57 I’m a Soul Splitter
I suppose I must have looked rather bewildered at that moment.
I wasn’t able to gather myself on such short notice, nor could I put on an appropriate expression to face situation before me. What was even more awkward, was that even Jiao S had fallen silent. At the sight of that smile tugging along the corners of Li Wen’s lips, the few of us stood under the grey, overcast sky in stillness.
I swear, this was the exact type of scenario I loathed the most. With a turn of my head, I attempted to seek Nie Zun’s help but came to a halt at the unexpected sight of Jie Pa. With a push against his glasses, he made his way to Li Wen and extended a friendly handshake towards the gentle but stern woman.
“Long time no see, Li Wen. You’ve been missing for so long––where did you go? You didn’t even pay us a visit.”
Jie Pa spoke naturally, as though there was nothing abnormal with this interaction but what he said was indeed true. In Western District, Li Qing once thought very highly of Li Wen. I don’t know how close Jie Pa and her had been, but to me… she and I were close enough to be sisters. Still, I didn’t know what to say. Not when so much time had passed. Not when Jiao S had told me about Li Wen being Li Qing’s soul splitter. Not when––above all of this––there was the lingering speculation that she might have been related to yesterday evening’s incident.
Li Wen’s lips moved slightly, her voice still soft. “Jie Pa, we’ve known each other for a long time now. If the intention behind your handshake is to sense my body constitution and compare them to that of Song Lu, then don’t trouble yourself. That’s precisely the reason I’m here today.”
Jie Pa grew a little embarrassed but he calmly retracted his hand, nodding with a smile of his own.
Li Wen stroked the hair along her cheeks elegantly, her limpid eyes directing their gaze towards me. “Ah Shen, you must have a lot of questions, right?”
My lips moved as it attempted to search for all the right words to say, but it was futile; I didn’t breathe a word.
Jiao S’ hoarse voice resounded instead. “If you have something to say, then spill it! What’s with the suspense?!”
Li Wen’s gaze swept across to Jiao S. It was as though she had no memory of being stripped bare and humiliated in front of everyone by Jiao S; there was not a single trace of hatred or disgust in her eyes. In fact, she didn’t even appear to pay Jiao S any mind at all. She merely swiped her gaze over to her leisurely, as one would to a bird up in a tree.
I turned my head to look at Jiao S. Her big eyes were staring once more and I could feel her dismal mood rising slowly.
“Ah Shen, I was the person you saw that day. I’m also the one who flung all those innocent people out of their windows and to their deaths.” Li Wen’s voice was smooth as water, and her tone light and casual as if this was just a casual heart-to-heart talk between girls.
Except this wasn’t whispers spoken in confidence between teenage girls but an admission to her heinous crime. I finally found my voice. “How could you talk about them like they were nothing, Li Wen?”
Li Wen lowered her eyes gently then lifted them again with a smile. “Sometimes, there’s nothing wrong with sacrificing the redundant in exchange for what’s necessary. The purpose of my visit today is to warn you to stay out of it and stop meddling in this affair. I know about You Ji’s betrayal; Western District is now in her control.”
She stepped forward as she spoke, moving that slight bit closer to me. “Ah Shen, how could you be so careless? You gave You Ji so much time to prepare for her betrayal. All three of us survived under Li Qing’s care and guidance, and after all that time together even I could see her for who she truly is. Why is it that you just can’t seem to do that?”
There was no a hint of hesitation in my response this time. I parted my lips and looked at her without fear. “After all this time, neither have I seen you for who you really are, isn’t that right?”
There was a flicker in Li Wen’s eyes.
Jiao S scoffed. “What right do you have to mention Li Qing? If it wasn’t for you, she would have been able to return to the real world a long time ago!”
It was as though Jiao S’ words had gone unheard; Li Wen’s gaze remained fixated on me. “Ah Shen, Li Qing left the Western District in your care. If that’s your attitude, then perhaps You Ji should continue running the district.”
“So you’re on You Ji’s side now?” I smiled, my eyes never leaving hers.
She reciprocated the smile. “How could I be? I’m just telling you that it’s time you snap out of it.”
“You used more than a hundred innocent lives, just to tell me that?” I was still smiling, yet there was an increasing hostility with every sentence.
Li Wen’s soft eyes flickered once more. “When did you get this critical?”
With a slight lift of my head, I narrowed my eyes, my sardonic smile deepening. “Li Wen, I have always been like this. After such a long time, haven’t you seen me for who I am?”
That’s right, I have always been like this, Li Wen. Li Qing knows, as does Nie Zun, and even You Ji should too. But, do you?
In reality, I’m a weirdo with mind-splitting disorder. I’m that kid who couldn’t gain the acceptance of others. Did you think I would be soft-tempered and beautiful like you? I’m afraid I will never be that.
Li Wen… I guess you never knew how envious I was of you. I was so envious of you and still, I liked you so much. Even through my jealousy I adored you; you were such a perfect person. I used to watch as you stood alongside Li Qing with that gentleness of yours against Li Qing’s valiance. I imagined it countless times; if I could be just like you with that untainted disposition, could I then be worthy of Gao Qi?
But I can never be like you. Not even in my wildest dreams.
I am a strange woman filled with darkness and cracks. Before the split zone, there was practically no one who liked me apart from my parents. I admit that I’m trash, one who would envy the happiness of others. I had once been jealous of you too, yet somehow, when I saw Jiao S torturing you that day, there was a gnawing pain in my heart. It was so painful that it rendered me useless; all I could do was clutch my chest and kneel on the ground. That part of me… that is someone you would never understand no matter how long it took, right?
So, why do we even bother playing the blame game?
“Ah Shen, you’ve changed.” Li Wen whispered. Her voice was as gentle as before but her smile was beginning to fade. Her eyes were smeared with an indiscernible sorrow. See, this is how easily you are able to touch a person’s heart, even if your only weapons were those subtle gaze and gesture.
“It's too boring to talk about that now.” My smile mirrored hers, fading gradually and I let my eyes relax. “Let’s talk about what’s going on with the recent incidents instead.”
Li Wen sighed. “Alright. Let me tell you about it then.”
Then, she grew more grim. “All the incidents you’ve encountered recently were led by a broken-armed woman named Du Yue. Du Yue is from Northern District and none of you have ever met her because you don’t know the secret to that district. However, I can’t tell you much about that either. The only thing I can tell you, is that Du Yue came to Southern District for a massive experiment. If she succeeds, then many lives would be compromised.”
Jiao S and I were unusually in sync, both without any questions. Li Wen continued with a sigh. “Now, her main subordinates executing this are You Ji and Rong Jin. They are planning to have two perfect body constitution to be used as the most powerful weapon for murder. One of them is the type of blood within Song Lu. Without exception, any damage caused by the blood-stained weapon could be fatal, even if it was the body of our consciousness in the split zone.”
I frowned. “But it lost effectiveness when I attacked You Ji with the blood-stained Piercer.”
Li Wen’s lips parted again. “That because Song Lu wasn’t the perfect specimen for experiment, just like me. Once her blood has left her body for more than ten minutes, it will no longer have the same effect. I’m the same––we are both failed experiments.”
Jie Pa seemed to have reached an epiphany. “Which means to say, while your blood may be used to kill someone, it has a time-restriction?”
Li Wen nodded. “That’s exactly right. I’ve been observing all of you in the dark. That is the reason for Song Lu’s regurgitation of those poisonous insects. Those bugs with the same fuchsia color as the beetle––they are the offsprings of those leeches that fused with us.”
Ugh… A sense of nausea rushed towards my chest. Offspring? Those beetles were the offspring of that long, oversized and repulsive centipede-like creature with the two pincers? Did it have to be this disgusting? And they were reproduced within Song Lu’s stomach.
Li Wen seemed to notice my repulsion. “That’s right, those things originated from the soul snatcher. Rong Jin snatched the souls of centipedes, leeches and crabs, and forcibly brought them into Split Zone No. 13. Through methods that even I have no understanding of, they refined them. Still, the abilities of a soul snatcher have limitations; they were unable to force the souls of organisms into this world unrestrictedly, which is why they thought of using the female body to conceive them.
“Of course, the body in the split zone cannot conceive but they are trying to devise a way. After all, only bodies projected by consciousness exist in this world––and they are the most realistic form of a body––so there’s always a way to make the people here a subject to their experiment. Song Lu and I are among those people but I was the first to fail. Not only does my blood lose its effect within ten minutes of leaving my body, I was also unable to conceive those creatures.”
Jiao S looked at her firmly. “Why?”
Li Wen returned her stare. “You should know. It’s because I’m a soul splitter.”
Even though Jiao S had already told me this, even though I’ve believed her all along, hearing Li Wen acknowledge the fact was still enough to startle me. There was an actual soul splitter standing right in front of me. Even those at the sidelines––Nie Zun, who had been casually leaning around, and Guan Nie who was fiddling with his hair––froze. Without moving, they glanced up at Li Wen.
Li Wen’s lips arched into a smile again, her beauty enough to cause the fall of a city. “Yes, you heard that right. I’m a soul splitter… I’m Li Qing’s soul splitter.”
Following that, she turned around slowly, lifting up her yellow dress as she revealed the back of her snow-skinned waist. Her slender waist was displayed so casually but what captured my attention was the split symbol on it.
The back of her waist was imprinted with Li Qing’s peach blossom-shaped symbol.
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