44 Nie Zun's Analysis
Nie Zun cut in suddenly, "But why would Li Wen appear here today?"
Jiao S gave me a suspicious look. "Are you sure you saw her?"
I nodded. "I'm positive. It was Li Wen. You know how Li Wen has this different aura. The way she carries herself—I couldn't have been mistaken."
Jiao S clenched her teeth, a dark force filling her eyes. "I didn't expect that she would show up. Looks like all of this isn't just a coincidence."
I couldn't help but wonder what awaited us. The events that had happened so far didn't exactly look to be related, and yet there also seemed to be some kind of underlying link between them. Could all of this have been a warning for a catastrophe to come?
Nie Zun suddenly asked, "By the way, where did Guan Nie disappear to?"
Jiao S shook her head. "Don't bother asking me. His movements are unpredictable. Don't worry about him. Although I can't guarantee he'll be of any help to us, I am certain that he's not a bad guy. When the time's right, I suppose he'll make his appearance all on his own."
The night wind suddenly attacked, the chilling cold seeping into my skin. For some reason, whenever a cold wind came like this in the dark, nighttime forest, I would subconsciously look around me.
My probing gaze must have caught Jiao S' attention, for she also turned her neck slightly. The three of us were quiet. When I didn't notice any movement in the grass or air, I relaxed a bit.
"Li Shen, since we've spoken to this point, do you remember that I said I'd share a secret with you if we ended up working together?" Jiao S asked seriously.
Startled, I thought back to the Jiao S' words when I first headed to the Eastern District. I nodded.
"I think it's time to tell you now. The secret—" Before Jiao S could finish speaking, behind her, a dark shadow fled.
When I looked closer, I realized that the shadow belonged to Laurel! Laurel had undergone great changes. She was on all four limbs. Her gaze was murderous, like a cheetah waiting to pounce on its prey.
"Be careful!" I blurted out. Jiao S' gaze tightened, and then the air behind her crackled, turning to blades, flying backwards.
Laurel easily dodged the attack, her chopped up blond hair catching the light's reflection. On all fours, she leapt at Jiao S, trying to grab her back, as if her hands had claws.
Jiao S felt an incoming pressure, so she turned to the right and avoided Laurel. After dodging her attack, she turned again, when suddenly, she stared ahead.
As she moved, the air to her right fiercely vibrated and turned into a large vortex. The wind blew her hair high up, exposing her dark eyes. She stuck her arm into the vortex and pulled out the same sword she once attacked me with.
Jiao S quickly turned back and raised her sword. With a thunderous airflow, she aimed at Laurel's head, without any hesitation.
I quickly grabbed my bow and shot an arrow. Whoosh! The arrow struck Laurel's shoulder, pushing her to the side slightly, avoiding Jiao S' sword. Laurel fell to the ground in pain. I took a step forward, and before Jiao S could make another move, I pulled out Piercer and grabbed hold of her.
I tightened my grip slightly. "Don't move. Surely, you still remember what kind of pain Piercer brings!"
Seeing how set I was on not taking her life, Jiao S simply looked me over, without a word.
Laurel wanted to fight, but she also knew how powerful Piercer was, so she stopped. Her large eyes looked around, as if trying to find an escape route.
"Laurel, don't you recognize me? I'm Ah Shen jiejie. How did you become this way?" I still held my weapon tightly, but my heart softened.
Laurel stared at me. In a clear voice, she said, "Ah Shen jiejie, I haven't forgotten you, but what I'm doing right now is right. You've been wrong all this time. This is the life I want now."
Suddenly, she laughed tenderly. "And anyway, why are you getting angry at me, Ah Shen jiejie? Nie Zun gege's the one who told me to do this. Didn't he tell you?"
As she glanced over at Nie Zun, Laurel's once innocent face suddenly looked so cunning.
I shook my head. "That can't be. Nie Zun would never do something like that." Though I said that, I could already feel that Jiao S had turned her suspicious gaze to the indifferent Nie Zun at our side. Her grip tightened on her sword.
Laurel fluttered her pretty lashes. "Ah Shen jiejie, you should give You Ji jiejie a call. Then you'll understand everything."
Nie Zun suddenly spoke up, "No. You cannot speak with You Ji right now."
Suspicion filled my face. Why would Nie Zun say that?
Laurel chuckled, and her laughter was crisp and melodious, as it had always been. "Nie Zun gege, you shouldn't keep it a secret from Ah Shen jiejie. A big incident happened in the Western District, but you still want to pretend to be a good person?"
My eyes immediately widened, and I turned to Nie Zun. His expression was dark.
Taking advantage of my lowered guard, Laurel escaped from my whip and tried to get away. With swift eyes and arms, Jiao S raised her sword again.
But then, Nie Zun's eyes tightened, and a ray of light shot forth from his eyes! Jiao S' sword had yet to strike Laurel, when Nie Zun's light ray grabbed hold of it. Laurel took this opportunity to slip away, and she disappeared into the dark night.
Jiao S turned to Nie Zun, pointing her sword at him. "What are you trying to do?"
Nie Zun's reply came evenly. "I don't mean anything, but I can only prove my innocence with her gone."
"I left a chemical marker on her. Jie Pa made it, and he'll be able to track her wherever she is."
"But how exactly are you going to explain her accusations towards you?" Jiao S asked aggressively.
I didn't say anything, but I was silently worrying about what could have happened in the Western District.
Nie Zun smiled glibly. "We've had this talk (about our problems) many times before. If we're going to suspect each other, neither of us are any better than the other. Jiao S, you're aware that a man previously died in the Western District after jumping off a building. We found that strange insects had eaten away his back, and the scent of those insects were found on your A-rank official, Mu Li. Moreover, when we were staying in the Eastern dorms, you took away an assassin who targeted us, but have yet to give us any explanation. Don't you think we have out to have suspicions about you?"
Jiao S suddenly recalled something. "Since you mentioned that, I'm remembering that, when I leave my district, my S Clan will have someone report to me. Though I don't like cellphones, at the least, I can always be reached. But recently, no one has come to find me... But, there are definitely no problems with Mu Li. None of my A-rank officials are bad people. As for what happened, I'll be sure to find out as fast as I can."
I frowned. "That's probably because they can't get into the Southern District, isn't it?"
Jiao S shook her head. "No. The two B-rank officials were able to enter. Moreover..."
As if thinking up another problem, Jiao S quickly turned to Nie Zun. "Just now, that girl said that something's happened in the Western District. Nie Zun, what's happened?"
At that, I also cast a doubtful look at Nie Zun.
Nie Zun eyes turned, and finally, he let out a sigh. He said to me, "Earlier, when you were passed out, You Ji gave me a call. She said that there have been some attacks on the resident floor managers. Seven of the 27 have died. It's just like what we encountered here. They didn't die via their split symbol, but instead, because their physical constitutions were altered."
"Why are you only telling me about this now?!" I shouted at him.
"Your injury hasn't fully healed yet. And telling you would have been futile anyway, since you can't go back right now. It's clear that the enemy is spread all over the districts. Jie Pa also said that, aside from Song Lu, there was another with a similar constitution. If that was truly Li Wen that you saw earlier, then I'm afraid she can't be rid of suspicion. Since she's in the Southern District right now, that means the Western District should currently be safe for the time being. And You Ji is there. Telling you would just cause you needless worry."
While I had to admit that Nie Zun's words were true, I couldn't help feeling worried and distressed.
But even if I had known ahead of time, what of it? With my current abilities, would I have been able to protect everyone? I can't even protect myself.
For the first time, Nie Zun had a lot of things to say, and he didn't have his signature carefree expression. Seriously, he turned to face Jiao S and said, "I admit that I never really trusted you before. But it looks like, now, there's something I can trust. Although the perpetrator is unknown, the things that have happened the past few days are connected. Since today, there's only you, me, and Li Shen, how about you let me share my observations."
Jiao S looked at Nie Zun, and then finally nodded. "Okay. I'll trust you for now. Li Shen said that the two of you must remain 500 meters from each other. I trust Li Shen, so let's try not to suspect each other."
Jiao S' words made me feel very honored.
Nie Zun lifted a hand and adjusted his jacket collar. The evening wind blew at his short, black hair, exposing his shining eyes.
His lips slowly opened. "To sum things up, before we came here, there were four strange deaths in the Western District. Among them were Laurel's substitute, the female owner of a weapon shop, Ah Wen, and the boy who killed her. Additionally, there was the man who fell from the school building. Ordinarily, because the man and the substitute had died via their split symbols, there should be an additional two dead. Of course, no one saw these two people, so we can't confirm whether or not they were Western residents."
After a pause, he continued, "Among the four people, the boy was once a friendly kid in the Western District. But when he attacked Ah Wen, he'd acted like Laurel did today. His mannerisms and actions were unusual. I suspect that he must have gone through some kind of experiment to change his temperament. As for the man covered in bugs, I'd originally thought that someone had killed him for their own personal gains and fun. But after these recent events, I had a discussion with Jie Pa. We think the man may have been an experiment as well, but because the experiment failed, he was disposed of."
An apprehensive feeling overcame me. When had he investigated all these things so thoroughly with Jie Pa? Why hadn't anyone asked me about it?
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