doesn’t last very long, so you’ll need to find a domain right away and participate in it. If you can complete that one successfully, you’ll be awarded life marks, and you’ll be able to save yourself.”
“So it’s not that scary after all? What clemency from Heaven’s Laws,” said Li Yiming as he unpacked a set of new bedsheets and replaced his old ones.
“It’s not as what you’re thinking. Guardians are able to sense the apparition of domains beforehand, and, not only that, they can also estimate the strength of the domain’s will, or, in other words, its difficulty. But if you have failed your previous domain, then you have no choice but to participate in the next one, which, for low level guardians, is tantamount to suicide if misfortune ever throws a higher level domain in their way.”
“The domains are fake, so when it’s over, everything will return to how they were. What if a guardian dies in one…” Li Yiming stopped what he was doing: it seemed like he neglected to ask that.
“Then you’re out of luck. Not even your corpse will remain. Do you really think that all of these inexplicable disappearances over the years can be explained by murders and kidnappings?”
“Yes, you should pay utmost attention to your own safety. If you die, I’ll disappear too.” Little Bai Ze picked up Li Yiming’s cell phone and started playing on it.
I like Bai Ze’s character. Although I doubt her tastes in gaming. PC masterace (xD)
- Famous passage from a poem by Lu You, hopefully not butchered in translation. Hillary Clinton, in a visit to China in 2010, translated the passage as: After endless mountains and rivers that leave doubt whether there is a path out, suddenly one encounters the shade of a willow, bright flowers and a lovely village. ↩
- Probably one of the most despicable/dark things that, although improved, still happen to a certain degree in China. Coverage by the New York Times here (YouTube) ↩
- Xiao means small in Chinese, so it’s often used to create nicknames for kids, Bai Ze becomes Xiao Ze ↩
- These 16 words actually make up a Chinese Communist Party slogan. ↩