67 Did You Think I Would Be Oppressed?
With a swing of my long dress, I took a huge step forward and glared at Zou An. A sneer upon my face, I started, “Zou An, you truly are bad at differentiating between the good and evil. As far as I’m concerned, the incident regarding Ah Wen was not my doing. On the contrary, the history behind these experiments has everything to do with You Ji and yet, you are all willing to work for her?
“I admit that I have not contributed much as a District Commander since I was given this position. Still, I hope that despite this, you’ll remember that Li Qing’s appointed commander is me, Li Shen!”
A strong gust of wind whipped at my hair, but my gaze remained stubbornly upon the group of men in front of us.
I will not retreat, nor will I show any signs of weakness. Even if I hadn’t done my best in the past, I can start over now. I have Song Lu and Yu Liang waiting for my rescue, and there’s Laurel too. There was no way I would surrender my district to those people!
A peculiar expression formed on Zou An’s gaunt face, and he looked at me as though he was watching a monster. After a long pause, he smiled, “Who said I was working for You Ji? I’m afraid she wouldn’t be able to make me even if she tried. Ah Wen and I had always concealed our identities in order to live a peaceful life within your district’s Marketplace, and I have never held any expectation towards an incompetent commander like you to protect us. At the very least, though, you could have left us out of your battles.
“But you—if we were to talk about Li Qing’s appointed commander, then I did have a question for you. Have you acted worthily of Li Qing? Did you think you are the only one who’s qualified to bring her up?”
I frowned. Not because he had called me incompetent, but because of the obvious hidden meaning behind his words.
What did he mean by concealing their identities?
While there were many questions answered, I didn’t take the liberty to ask them. Instead, I glanced towards Jie Pa and Nie Zun. With their quick-thinking, I was confident that they could make the most correct analysis of any situation.
As expected and in perfect sync, they looked over at me and gestured with a slight shake of their head.
Alright, they were indicating that I should not act rashly.
“Concealing your identity? What did you mean by that?” I asked in an attempt to drag it out.
There was darkness in Zou An’s eyes, “If Ah Wen hadn’t been unwell in the past year, then we would have never fallen into the trap of that demon, You Ji. Nonetheless, you’re to blame for everything.”
I honestly did not want to tolerate this any further. With a nod of my head and a smile that didn’t reach my eyes, I was almost gritting when my teeth when I asked, “Zou An, can you speak in a way that I’ll be able to understand? From what I’m hearing, you seemed to know that You Ji is behind all this, so why are you directing your hatred at me?”
“You Ji did all this to bring light to your incompetence; she couldn’t stand the fact that a person like you was able to receive recognition from both Li Qing and Mr Blond before her. When you became District Commander, her motive was never to kill you. Instead, she wanted to throw Western District into chaos in order to reflect your inadequacy, to prove a point that not choosing her was their mistake.
“Even so, we shouldn’t have been the sacrificial lambs in your battle! Not Ah Wen, not that little boy, not even the people You Ji sent to kill you. This is all because of you.”
It was only when he mentioned Ah Wen’s name that Zou An’s voice trembled.
“So you’re saying that, you knew this was all You Ji’s doing?” I could feel an unrestrained coldness filling my heart at the news.
Fleetingly, a look of exasperated anguish swept across Zou An’s eyes. He was just about to speak again when he was interrupted by Tao Lie, the man who had been quietly turning the ring on his finger all this while.
Ta Lai was tall with equally long legs, completed with a perfectly sculpted torso. In combination with the blue jacket and his well-kept short hair, he exuded an air of wild abandon with a hint of gracefulness.
Despite the time I have spent in Western District, I have never noticed such a good-looking guy within my group of Floor Managers. I scrutinized his figure from head to toe, and couldn’t help those indecent thoughts that crept up to me.
Up till a moment ago, his left hand was rotating the jade stone ring on the middle finger of his right. He lifted his hand, elegantly gesturing for Zou An to cease our conversation.
It was with keen observation of his movement that I realized my previous speculation had missed its mark—the person in control of those 13 giants was not Zou An, but Ta Lai. As the floor manager took a step forward, the 13 giants followed closely behind.
He spoke unhurriedly as he kept his eyes on me, “Let me ask you a question, Li Shen.”
I stayed silent, and his left hand went back to give his ring a single rotation.
His voice was calm when he continued, “What’s on your mind now that you’ve returned from Southern District, and faced with this?”
I was caught off guard by his words. I recalled the moment when I vowed to protect Western District in front of those 27 Floor Managers, he had been the first to speak at that time. Taking the current situation into account, no matter how I thought about it, he didn’t seem to be on my side. So why was he asking me such a question?
Noticing the 13 giants behind him with the murderous look in their eyes, each one of them ready to attack at any time, I know I didn’t have the luxury of time to ponder.
I was rapidly weighing out the current position I’m forced into. With Tao Lie and Mu Li’s support, I had been nothing but confident with my return to Western District. After all, they were Rank A members of the S Clan; even if they weren’t a match in ability as compared to Guan Nie, they wouldn’t be too shabby either.
However, the unexpected entrants of those agile giants changed the circumstances. Without knowing what other abilities they possessed, there was no way of telling whether we would win in a fight against them. Even if we might not necessarily be the weaker link, but their numbers against us was a worthy consideration to deliberate over; I wasn’t confident that Jie Pa would be able to escape unscathed, and the current condition of his body didn’t allow for a lapse in judgement. A reckless decision on my part would be enough for me to lose him.
I answered coolly, “I didn’t think about anything. Not only was I unable to find Laurel during this trip to the Southern District, I didn’t figure out the method to leaving the Split Zone either. On top of that, I lost Song Lu and Yu Liang. Through all of it, there was nothing left for me to dwell on. What I do know, is that there is no way I will leave Li Qing’s Western District in ruins, and I will definitely find a way to get my friends back!”
My gaze was fixated on Ta Lai when I was done. In the past, I had remained idle through my days in Western District, not putting much effort in understanding these Floor Managers. There were some who were capable of great achievements when Li Qing was around, but I had never heard of Ta Li among them. As he stood so composedly in front of me today, it was my gut instincts that warned me against belittling his capability.
My intuition had always been accurate. Furthermore, if Nie Zun and Jie Pa hadn’t stepped in by now, then it further fuels the belief that they don’t think we should be hasty. Tao Lie and Mu Li, on the other hand, were outsiders to this district and it seemed like they wouldn’t recklessly intervene with our affairs.
In this scenario, everyone has taken a cautious approach, even more so than when we were exchanging direct assaults within the illusion at Southern District. None of us knew the extent of strength when it comes to the other party, and in such situation, the odds of winning may not necessarily lie with the person who strikes first.
Even with my gaze on him, I couldn’t find any trace of effect to his emotions at my words, and in that, I didn’t find any flaws on him.
My wariness towards him increased once more.
He remained composed when he dipped his head, and in his usual steady voice, he asked again, “And if you managed to save your friends, how do you plan to protect Western District in the future?”
I inhaled a deep breath. This was a question that I had been avidly avoiding, but that didn’t mean that I have never thought about it.
The ordeal that we have been put through during this period of time had forced me to contemplate this. People within the split zone may behave indifferently, each minding their own business, but I came to a realization that where there’s humanity, there would be concern.
Concern was the fundamental emotion between human, it exists even at a place like this, even at a place without compassion.
Which means to say, no matter how much I’d like to avoid the responsibility, I have to acknowledge that my decisions and choices play a direct role in other people’s lives. It was precisely because I accepted the Li Qing’s appointment that I lost my right to do as I pleased in the split zone.
Because I’m Western District’s Commander.
“I won’t be able to protect Western District; everyone in the split zone is only capable enough to protecting themselves—this is a fact that I can’t escape, even as a District Commander. What I can do, is to lead the residents of Western District towards the right direction in leaving the split zone. As long as you are willing, I’ll accompany all of you to the very end.”
Those words were spoken with vigor, but I didn’t feel the same confidence in the depths of my heart. I knew that it was a feat easier said than done.
Everyone knew that there was a secret to the split zone, that soul splitters were a rare breed, and that acceptance was seemingly the only option you have once you’ve arrived into the split zone. Yet, as the person who appeared to have difficulty even accepting her situation, I was now suggesting to lead everyone in revolt.
As rebels, we win if it succeeds, but it’ll be our lives on the line if we lost.
It wouldn’t matter if I was the only one to perish, but it’s a group of people that I’m leading to their deaths, and yet, I’m eagerly attempting to gain their trust.
Even I had doubts about myself on this.
Nevertheless, it was all I could do to match Tao Lie’s calm stare with one of my own.
He didn’t speak after that. All he did was turn his ring around once, then again, and again.
“Why are we wasting our breath? I hadn’t realized she had such silver tongue till now.” Zou An interrupted.
He looked straight back at me, his eyes were filled with hostility. “Li Shen, I understand you might think that you’re innocent, but there’s no other choice. Since the incidents started because of you, then it’s only reasonable to demand a form of justification from you. You can only fault your own destiny for this—I must kill you!”
His words were so ridiculous to me that I couldn’t help the sneer from tugging at my lips. Observing my strange smile, Zou An’s grew even more agitated.
Still, I couldn’t do anything else but laugh.
Blame it on my destiny? I, Li Shen, have never led a fortunate life but when have I ever offended anyone?
Just because I have horrible luck in my own fate, just because you wanted my life, did that mean I would obediently serve it to you on a silver platter?