10 Gaoqin Jiuye
"A district commander with only 52 MF? Mr Blond must have seen something in you, but what was it...?" Jiao S' voice flit through the air, and in an instant, she appeared right next to me. She'd drawn her sword with her left hand. In an easy and light move, the blade swiped down at me.
I quickly sidestepped, dodging the sword, as I grabbed my bow with my left hand. I pulled out an arrow and aimed at Jiao S' left eye. Without the slightest hesitation, I fired. Jiao S didn't move to avoid it, and the arrow flew straight into her left eye.
I was taken aback. My arrows are all coated with a pain stimulating drug that causes the recipient to feel 100 times more pain than they ordinarily would. And the arrow even struck her in the eye. But Jiao S didn't appear to feel any pain. An arrow stuck out from her left eye with fresh blood flowing down, but she didn't make a single movement. She just stared back at me.
Then the sword she wielded came down in an arc towards me. Once again, I sidestepped her attack. Then I glanced over at Nie Zun. He hadn't moved from the spot he'd been standing at. And instead of looking at me, his eyes were fixed on Jiao S. Muscle Man and Bandages had moved to either side of Nie Zun, seemingly waiting for their next order.
Somewhat distracted, Jiao S pulled out the arrow in her eye. I saw what appeared to be the lens of her eye being pulled out as well. As she pulled out the arrow, her eye quickly healed over. The entire time, Jiao S had shown no hint of hesitation and her actions had been carried out smoothly.
I frowned. I grabbed another arrow and, again, aimed at her left eye. As I aimed, she raised her sword in preparation to attack again, when suddenly, a light chuckle sounded from nearby.
"That's all your skill amounts to, and you want me to work for you?" Everyone on the scene turned towards the source of the voice.
The person had likely been hiding in the forest the entire time, somewhere outside of our field of vision. A figure slowly walked out from a dark crevice. As I watched him appear in front of us, my grip on my bow weakened. Jiao S seemed even more startled than me. Her already wide eyes somehow grew even wider.
He looked to be about the same age as Nie Zun and myself. His hair was dark brown and medium length, and he wore a white shirt and black jeans with a pair of clashing bright yellow sneakers. His eyes were the same color as his hair, and he looked completely ordinary in every way, just like someone from the real world. The only thing out of place was the thin and flexible sword at his waist. I've seen such flexible weapons before, and they're even harder to wield than a whip. Very few people used it.
When I saw his face and those brown eyes, I couldn't help trembling. But the man didn't look at me; he looked at Jiao S.
Bandages had walked over beside the man, and he suddenly said, "Gaoqin Jiuye our commander sent three B-rank officers to the Southern District to find you. What are you doing here?"
"Oh, so you're the ones who sent those three stalkers. Sorry, I got rid of them." A strange smile appeared on Gaoqin Jiuye's lips, his dark brown eyes glimmering.
Now unsteady, I staggered backwards. My unusual behaviour must have caught his attention because suddenly, he looked right at me. When his brown eyes landed on me, I couldn't help but drop my bow to the ground. I grabbed my head with both hands and violently shook my head. No, no, no... How could he be here?
He saw my panicked reaction and surprise flashed across his eyes. "Have we met before?"
I stepped back, and then I felt Nie Zun behind me. He supported me up with his right hand and grabbed the bow I'd dropped with his left. I didn't turn back to look at him. I just borrowed his strength and leaned against him.
"G-Gao Qi... How could you be here?" Tears nearly streamed out of my eyes.
"Gao Qi? Haha, I'm sorry. My surname is indeed Gao, but my name isn't Gao Qi. I am Gaoqin Jiuye." He smiled at me, his eyes resplendent.
I couldn't understand what I was seeing. The person standing in front of me now, the one who called himself Gaoqin Jiuye, was the person I'd had a crush on, the person I'd unintentionally killed—Senior Gao Qi.
I couldn't be mistaken. His hair and his eyes were a natural but unordinary kind of brown. His pupils were slightly larger than other's, and they gave off an enchanting kind of light. Moreover, he always wore a white shirt with black jeans and a pair of yellow sneakers. I remember always teasing him about the odd pairing. A grown man wearing bright yellow shoes, and with a white shirt and black jeans at that!
Jiao S's voice suddenly sounded, "No matter who you've mistaken him for, you're wrong. He's been in the Split Zone for longer than twice the time you've been here."
"Since you know that I've been here even longer than you, Jiao S, why do you act so impudently towards me? Aren't you looking down on the Southern District too much?" Gaoqin Jiuye laughed tenderly. He spoke to Jiao S gently, as if he were speaking words of endearment. But even a fool could sense the callous, even murderous, intent in his speech.
"You're an antique, yes, but so what? I appreciate your ability, and so I invited you into my clan. You call that impudence?" Jiao S suddenly smiled as well. This was my first time seeing her smile. The pale smile sat on her face, under two lifeless eyes, creating a ghastly image.
"Well, whether or not I'd want to serve you depends on your ability." As he spoke, Gaoqin Jiuye suddenly formed a whirlwind of air. From the vortex, a streak of wind slashed at Jiao S. Seemingly at the same time, the air around Jiao S started to vibrate, and thin, frozen ice pellets appeared. I heard a hissing, like something was about to crack.
When he felt the air around us change, Nie Zun grabbed me by the collar and pulled me back. Behind Gaoqin Jiuye, Muscle Man and Bandages also retreated several steps.
A dense thicket of air needles flew out from Gaoqin Jiuye's whirlwind towards Jiao S. My eyes could barely keep up. Jiao S didn't try to dodge his attack. Instead, she seemed to have condensed the air needles headed for her. Almost like a pool of water shattering, the condensed air popped apart and disappeared.
My heart trembled inside me. The two of them were so strong that they could even control the way air flowed?
Gaoqin Jiuye remained still. When he saw that Jiao S had neutralized his attack without having to move a step, he suddenly laughed deviously and pulled out the dark sword at his waist. Jiao S's expression tensed. She turned to Muscle Man and commanded, "Tao Lie, get him!"
The muscular man called Tao Lie immediately made a move. He extended his arms and grabbed Gaoqin Jiuye. Gaoqin Jiuye didn't turn back but simply said, "Steady." And Muscle Man suddenly stopped, frozen in place like a rock.
Meanwhile, Gaoqin Jiuye drew his long sword. Jiao S glowered, and then the air around her started to contract again. I even felt my skin start to tighten. The scene was tense, in preparation for an attack that would happen at any moment, when suddenly the sound of a phone ringing echoed in the air.
"Lala, I'm a little duckie~ Lala, I want to swim across the sea~" The unexpected sound of an incoming call suddenly floated out from Gaoqin Jiuye's jeans' pocket. Everyone at the scene was stunned, and I felt like countless crows were flying past us. This ringtone...
My lips twitched. Gaoqin Jiuye simply let go of his sword and shrugged. He pulled out the cellphone from his pocket. "Hello? Si Luo, what is it?" A strange expression crossed Jiao S' face at the mention of Si Luo.
I don't know what the person on the other end of the phone said, but Gaoqin Jiuye responded, "Okay, then I'll head back." After he put away his phone, his expression turned cold. He said to Jiao S, "We'll meet again, beautiful." Without waiting for our reactions, he dashed off towards the district line.
The sky had yet to light up, so as Gaoqin Jiuye approached, a bright, glowing barrier shot up to the sky from the district line. However, he didn't slow down. I tried to open my eyes wider to see what would happen, but the barrier was like a vast sheet of whiteness. In just one second, he'd already disappeared from before my eyes. After the district line flashed with light, it immediately returned to its ordinary dark appearance, like nothing had happened at all.
"N-no way. No one can cross the district lines at night..." I stammered. Jiao S also frowned. She continued to stare in the direction that Gaoqin Jiuye disappeared in.
Nie Zun suddenly whispered into my ear. "Shh. From this point on, don't say anything." The feeling of Nie Zun's wet lips near my ear left me a bit uncomfortable. I shook off his hand that was still on my shoulder.
Nie Zun's carefree voice suddenly sounded unhurriedly. "Jiao S, the sky will light soon. Why don't we all return to our own bases. As for your dead clan members, if you're interested in investigating, you're welcome to the Western District anytime. The Western District hasn't been entirely calm recently either, and there have been a number of bizarre deaths. I hope that we can keep in touch, as I suspect our goals may be the same."
Jiao S turned to Nie Zun. After a moment, she said to the muscular man, Tao Lie, and the bandaged man, "Tao Lie, Mu Li, let's return." So the bandaged man was called Mu Li. What a strange name.
Then, Jiao S and her men moved. As they passed by me, she turned to look at me. Her eyes still looked just as lifeless as before. I felt a chill down my spine.
After Jiao S left, I finally let out a breath. I tidied up my hair, and then pat my frightened heart.
"You know Gaoqin Jiuye?" Nie Zun asked me.
I paused. After a moment, I turned my head and looked in the other direction. Then I started running, returning to the Western District. "No, I don't know him," I finally said as I ran.
Hul... What's with this coincidence? (Surely, it's not just a coincidence, though, right?) Actually, it reminds me of dreams—how the setting for your dreams feels either like a real place or a mashup of places you're familiar with, and how you'll sometimes see familiar faces in the background.
On an unrelated note, I mentioned it before, but I really like the little bits of humor so far. Middle of a battle, everyone's holding their breath, and then a children's tune about a duck starts playing. It's just so out of place and absurd, like those moments when you just can't help but laugh because what else are you supposed to do.