14 Three Bows
When Song Lu and Yu Liang arrived, I'd already calmed down a bit.
"We heard about what happened yesterday. It's true that there's been some trouble in the Western District recently. We approve of a secret trip to the Northern District." Song Lu and Yu Liang were both dressed in black, and I couldn't help taking a second glance at Song Lu's sexy figure.
"Right. I think it's finally time for me to go out and see the world." I chuckled. "But, how are we going to get into the Northern District without Mr Blond finding out?"
In the past, we only ever traveled to the Northern District at Mr Blond's summons. We would be transported directly to the hall at the center of the district, meaning we aren't at all familiar with the Northern District's layout outside of the hall. The hall is very large, but it's not used for housing residents. Regardless, I'd never walked outside the hall before.
"Since we've always been curious, on our recent trip to the Great Hall, I had Yu Liang use his special ability to search around. What we discovered was rather unexpected." Song Lu then motioned for Yu Liang to speak.
Yu Liang, who'd been quiet throughout the conversation, nodded. "You know about my ability. While Song Lu was taking her visitation, her look at the real world, I used my projection to quickly run outside the hall. Unexpectedly, the view from inside, through the glass doors, was completely different from what truly existed outside the hall."
I was taken by surprise. The scene through the glass doors of the Great Hall look much like what exists in the Eastern and Western Districts—the large residence, the district line and border forest—things that belonged to and were expected of the Split Zone.
Yu Liang continued, "When my projection went outside the doors, there was a dense fog that limited my sight to a five meter radius. When I turned to look behind me, the hall seemed to have vanished. There was just fog. Then three large doors appeared before me. I'd never seen anything like it before. The doors were about four meters tall, labeled 'Heaven,' 'Ghost,' and 'Exit.''"
It was really unfathomable, but Yu Liang had never lied before. When he first arrived in the Split Zone, he was nicknamed the God of MF. Though his MF was only 39, he was able to manipulate his mental force to accomplish things that were beyond the scope of most people's abilities. He didn't have to train extremely hard for it either; it just seemed to come easily to him.
In the Split Zone, it's our consciousness that exists, not our physical body. And yet, Yu Liang was able to divide his consciousness once more still. To put it plainly, he could manipulate his mental force to have a controlled out of body experience. This second 'soul' wasn't something that the rest of us could see, and it could travel 100 meters away from Yu Liang's body.
"Mr Blond didn't find out about what you did?" I asked Yu Liang.
"From our observations, Mr Blond doesn't seem to be some all-powerful being. In fact, after going back through all we know, we suspect that he is just like us, an ordinary body formed from a consciousness. He probably has a split symbol as well. It's just that his mental force is leagues above ours. Of course, these are are just suspicions, not facts. But, what we can be sure of is that he's not controlling everything."
"So how does he find out about what happens in all of the districts so quickly?" I remembered that when I'd gone to see him several days prior, he'd already known exactly why I was there.
Yu Liang's eyes glistened. "He has informants all across the districts. Ah Shen, how ignorant are you to all these things? What have you done for the past half year?"
I laughed awkwardly.
Song Lu frowned at Yu Liang. "Don't blame Ah Shen. It's not like you don't know. Half a year ago, she—" I quickly cut off Song Lu. I looked over to Nie Zun, and of course, his expression was serene, like someone who was about to return to the heavens.
Yu Liang sighed. "In any case, we've always been suspicious of the Split Zone, Mr Blond included. Although he treats us well and allows us to live peacefully and happily here, Ah Shen, you also know that our families are waiting for us to return. Running away from that isn't a solution. We have to find a way home. And we have to figure out whether or not Mr Blond is being controlled by the soul splitters as well. According to the scent trackers' investigation, Laurel's trace disappeared at the North-South line."
I nodded my head slowly. "But without being summoned by Mr Blond, how will we get into the Northern District? The district line is at the other end of the Southern District, and the line remains red, meaning we can't travel across it."
"Before you started taking interest in all of this, we heard a lot of things. You Ji thinks that Si Luo from the Southern District must have a way to travel across the North-South line. So, I'm afraid that we'll have to make a stop to the Southern District first. At least, we'll have to go inquire about some things."
"I've never been to the Southern District." I pouted.
Nie Zun suddenly commented, "Not just the Southern District. If not for the recent unrest, you probably would have never left the Western District, right?" I didn't hesitate to roll my eyes at him.
"We've never been there either. The Southern District is different from both the Western and Eastern Districts, and outsiders rarely visit. But still, I believe we need to make a trip there," Song Lu said firmly.
"Fine. I'll support your decision. Let's go together." After a moment, I spoke up again, "But how many people are going?"
"This trip will be different to ones in the past. Since we are now taking on the challenge of uncovering the secrets of the Split Zone, we cannot be shorthanded. With me and Yu Liang, and you and Nie Zun, we should also at least bring along Jie Pa," Song Lu said to me.
I considered this for a moment. Old Man Fan lived on the first floor. Aside from the floors You Ji and I lived on, and the one that Jie Pa lived on, 13 and 30 respectively, every other floor also had its own floor manager. With 27 managers, plus Old Man Fan and also You Ji's Seven Demons (You Ji's seven capable subordinates), even if I were to leave the Western District for a time, no major problems would likely occur. ...In all honesty, even when I was present, I didn't contribute much towards the Western District.
"Okay. Then, the five of us will go. Make your preparations. It's our duty to give the shopkeeper a sense of peace too. Have Jie Pa tell him that when I return, I will have an explanation for him. Right now, I'll contact Old Man Fan."
"Okay." Song Lu nodded. Then, she and Yu Liang left my room.
I pulled out my cellphone and called Old Man Fan. "Fan, bring the other 27 floor managers up to sector A of the rooftop to meet with me."
The sky was still dark when I met with Old Man Fan and 27 not unfamiliar faces. Everyone looked around at each other, curious why the idle district commander, who only met with them for the monthly building meetings, suddenly sought them all out. I looked at them solemnly, and then I bent over for a bow.
Twenty something voices started up, "Commander, what are you..."
I looked around. "I know that you are all capable people in the Western District. Most of you served the previous district commander before the district was entrusted to me. I've always known that you have been unsatisfied with some things, but you have all followed Li Qing's orders to remain loyal to me, to continue protecting the Western District."
The atmosphere grew heavy at my mention of the previous district commander, Li Qing.
"For the past half year, I have idled away. If not for Li Qing's firm guidance and all of you already being familiar with the rules she set down, with the way I've acted, the Western District would have collapsed by now. Fortunately, Li Qing's rules remained in effect, and with You Ji's supervision, the Western District has remained farily safe and stable."
I paused. Then, I continued, "However, with the recent happenings in the Western District, a lot of people have grown uneasy. Of this, I am aware. Up until now, I've let everyone down. I cannot face all the residents of the Western District, so I would like to ask all of you to help me apologize for this. And I promise that when I return after this trip, I will step up to lead the Western District and its residents in rebuilding our home."
I made another bow. Some people's eyes were growing moist.
The floor manager of the third floor, a person named Ta Lai, said to me, "After Master Li Qing left us, we lost our way. While we tried our best to maintain order among the residents, we were also afraid. The brutal forces of the Eastern District were expanding, but we had no protector like Si Luo. Since no one had been able to find their soul splitter, everyone had fallen to despair."
I nodded. "That's why I've said that I let you all down. I know that, even if no one had found a way to return to life in the real world, at least Li Qing gave you a place to live happily. Since I was the one to bring fear and helplessness to this place, I will go to the Northern District to investigate. And I will do all I can to return with a way to save us, a way to leave this place."
Several people began to whisper. "Can you really do it? Even Master Li Qing had no answers..."
I raised my head and looked at them with a steady gaze. "I cannot guarantee that I will be able to find a way out of this place, but I promise that even if we can never leave this place, I will at least remain here forever with you, to keep you safe and at peace." In the real world, a promise like 'forever' was hard to keep, but in the Split Zone, it felt very much attainable. In the Split Zone, the loneliness of forever was something we constantly lived with.
"Please, trust me." I bowed for the third time.
Ta Lai was the first to speak up. "Commander, go. We will wait for your return. Master Li Qing asked us to follow you. As we trusted her, we will trust you!"
The image of Li Qing suddenly appeared in my head—the woman who carried a bit of the tough, overbearing nature of a man. And then, a hint of pain slivered across my heart. But this wasn't the time to lament over her death. I raised my head and looked at everyone. In a firm and resolute voice, I said, "While I am away, I entrust the Western District to you. I hope that you can relay my message to all the residents of the Western District, to wait for my return."
"Yes, ma'am!" Twenty something voices sounded in unison.
I turned to look at Nie Zun standing behind me. There was a shallow smile on his face, and he looked at me with eyes that seemed to shine even in the dark of night.
I can appreciate a character who owns up to their mistakes and shortcomings.
Also, what a revelation this chapter! First of all, the Northern District—we already knew it was sort of a different place to the rest of Split Zone No.13, but it seems to be much more different than we were led to believe. Heaven, Ghost, Exit. Hm… I wonder. Plus, we have the implications of Yu Liang’s abilities, that even if one’s mental force cannot truly increase, one’s ability to manipulate it can.
This isn’t directly related to the chapter, but the bit about manipulating mental force (MF) reminded me of the day we covered IQ in my high school psych class. The first thing my teacher did was to pound it into our heads that IQ is a score on a test and not a concrete measure of one’s intelligence or abilities. Before that day, I never really thought about it that way, specifically. But IQ and MF are sort of alike in that sense, right? You don’t need to have the highest IQ or MF, because it’s much more about how you utilize your abilities.