21 Didn't You Say You'd Never Leave Me?
As I was about to leave with Senior Gao Qi, I felt my heart tremble. Because I suddenly thought of Nie Zun. Our fates were tied together because my second identity resided with him. If I were to leave now, what would happen to him?
Then, another thought popped into my head. Wouldn't that be better? That demonic identity killed my senior. Wasn't leaving her forever in this place with Nie Zun a good option? Nie Zun resonated with her, so Nie Zun was naturally not a good person. Just let them live here together.
But... No... Nie Zun...
My thoughts started to tangle together like an uncontrollable chaos. The more I struggled against it, the more chaotic my thoughts became.
Gao Qi was right beside me, holding my hand, telling me he would take me away. But if I left, wouldn't Nie Zun be in danger here? Then again, why was I worrying about him? He was just a resident of the Split Zone who had personality deficiencies. Who knew, he might even have simply been an illusion of my mind.
I looked up at Senior Gao Qi again.
An illusion... Could I be certain that Gao Qi was real?
I looked at him with a complicated expression, and then I quickly shook my head. How could I suspect Gao Qi? He was the one person who always supported me, who always understood me!
My head felt like it would split apart, and for some reason, tears started welling up in my eyes.
"What's the matter? You can't be suspecting me... Ah Shen." Gao Qi's warm voice sounded in my ears.
But, why weren't my tears stopping... Why... Nie Zun...
"Shen'er." A familiar and yet strange voice suddenly echoed.
My eyes widened in surprise. This was Nie Zun's voice. But why was he calling me Shen'er? He'd never called me that before. Even when everyone else called me Ah Shen, he hadn't. (t/n: Adding 'Ah' before a name or 'er' at the end of a name are endearing ways to call someone.)
I looked around frantically, searching for the source of his voice. At some point, I let go of Gao Qi's hand. His eyebrows furrowed into a frown. But even as he frowned, his expression was gentle.
Seeing the blaming look in Gao Qi's eyes, I shook my head. I suddenly wanted to grab his hand again. But then he suddenly started to slip back, in the direction to where Pomelo stood at.
"No!" I wanted to grab onto him, but my body wouldn't move. No... No... I don't want to lose you again... I wanted to scream out loud, but my voice seemed to be stuck in my throat and I couldn't make a sound.
And in my ears, that charming voice continued to echo, "Shen'er."
Gao Qi didn't say anything more, as if unable to see how hard I was trying to speak. He just stood there, still, eyes filled with criticism, as his body moved further and further away from me.
At the same time, Pomelo also started to back away. Her face showed that unchanged dejection, as she spoke to me softly. "Ah Shen, they're all lying to you. I'm the one that's real. Hurry and wake up... You must hurry and wake up... We're all waiting for you to wake up..."
"Ah—!!!" My arms flew up and wrapped around my head as I cried out a piercing scream.
Don't leave me behind again... Didn't you both say that you'd never leave my side... You guys said that... You said you'd always be there for me...
"Shen'er, you need to wake up. Don't cry." Nie Zun's voice became very clear, though I still didn't see a trace of him. The only thing I could do was continue crying.
Suddenly, everything went dark before my eyes. As I closed my eyes, Pomelo and Gao Qi both disappeared.
"Li Shen, you need to wake up." These words were exceptionally clear. The charming voice that called 'Shen'er' was gone, and both Gao Qi and Pomelo were gone. I opened my eyes.
In front of me, there were several figures, kneeling around me, looking down with worried faces. Nie Zun looked at me, with that ever charming yet incomprehensible smile. Everything before my eyes slowly grew clear. I struggled to pull myself up and look around.
"This is... the border forest?" I asked murkily.
Standing nearby, Jiao S responded coldly, "Yes, this is the Southern Forest. Everyone had been thrown into an illusion. I had Guan Nie break the spell, allowing everyone to wake up. You're the only one who wouldn't wake up."
As she explained, I regained my senses. With Song Lu's help, I slowly got up. I looked around us. "The illusionist... Where is he?"
"Couldn't find him. He comes without a shadow and leaves without a trail. But on the subject of illusions, ugly girl Li Shen, I already broke the spell, so why didn't you wake up?" Guan Nie joked as he looked at me.
As my strength came back to me, I rolled my eyes at him. "Ugly girl? And haven't I woken up now?"
Guan Nie sneered, "Woke up? It was Nie Zun—"
Nie Zun suddenly cut off Guan Nie and spoke up, "Alright, we should get moving. This place isn't suitable for an extended stay." Guan Nie looked at him with a complicated expression.
I looked over at Song Lu and Yu Liang skeptically. Song Lu returned my gaze, confirming that I'd woken up on my own. She didn't understand Guan Nie's words either.
Jiao S suddenly stepped forward. "Let's move. I only had Guan Nie break the illusion because the enchantment here is stronger than I'd expected. That kind of thing invites danger. The Southern Forest is different to other forests, and the path ahead is long. There are still 99 barrier masters waiting for us. We have to be careful." At her command, we started to move.
But then it suddenly clicked to me that she'd said that the Southern Forest is different from the Eastern one. How did she know? Had the three B-rank officers she sent before reported that to her? If her subordinates could handle coming to such a place, why was she so worried?
Despite my heavy suspicions, I didn't want to ask any questions, so I just followed along with the rest of the group as we continued forward.
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