82 Devil’s Hand
“I conducted a fundamental test on your combat abilities after you entered this space of mine. There were two scenarios: the first was the dark room that you were both in. I distorted your four senses and Li Shen, using your sense of touch, you went with the strategy of evading at full speed, increasing the rapidity of your movement by at least double the moment your enemies made contact and dodged them successfully—that’s a good tactic indeed.”
Ta Lai broke into a smile. “But Nie Zun’s way of countering was even better—while you made use of your sense of touch to evade, he used them to accept. He sacrificed his own body to accept those attacks and, in that process, evaluated the enemy’s condition before eliminating all my puppets in the dark. Even I couldn’t resist the gasp of admiration at that.”
Looking sideward at Nie Zun, he looked as calm as ever, as though Ta Lai’s high praises weren’t directed at him.
“Oh, but I am curious, Nie Zun. You used your bare hands when you attacked my puppets—what powers do your hands have? From what I understand, anyone who has sealed their split symbol will gain an ability of sorts, yet I’ve never seen anyone who retained their bare hands as a weapon after.” A fleeting glint flashed swept across Ta Lai’s eyes.
Nie Zun flashed a faint smile. “It’s nothing special, really, only that my ability lies in these hands of mine. After sealing the split symbol, it allowed them to converge better.”
“Do you mind sharing how you achieved it?”
Nie Zun’s gaze turned dark for a split second, then spoke up softly. “The best doctor in our district invented various chemicals that could affect the consciousness in split zone—I’m sure you’re aware of this. After all, three of our district’s residents had used it for good and bad. I’m no different; I’m just a user of these chemicals.”
“What did you do with them?” Unease filled my instincts as I posed the question at him.
Nie Zun smiled weakly. “Nothing much. I merely soak my hands in various types of mental inhibiting chemicals on a daily basis.”
What… does that mean?
Ta Lai retracted his smile; a steely gaze decorated his features. “You mean, the reason behind those powers of manipulation and destruction in your hands lies in the fact that you’ve been using the mental inhibiting chemicals on yourself? How reckless! To soak in those chemicals, you’ve basically been using your own hands as an experiment subject! Any sort of mental inhibiting chemicals could have caused damage to us and yet, you combined them?! How did you endure it??”
Ta Lai wasn’t the only who’s taken aback by the news; even I was startled.
Frozen in shock, I couldn’t gather myself enough to have any sort of reaction, but I gradually recalled a snippet of memory.
“Why do you always have a pair of gloves on?”
“Because these are the devil’s hands.”
It couldn’t be helped if I had never asked, but I did. I did ask Nie Zun about those gloves of his and he did reply my question earnestly, but I’ve never taken them to heart.
This wasn’t the devil’s hands, this was him turning his own pair of hands into a devil. Within the split zone, while I have no idea what makes up their compound, mental inhibitors are the only things that could hurt us. I do know, though, that an arrow stained with the chemical would be enough to torment its target for a long time.
Yet… he used a mixture of them to soak his bare hands?
Why did he have to treat himself in this manner…?
“You…” I opened my mouth, but the words trailed off the moment I spoke, and I couldn’t finish my sentence.
Nie Zun beamed a carefree smile. “It’s nothing. I merely fused my MF into my hands, then used a variety of chemicals to soak them. It is why there’s a certain level of toxicity in my hands now. Ever since I’ve sealed my split symbol, my MF was able stabilize itself upon my hands; pre-existing toxin turned into something more demonic, and I’m consequently able to inflict a certain amount of damage on the mental strength of my target.”
My heart began to quiver as I processed his words.
How could he reiterate them with such ease? Did he lure out such abilities from his hands to protect himself? I reckon that the agony and price for it wouldn’t be something that anyone could tolerate, right?
And me… I am stuck with him through days and nights, how did I not know anything about this?
Have I ever truly attempted to understand him…
Watching that ever-present desolation in Nie Zun’s eyes hanging upon that striking face of his, a squeeze of sourness surged through my heart.
Ta Lai sighed. “I’ve always knew that you have extraordinary endurance, Nie Zun, but never have I expected that you were so prepared. Were this all for your own protection?”
Nie Zun’s eyes blinked lightly. I watched his eyelashes fan several times, looking as though it would be drenched at any moment. “That’s not important.”
I clenched my hands in secret.
“From the look of your control over the eye techniques, it’s really not necessary…” Ta Lai trailed off when Nie Zun swept a cursory glance at him, seeming to have received the message.
Just like that, they three of us remained in silence.
I didn’t have a clue about the thoughts that were running through their minds, but I snuck a peek at Nie Zun.
Lit by the torches on the wall, the silhouette of the Nie Zun’s side profile flickered in the stone room but the light in his retinal was unfathomable.
After a long while, Ta Lai exhaled another breath before speaking up again. “In any case, with the absence certain sense of perception, your subconscious would begin to harbour fear towards your surroundings. The duration of this fear will have a direct impact on the outcome of your battle.
“Despite losing your senses, both of you found a way to deal with it in a short period of time; this is incredible and worthy of a mention.”
At that point, Ta Lai looked towards me. “In the instant you discovered your sense of touch, I placed the two of you on separate levels. In your layer, Li Shen, I kept it void of any mechanisms. The reason for this second training was to exercise your patience.
“The elements of unknown—to be stuck within an enclosed space without the freedom of choice between life and death—could easily break a person; this was what I wanted to observe. As the rumored, sole double identity disorder person in split zone, what sort of darkness would this enclosed space stir from your heart?”
“What do you mean by ‘the rumored, sole double identity disorder person in split zone’?”
“You don’t know about this yet, right? Those who arrived in the split zone were brought here after their consciousness has been captured. Logically, those with double identity disorders will have two sets of consciousness tied to them, and it’ll be almost impossible to capture them at the same time. This is why, through the many years in split zone, there hasn’t been such a case until now.”
I frowned. “Li Qing did tell me that I was different from the rest, but she also mentioned someone else in the history of split zone who had the same disorder.”
Ta Lai’s gaze suddenly grew heavy with profound pain, as though he was recalling a memory that he could not bear to revisit. As if I had uncovered the only weakness that could shatter all his reason, it carried a lingering trace of sorrow.
Without conscious awareness, his voice gave away his despondency. “Indeed, there was but they were different from you; they had multiple identity disorder. Double identity disorder merely split your personality into two, and the burden would still be manageable. However, for a person with multiple identity disorder—with the shattering of their personality and arrival into the split zone—none of them was complete.”
“Then… how are they now?” I may be oblivious to the identity of this person, but I could clearly see the inexplicable pain in Ta Lai’s eyes when he talked about them. Hence, my tone of enquiry softened.
Ta Lai squeezed his eyes together but didn’t answer, and awkwardness began to pour itself into me.
When he reopened them, his gaze seemed to return to its usual elegance, reason and calm. “Regardless, Li Shen, you still passed my second round of test. However, there was an interesting portion during the test—at one point, your emotions were visibly swayed, and you kept yelling ‘Come out!’ around the empty stone room. Who were you talking to? Your second personality?”
Like my heart, my eyes turned cold. “You don’t have to worry about that.”
Ta Lai watched me thoughtfully and said, “Since you don’t wish to talk about it then I won’t force it out of you either. I just want to make it clear that only when you can tap into your true, subconscious mind, will you be able to use your MF freely. In the split zone, it’s not a given that every soul splitter will be more powerful than your average body of consciousness. Level of might depends entirely on your inner strength.”
Lifting a slender finger, Ta Lai pointed to his own mind gracefully. “Inner strength refers to your mental strength; the strength you have up here.”
“Only when you have control over the full potential of your strength, could you gain the capability in changing your circumstances. I’m going to ask you one question: are you sure you’re not willing to unleash the power of your split symbol?”
Should I… unleash the power of my split symbol…
For some reason, there was an irrational fear in my heart from the moment I heard about this from Jiao S. Without waiting for my response, Nie Zun replied, “No. I’ll not allow her to seal her split symbol.”
Ta Lai donned a peculiar smile. “Oh? Why’s that? Aren’t you even the slightest bit curious about the punishment such a unique person would suffer from, upon the sealing of her symbol?”
Nie Zun’s eyes began to turn cold. “She shouldn’t have to suffer through them, no matter the punishment.”
“You can endure through those devil’s hands but couldn’t bear for her to go through even a little agony? How interesting…”
I don’t know why but a self-deprecating smile surfaced on Ta Lai’s face. “How similar to me you are…”
In that moment, I realized the silhouette of another in his gaze.
When a person is deeply in love with another, there will be a defect in their gaze. It will carry the shadow of the one they love, and it is within this that revealed all the emotions a person ought to have, all the emotions they had previously concealed in their desolate gaze.