12 Murder Makes a Comeback
Jie Pa can often be found in the center of the first floor of the marketplace. He runs a small liquor shop where he's often mixing up cocktails, and his gentlemanly appearance always attracted a lot of passing eyes.
The Split Zone is a place that its inhabitants have grown accustomed to. Even though people enjoyed morphing into all sorts of creatures at the start, they eventually grow tired of that pastime. Then, they would return to their ordinary, human appearances and live ordinary lives.
Where there live humans, there exists love. The Split Zone is no exception. A lot of people find true love here. People are free to cohabit as they please, but it's not possible to have children. Of course, that's a wish that many in the real world chase after—being able to live a happy life with the one you love, without having to worry about caring for children.
I sat inside Jie Pa's wine shop, waiting for him to deliver a new cocktail he'd concocted.
"Test out my new drink: Foul Dismemberment." Jie Pa placed a glass of something red in front of me, and then he gave Nie Zun the same.
My mouth twitched. "Jie Pa, can I just give a suggestion? Can't you choose a name that's more normal, more moderate? Otherwise, who would want to drink this?"
Nie Zun had already taken several sips, and he said, "No, I think the name's very fitting."Of course, they were a pair of weirdos.
"If it's not to your liking, I'll make you something else," Jie Pa responded respectfully. (t/n: He uses the polite form for 'you/your.')
"Good sir, please, let's not be so formal with each other. Just call me Ah Shen." I waved my hand to show that there was no need to change the drink.
"Alright, Ms Ah Shen."
"Oh, by the way, has Mr Blond supplied any new and interesting items recently?"
"One of the weapons shops recieved a new item, and I thought it would be quite fitting for you, Ms Ah Shen. Why don't I take you for a look?" I shook my head. I didn't want to change my weapon.
Then Nie Zun suddenly said, "You should learn how to use a second weapon. A bow and arrow aren't very good for short range combat. Let's go take a look." After considering it, I decided that Nie Zun was right. I got up and followed Jie Pa. He led us to the elevator and pressed the button for the 7th floor.
As the elevator ascended, Jie Pa suddenly turned to Nie Zun and said, "The weapons shop also received something that I think you'll like a lot."
"Oh? That I'll like? I'll have to take a look then." A flash of intrigue crossed Nie Zun's eyes.
We got off the elevator on the 7th floor and then walked for roughly three hours before arriving at Shop 77777. A middle-aged married couple, who I vaguely recognized, ran this weapons shop. I'd received my bow from a different shop, but this place was much loved in the Western District.
When he saw us enter the shop, the husband called to his wife, "Ah Wen, bring out the two weapons that Mr Jie instructed us to prepare. The commander and Nie Zun have arrived."
"I'll be right out." A moment later, a gentle looking woman appeared. The woman called Ah Wen carried two boxes. She handed one to me and the other to Nie Zun.
I opened my box, and my eyes couldn't but help sparkle at what they saw. A purple whip. The craftsmanship was esquisite, and its length was very fitting. While I was alive, I'd learned ribbon dancing for a period of time, so with a bit of practice, I ought to be able to use this whip with ease. The whip was made from some material that I couldn't quite identify, but it was very tough. Its tail appeared to be covered with extremely fine spines.
"Commander, be careful. This whip is called the Piercer. It's a very unique weapon, and we had to leap through numerous hoops to get our hands on it. The spines on the tail of the whip have been infused with a special substance. If you strike an opponent, their ensuing wounds will not be able to heal for an hour, and the pain they feel will be increased one hundred fold. The body of the whip is formed with a special material that cannot be broken with ordinary strength or severed by knives and swords."
"Wow, that's amazing." This weapon was delightfully surprising.
I turned to watch as Nie Zun opened his box, which contained a pair of gloves. They were black and looked just like the ones on his hands that were inside his pockets. I'd always scoffed at his odd hobby of covering up every inch of his body, so I naturally didn't think much of the gloves. But when Nie Zun saw the gloves, his eyes lit up in surprise. He was so pleased with these new gloves that he quickly shed his old ones and exchanged them for this new pair.
Nie Zun rarely took off his gloves, and when he did, they would be replaced very quickly. But his hands were very pretty, with slender and pale fingers. On the little finger of his left hand, he wore a ring with a skeleton pattern. The ring didn't leave too much of an impession on me, but I do remember that it looked very delicate.
We thanked the couple, and Nie Zun, Jie Pa, and I headed out and back to Jie Pa's liquor shop. After exiting the shop, a loud noise suddenly sounded behind us. Everyone fell forward to the ground. On the floor, I turned my head back and saw that the walls inside the shop were covered in blood. The shopkeeper looked at his wife blankly.
It seemed that a small bomb-like object had been placed on her. Her body was broken up into pieces, scattered about the ground. Her head and body had been separated tool. She'd likely swallowed the explosive device, which wasn't actually all that powerful. She'd been the only one blown up, while everyone else had remained unharmed. One of her arms landed outside the shop, now writhing on the ground.
People started poking their heads out of the surrounding shops, curious about what was happening.
We got up from the ground and pat the dust off our clothes. I saw that Ah Wen's hand was still moving, so I knew things would be okay. She would recover quickly enough, and then the incident could be investigated.
Just then, a young boy appeared beside my leg. He looked to be about 5 or 6 years old, and I'd never seen him before. He ran over to where Ah Wen's blown-off hand was, and then he turned back to look at me. I saw something dark and sinister in his eyes, a look that a child wouldn't have. As my suspicions grew, the boy suddenly bent over and grabbed the splitting key hanging around his neck.
I could feel that something wasn't right, so I leapt at him. But it was too late. When I arrived at his side, I heard a click, like a key turning inside a lock. The key had already been shoved into the split symbol on Ah Wen's bloody hand. Ah Wen's body parts had been crawling back together, about to rejoin, but then they suddenly stopped.
Boom! Boom! Boom!
Blood splattered in all directions and bits of flesh flew into the air. Right in front of my eyes, that little boy received his punishment for killing another, and exploded in a shower of rain. In accordance with the rules of this world, after committing the crime of murder, the offender was blown to bits, with no form or shape remaining.
Now covered in blood, I stood still, frozen in place. I could feel the fresh blood slide down my face. A slimy bone and blood mixture dripped from my face onto my neck and collarbone, quickly covering my whole body. Screams sounded from the crowd, but even as the smell of blood and flesh struck my nose, I remained numb.
The shopkeeper suddenly ran out and knelt on the floor. Sitting still as a statue, he held his wife's now motionless hand.
I suddenly wanted to extend a hand to comfort him, but when I saw my arm, I realized that my entire body was covered in that little boy's fresh, sticky blood. My arm looked like it had been pulled out from the bloody river of hell, carrying malice and evil. Frozen, I stared, still not quite comprehending what I saw.
The shopkeeper seemed to sense something. He raised his head and looked at me with fear in his eyes, like he wanted to hide. Seeing the shopkeeper's terrified expression, I felt a sudden pang in my heart, but I couldn't move. Then, something seemed to grab me from behind.
Nie Zun grabbed my hand without the slightest hesitation and pulled me to his side. I looked down at Nie Zun's tight clasp on my hand. The brand new gloves that he wore were now dirtied with blood. He stared coldly at the pool of blood on the ground.
Jie Pa quickly stepped forward and calmly crouched down. He gave the shopkeeper a pat on the back. "We'll be sure to find out what happened, but someone will come to take her to the graves soon. You should follow along to see her leave."
Sympathetic eyes appeared in the crowd, but no one moved or spoke a word. Perhaps death was all too common in the Split Zone. But then, I realized that a lot of people were looking at me suspiciously. And then I was hit by another realization. There were a lot of people in the Western District that I didn't recognize. While there were tens of thousands of residents in a district, and unfamiliar faces weren't unusual, I suddenly felt that after half a year of being the commander, I was completely unqualified.
Nie Zun still held tightly to my hand. He took another look at the pool of blood, and then dragged me backwards. He ordered me, "Go back to your room and clean up. We'll discuss this afterwards." I didn't retort or even respond, simply allowing him drag me out.
With a nod towards Jie Pa, Nie Zun added, "I'll leave this to you, Jie Pa."
Nie Zun pulled me along, running across the rooftop as fast as he could, so it seemed that no one really noticed that I was covered in blood. But when I got to the 13th floor, a lot of residents turned to look me over, like they were watching at an assassin who'd just made a kill.
Their expressions turned the air around me chilly. The scene didn't bring up flashbacks of my killing Senior Gao Qi, but perhaps because of the blood, I did recall the truth that I was in fact a murderer. My body couldn't help trembling. Nie Zun must have felt me shake, for he strengthened his grip on my hand, as if wanting to comfort me somhow.
After entering my room, You Ji, who'd been inside cleaning up my arrows bag, saw me covered in blood and cried out, "What happened?!"
"Let her get cleaned up. I'll fill you in." Nie Zun dragged me over to the bathroom, opened the door, and gave me a gentle shove inside. Before closing the door, he looked at me and said, "Don't think about it too much. Get cleaned up, and then we'll talk about it."
After the door closed, I moved stiffly, like a wooden doll. I turned on the water and stepped into the bathtub. The water streamed over my head, diluting the bloodstains across my body. I trembled as I crouched down and hugged my legs.
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