53 Sudden Change in the Situation
It was a bit of a pleasant surprise, but I still frowned as I said, "Where have you been? If you'd have come earlier, at the least, You Ji wouldn't have been able to slip away."
Gaoqin Jiuye raised a brow. "You Ji? That snake woman from your district?"
"Mmh. She betrayed us and is colluding with that soul snatcher of yours, plotting these experiments. And it was like you guessed; Huan Qing's mental force was completely depleted by them," I explained as clearly and succinctly as I could.
Unaffected by most of the information, Gaoqin Jiuye simply turned to the ghostly shadow. "Having fun? Were you the one who injured Huan Qing?"
His voice came, "No. I couln't injure a disciple of the same master, so I didn't do anything."
I added, "Supposedly it was him and a one-armed woman. They even took Mi Fu!"
Gaoqin Jiuye's eyes narrowed at the mention of a one-armed woman.
Gaoqin Jiuye stared at the shadow. But instead of asking about Mi Fu, he said, "You didn't mention that she was here."
Suddenly, I was thrown into a flurry of confusion. What's going on? Was Gaoqin Jiuye one of them? What the hell?
Nie Zun shook his head at me, signaling for me not to say anything yet. His bright eyes put me into a bit of a daze momentarily.
After seeing Gaoqin Jiuye, Jiao S once again stood still as a statue, only her wide eyes jumping back and forth.
The ghostly voice came again, faintly, "She didn't come here with the intent of going after Si Luo, so what would I need to say?"
Gaoqin Jiuye's gaze was cold. "Why did you two take Mi Fu? Where is she now?"
The shadow laughed. "She's taken Mi Fu to see Si Luo. Since she's here, she might as well visit and reminisce about old times a bit."
His laughter would have made my hair stand on end, if it wasn't already.
Without even a second thought, Gaoqin Jiuye glared and then the entire forest started shaking.
I couldn't help thinking to myself: Are you serious? Again? This border forest sure is resiliant, what with this group of air manipulators shaking things up like there were earthquakes every day.
Gaoqin Jiuye's eyes were still fixed on the shadow on the ground. And as everything shook, so did the shadow. I heard the crackling of the air, but noticed that those three wolves stood firmly, their eyes ferocious.
I couldn't help silently appreciating: Ah, I'd really like to grab one for a pet. (Passerby A: Long time no see! So you want a wolf as a pet? What tyranny do you want to send upon the Split Zone? / I unhesitatingly kick away Passerby A.)
The laughing shadow on the ground flickered with the shaking air. The longer you listened, the creepier it felt; it was like a tape that got stuck. "Gaoqin Jiuye, your tricks aren't at all fun. Why don't you just take me to see Si Luo? And meet with her too, while you're at it."
Gaoqin Jiuye suddenly froze. His expression darkened, but then he withdrew his mental force and the air around us returned to normal.
"Let's go," Gaoqin Jiuye finally cast two words.
Who knew he'd be so compliant? I was about to step forward, but Jiao S beat me to it. She took a great big stride and said, "I want to see Si Luo as well."
Gaoqin Jiuye immediately turned and glared at her. Hardly scared, Jiao S returned his glare.
The ghostly voice floated over, "Jiao S, Si Luo's already told you before. He never wants to see you again. Don't turn this into something difficult."
Finally, I stood up and said, "Gaoqin Jiuye, don't forget about our goal. You Ji has already taken Laurel. If you're going to follow that damned shadow, you ought to at least take us along."
Without hearing Gaoqin Jiuye's reply, the demonic voice laughed sharply. "Silly girl, who are you calling a damned shadow? Hahaha, how entertaining! Truly, what fun!"
His laugh nearly pierced through my ears. I rolled my eyes at him.
Gaoqin Jiuye gave a chilly laugh, his expression blank. "Jiao S, I cannot possibly take you to see Si Luo. As for Li Shen..."
He paused a moment and then turned to me, a cold yet mysterious look in his eyes. "I will step out from your matters now. Things have changed. Moreover, I was never interested in the lives of those from your districts. Whether you continue investigating or not, I can't be bothered now. But I'll leave you with some final words. Make sure to watch out for your own life."
I always knew that he he was cold and unfeeling, but I hadn't expected that he'd change colors this fast.
I scoffed and glanced at him. "Gaoqin Jiuye, looks like it's true that you don't care for anything but Si Luo."
I glanced at the shadow, and then I said, "Do as you wish. As for Si Luo, whether or not you take us along, Jiao S and I will still find him. I wasn't certain at the start, but it seems now that Si Luo can't be rid of suspicions. If you must act this way, then don't blame the Eastern and Western Districts for lacking manners!"
Jiao S appeared surprised that I was so firm. She smiled and gave me a praising look. Her stiff smile wasn't all that attractive, but still, I accepted it.
Gaoqin Jiuye said, "Do as you'd like. I suppose that you hid away the cripple Huan Qing, Jiao S? You both should just protect the people here and let things run their course." Turning to me, he said, "And you're right, Li Shen. The only thing I care about is Si Luo, and nothing else." He pointed at my face and smiled. "Yourself included."
I glared at him, looking at the face that had me so infatuated and yet brought about such a great change in me.
Suddenly, Nie Zun walked forward leisurely. His eyes were tranquil as water. He raised a hand and pressed down Gaoqin Jiuye's pointing finger. "Some things are better left unsaid. When spoken, some will wonder if perhaps you're being ironic."
Nie Zun was calm and unhurried. Gaoqin Jiuye glanced at him and then at me. He raised his head slightly and narrowed his eyes. After a moment of silence, he laughed. He turned away, walking towards the three wolves.
Without looking back, he followed the wolves and the ghostly shadow, disappearing into the distance.
I stood still, my teeth clenched. I glanced at Nie Zun and Jiao S. They were also still and silent, and after a moment, I could only sigh. I knew that it would be pointless to chase after them. The three of us didn't have a great chance at defeating the two of them.
When Gaoqin Jiuye's figure disappeared entirely, Jiao S finally spoke. "Li Shen, you can't smell Laurel anymore, can you."
It seemed to be more of a statement than a question, but I still nodded in reply. "When this situation started, I lost her scent. I'm almost positive that they've already found her. What do we do now?"
Nie Zun, who'd been quiet awhile, finally said, "As it stands, there are three opponents we're up against. You Ji, the soul snatcher Rong Jin, and the one-armed woman we've yet to meet. If Laurel was captured, then You Ji and Laurel will be together. The one-armed woman took Mi Fu to go find Si Luo; they probably won't go searching for Laurel. They seem to have a vested interest in her, but she's clearly not the end goal."
"The question is, where is Si Luo?" I frowned. Suddenly, I had a thought. "Could he possibly be at the 30th floor of the residence?"
Jiao S shook her head. "He wouldn't be somewhere that easily found."
I looked at her a bit doubtfully, then asked, "Speaking of, Jiao S, why are you trying to find Si Luo?"
I didn't expect her to give an answer, but she actually replied without hesitating, "Because I like him and want to pursue him."
Pfft! I choked on a puff of air.
I stared at the woman before me.
Dressed in a school uniform, a pair of large eyes, long, black hair with bangs, and a face with a heavy, deathly aura.
This strange woman with a domineering attitude in battle, who's never displayed an ounce of tenderness, who had great interest in bloody deaths and no interest in anything else, was telling me right now that the reason she's been chasing after Si Luo is because she likes him?
My lips twitched. The Split Zone was indeed, no ordinary place.
Jiao S seemed rather unaffected. "Didn't you ask me? So I answered you. What's so surprising? Weren't you two curious why they always brought up Si Luo in my conversations? This is why. Three years ago, Si Luo visited the Eastern District. I fell in love at first sight. He made me promise that I wouldn't step foot in the Southern District for three years. So I respected his wish, until this year, when I came here with you."
Jiao S' spoke the same way she always had. Her face was calm. But for some inexplicable reason, I seemed to feel a kind of pain from her.
Three years. In the Split Zone.
I knew that she'd been in the Split Zone for less than four years. Not long after her arrival, she was made a district commander by the blond man. In three years, she'd acted swiftly and resolutely to make the laws of the Eastern District known far and wide. She never hesitated to turn away anyone she deemed weak, keeping only those who were strong. Her actions were cruel and firm, and the impression she gave had always been one of an unfeeling woman.
But, in this moment, hearing her so calmly divulge that she liked Si Luo, I truly believed that she loved him to her core.
In that moment, somehow, I understood her love.
Although I don't know the story between them, considering how Si Luo had made her keep her distance, and how she then turned the Eastern District into something completely different to the Southern District, I suddenly just understood her. I understood her.
So, I asked no more. I simply said, "Then let's go find him first."
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