47 If She's a Demon
With Jie Pa's permission, I carried Song Lu back to her room and laid her on the bed.
Jiao S had followed along, and she said, "Her face gained such rough wrinkles. I'm afraid those things must have taken a great toll on her."
I remained silent, as grief rushed through me, submerging me in sorrow and guilt.
Once you arrive in the Split Zone, your appearance doesn't change unless you use your mental force to change it. Or unless your spirit has suffered great distress, which could possibly cause your form in the Split Zone to become unstable and appear to age.
"Right now, we can't bring Song Lu along to find Laurel. We don't know what kind of other changes may occur, so Jie Pa has to stay with her. But Jie Pa's body has also become as vulnerable as a physical human body, so he shouldn't be in danger's path. That means that one of us has to remain behind to guard them." I looked at Gaoqin Jiuye, Jiao S, and then Nie Zun.
"Even if we can find Laurel, without Jie Pa, we may not be able to deal with her entirely," Jiao S said.
"But there's too much risk in bringing him along. I can't do it," I said, my eyes drooping.
"It's okay. After Jie Pa activated his split symbol and studied enchantments, even if he hasn't perfected his skills, it should be sufficient to protect himself. But the best option would be if Guan Nie stayed behind to protect them. As for Laurel, the four of us should go," Nie Zun proposed.
I sighed. "But even Jiao S doesn't know where Guan Nie's gone off to. How will we find him?"
Gaoqin Jiuye's eyes sparkled. "I can find him. Tell me when we're going, and I'll have him back before then."
Jiao S scoffed, "Indeed, you are Gaoqin Jiuye. After so long, you're still that confident about Guan Nie?"
He didn't reply.
He was able to accomplish what he promised though. We rested for a few hours in the night, and after we greeted Jie Pa in the morning, Guan Nie returned.
He still carried that feminine aura, and hung around as he liked. When he returned, he didn't say a word to Gaoqin Jiuye. Instead, he simply stood at the side and played with his floor-length white hair.
Jie Pa touched some kind of medicine under my nose. "After applying this, your sense of smell will be heightened for the day. This will allow you to easily smell the scent I had Nie Zun leave on Laurel's body. Take a smell."
I took a whiff, but I didn't smell anything.
"Turn to another direction and smell again," Jie Pa said.
So, I turned and took another whiff. Still nothing. Then I turned to the window and took a whiff. Ah, suddenly, a light fragrance drifted into my nose.
"I smell it. Smells nice. This way." I pointed out the window.
Jie Pa nodded. "So, you can just follow Ms Ah Shen's nose. You'll have to be directly facing Laurel to smell the scent, but you should be able to find her this way."
Huh? So, you mean to say that I'm going to be like a dog this whole trip, sniffing every which way?
My face twitched. Why did I have to let Jie Pa apply the medicine on my nose?
"Ah Nie, I'll leave Jie Pa and Song Lu in your care." Nie Zun smiled saliciously at Guan Nie. It seemed that way to me anyway.
Guan Nie's eyes shined, like a lamb who'd seen a wolf—ah, no, a wolf who'd seen a lamb. "How could I not put all my effort into it when my pet asks me to." And then he glanced at Gaoqin Jiuye ambiguously.
"Ms Ah Shen, don't worry about us. I don't know if you're headed to another testing site, but I won't need to worry either, with all four of you going together. I'll stay here with Ms Song Lu so that I can examine her when she wakes up. And I can also analyze the insect that came out from her. If you make any discoveries, Nie Zun can call me at any time," Jie Pa said calmly and clearly.
I nodded. "Okay, then we'll head off."
Before we left though, I couldn't help turning back. "Jie Pa, will Song Lu..." I bit my lip.
Jie Pa's calm eyes looked around. He said to me, "Ms Ah Shen, don't worry. I'll protect her."
After the four of us left the school, the other three were clearly waiting for me to sniff out and point us in the right direction. A bit embarrassed, I turned around and started sniffing.
Jiao S' eyes wandered, and it was obvious she was trying to keep from laughing. And even with his cold exterior, a teasing smirk sat on Gaoqin Jiuye's lips.
Well, fine. I finally got a trace on the scent, but why was it coming from the direction of the South-East border forest?
I showed the way, and then all of us headed to the forest as quickly as we could.
As I ran, my red hair danced in the wind. I turned to the side and looked at Gaoqin Jiuye. His cold and arrogant expression paired with his bright sports outfit made him look both sunny and icy, creating a sort of contradicting beauty.
Jiao S' dark bangs paired with her schoolgirl uniform made her look like a student in a race, minus her lifeless expression.
When I thought of races, my mind drifted back to the year I first met Gao Qi. My eyes grew heavy and I glanced at Gao Qi Jiu Ye again.
He seemed to notice my eyes on him, as a sneer appeared on his lips and he cast a mysterious look my way. I felt my heart jump, and I subconsciously looked away.
And then my eyes happened to meet Nie Zun's.
With his black, high-collared windbreaker, his ink-black medium-length hair, and those dark eyes that no one could ever understand, even in the middle of the day, he looked like a silent reaper come for you in the dark of night.
Nie Zun was often quiet. Although he occasionally seemed indifferent or dissolute, he was mostly just quiet.
Just like when I first met him when we arrived in the Split Zone. Back then, he hadn't spoken a word. He'd seemed like a person alone and abandoned by the world, but his eyes never looked like they were praying or asking for anything.
At the time, I always felt like Nie Zun was someone just living in his own world. But when I thought of it later, I found the thought a bit laughable. After all, wasn't I also someone just living in my own world?
I've always remembered the Nie Zun from back then.
When we first met, he wore a high-collared black shirt, and he didn't speak a word. And at the time, I'd hated him. I detested him.
Even when the blond man brought us to meet Li Qing, Nie Zun hadn't said a single thing.
I asked him back then, "Since that demonic identity of mine lives within you, if I told you I wanted her dead, would you help me?"
Nie Zun had simply looked at me, his dark as ink eyes roaming around.
The first time Nie Zun spoke was at the end of that first month. He and I had to remain together every day, and when I wasn't not looking at him, I only gave cold stares.
Until that one day, that is. I still remembed the incomparably dark night sky. For some reason, the light reflecting from his eyes made them look like stars. With his shining eyes, he said to me, "Li Shen, I really hope that your demonic identity stays with me forever."
I looked over and scoffed. "Demons are truly demons. It's not unusual that you'd like her, since you're both the same. Devils without a heart."
Nie Zun hadn't seemed affected by my pointed words though. He just replied, "If there's someone who'll stay with me forever, even if she's a demon, that'd be okay. You say she's a demon, but she's also a part of you. If she remains with me, you'll also remain with me forever."
I swear, I'll never forget that day. I'll never forget the words Nie Zun said then. His eyes were so deep, you'd find yourself unable to get away, and yet there was a loneliness that you were completely willing to give yourself to.
I admit, from that day forward, my hate for him disappeared. Despite the fact that he'd resonated and merged with the horrifying part of me that had killed Gao Qi, I still found myself unable to hate him from the bottom of my heart.
"What are you thinking about?" Nie Zun asked, looking over at me. His voice carried that carefree tone that was like a slow poison, gradually making its way to my heart.
"Oh, n-nothing." I shook my head and looked forward, focusing on finding the scent on Laurel.
As we approached the South-East border forest, for some reason, the air started to feel strange. It was different from the first time we passed through it. Though we'd been sent into an illusion at the time, there had also been a sense of safety at arriving in the Southern District. But this time, as the forest came into view, my apprehension increased.
While Jiao S ran, she asked, "Do you guys feel like something's wrong?"
Gaoqin Jiuye frowned. "Ordinarily speaking, aside from Huan Qing and his grand illusions to protect the forest, there are also 13 hunters. So why have there been so many strange occurrences and outsiders recently?"
"Hunters? I've never heard of them," Jiao S inquired curiously.
Gaoqin Jiuye shot her a chilly glance, but in an unexpectedly good temper, he explained, "Aside from the grand illusion you all entered, there are also 13 hunters that Si Luo arranged for. If anyone comes into the forest with ill intent towards the Southern District, then these 13 can handle them as they see fit. As for where someone gets taken, I don't know, but no one's ever reappeared. That's why they're called hunters."
Jiao S' interest was piqued. "Oh? There's actually something in the Southern District that Gaoqin Jiuye doesn't know about? I thought Si Luo didn't keep any secrets from you."
Gaoqin Jiuye smiled. "It's true he doesn't hide things from me, but that's not information I care to know about."
Jiao S' excited face suddenly stiffened.
The air between the two always seemed tense, so I interrupted, "The forest is just up ahead." Then I looked at Gaoqin Jiuye. "Gaoqin Jiuye, what are the stipulations for these hunters you mentioned? If the recent strange events were caused by outsiders, then why haven't these hunters made a move?"
Gaoqin Jiuye's eyes darkened, as if he'd thought of something. He was silent a moment, and then quietly, he replied, "I don't know."
Before I could ask him any more, I realized that we'd arrived.
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