62 We’ll Get Her Back
Li Wen smiled tenderly, her bloodied face was shaking a little with laughter, her eyes curved into a coquettish arc. “You made the right choice, Li Shen.”
She stretched her arms out and directed a cross towards Song Lu. Following the simple action, a shield appeared on the ground above her body. Li Wen waved her hand, using MF to place Song Lu’s body on the shield and with another eccentric gesture, the cross began glowing. In the midst of the glow, Song Lu’s sleeping form slowly faded away with the shield, right in front of my eyes.
I didn’t cry. I just watched in silence at the spot where Song Lu had vanished.
When Song Lu wakes up to find that we are no longer by her side, when she realizes she’s back in that horrifying place… How terrified and helpless would she feel? Would she cry? Would she think that I have abandoned her?
Song Lu, please promise that you'll hate me, else I won’t be able to forgive myself.
Only solemn silence filled me, watching helplessly as she disappeared until the sound of Li Wen’s voice rang in my ears, “You should go back to Western District. Trouble might not have found you so quickly if you hadn’t come to the Southern District. You really should never have been here, Ah Shen.”
My eyes were still frozen on the spot where Song Lu had vanished. After a long pause, my lips curved into a callous smile and I finally lifted my eyes towards Li Wen. “Thank you for your warning. I will definitely be returning to the Western District, but I will also be coming back here.”
I turned and walked to Jiao S, reached out my hand and pulled the Parting Sword from her spine; it wasn’t the handle that I held on to, but the blade.
Li Wen didn’t stop me.
A sharp pain shot through the palm of my hand but I didn't care. Clenching the blade tightly, I yanked and Jiao S gasped. With the removal of the Parting Sword, it wasn’t long till she recovered her mobility, then tried getting up. I threw the Parting Sword back to Li Wen with my bloodied hand. The sword vanished with a mere shift of her eyes.
With an outstretched arm I helped Jiao S up. Her body still had a slight tremor to it but the hole in her back was already beginning to mend. As I supported her weight, I spoke in a soft voice to Li Wen, “Li Wen, you should go. It doesn’t matter if what you said was true, or if you did this for ‘our own good’… the sisterhood between you and I ends today.”
The words were spoken softly, without a hint of force. I helped Jiao S into a sitting position so she could lean on me while waiting for her injuries to fully heal. She had exhausted too much MF, and so her rate of recovery was compromised. I had not once spared Li Wen a glance when I spoke, and neither had she responded.
Jiao S looked over at me, her face stained with blood. Her spiritless, wide eyes were observing me quietly and she was still panting a little. Only after I had settled her in a comfortable position did I look towards Li Wen.
Li Wen was still floating in the same spot, but her eyes held a hint of sorrow as she watched me.
I smiled at her, and my eyes swept over her yellow and now blood-stained, dress. “Li Wen, you’ve always been so perfect. Those bloodstains don’t suit you at all, just as I’m not suitable to be your friend. Perhaps that was why you left us, or why you left Li Qing.”
A glimmer of sorrow fleeted across Li Wen’s eyes.
I kept smiling, continuing in a soft voice, “Stop gazing at me with such despondent eyes. My heart used to ache for you whenever you looked like that… But now, seeing them just makes me nauseous.”
Another gust of wind blew and the hem of her dress swept up with it.
My voice was calm but detached, no longer agitated like it was before. “Just go. From this day on, I will regard you as an adversary when we meet.”
Unexpectedly, Li Wen laughed with tears welling up in her eyes. The sight made me feel as though she had laughed to the point of tears. “Ah Shen… Is this about Song Lu? I know you feel miserable about this but you’ll understand one day. You’ll truly lose her if you insist on keeping her by your side. One has to go through pain at some point. Her tribulation is her fate, you can’t blame yourself for it.”
I laughed weakly. “From the moment You Ji showed up right up to today when you appeared in such a manner, I finally understood something. You both truly are my sisters––both of you had taken pity on me, knew that I was a monster, so you were willing to turn yourselves into one to accompany me. How could Song Lu be the reason I’m treating you this way?”
There was a pause, before I continued, “I’m only retaliating because this was how you chose to treat me. As you said, this is the split zone. Because, this is… the split zone.”
Maybe words spoken in that soft voice was to emphasize this fact, or maybe it was because I have given up all hope. In any case, I no longer wished to speak any further. “Just go, Li Wen. Let’s hope we never meet again.”
Li Wen finally stopped responding, her eyes shone with indecipherable forlorn. With a turn, she floated away. I lowered my head and helped Jiao S to her feet once she was gone. “Can you stand?”
Jiao S’ uniform was drenched with blood but she stood up successfully. Her wide eyes turned to me slightly. “Li Shen, thank you.”
I didn’t breathe a word, nor did I respond.
Guan Nie descended from the tree as Nie Zun helped Jie Pa up. Jie Pa let out a few coughs before heading towards us. “Are you both hurt?”
“I’m fine. Are you alright? It’ll be difficult to manage you getting injured.”
Calmly, Jie Pa laughed. “I’m alright. Nie Zun was protecting me with his MF all this while. I’m basically unscathed.”
At this admission, his usually composed gaze was laced with guilt. “I’m sorry, Ms Ah Shen. I wasn’t able to protect Ms Song Lu…”
I brought up a hand immediately, gesturing for him to stop going on about it. “You should go check on Jiao S, see if her injury is serious.” Seeing the state I was in, he kept quiet and headed towards Jiao S.
I lifted my head towards Nie Zun who was standing in front of me. The fine bangs that curtained his forehead fluttered in the wind. Even under the grey sky you could still clearly see his starry eyes; quiet, indifferent and calm.
I can’t explain it, but seeing his calm demeanor even after such a bitter defeat brought about an uncontrollable stream of tears flowing down my cheeks. I smiled and reached out to caress his cheek, but halted when my bloodied hand was a mere centimeter away from his face.
I parted my lips slowly. “If my other self is just like you… If she’s able to treat everything with such composure… Can you return her to me? Just let her come back to me. I really wish I could be just like the two of you…”
To my surprise, Nie Zun’s eyes betrayed an obscured hint of grief.
I doubted what I saw––what I thought I saw––but I grinned anyway and allowed the tears to flow to the corner of my mouth, bitterness and slight saltiness spreading across the tip of my tongue.
I finally cupped my hand against his cheek, “I—”
I had wanted to hurt him further with my words, wanted to mock his indifference; I was jealous of him. I was jealous of the fact that he could remain this unconcerned regardless of the situation. I am evil, I am hurting now, and because of that I wanted him to be as heartbroken as I am.
But I wasn’t able to say another word, for he had wrapped both arms around me and engulfed me in a hug, resting my head against his shoulder.
There wasn’t much warmth to the hug. Instead, it carried an air of desolation. His shoulders didn’t seem too dependable either; he was strong, but the body under that black shirt was still slender.
He didn’t use much strength, just held me gently against him and said in my ears, “She’s right here. You… Can you feel it?”
I was taken aback by his sudden action and those words, to the point where my tears stopped abruptly. I was stumped by the change in tone, and for a split second I forgot the heavy blow of Song Lu’s newfound captivity, the bitterness of reality.
I didn’t know how much time had passed before Jie Pa cleared his throat from beside us. “Uh… Ms Ah Shen. Jiao S isn’t badly injured and her MF has recovered. Her body’s recuperation rate is pretty strong, even I’m surprised.”
I fell back to reality with a crash. Regaining my composure, I frantically loosened myself from Nie Zun’s grip. His eyes seemed to glint with glee.
For some reason, my face felt a little warm and I immediately turned my back towards Nie Zun. Scratching a part of my head that didn’t even itch, I answered Jie Pa with an awkward laugh. “A-ah, is that right? That’s good to hear, good to hear indeed.”
Jiao S sported a small smile. “My regeneration has always been strong, even before this life.” Then, she looked down at her own body, seemingly lost in a daze of her own thoughts.
I thought back to the day when she was bleeding out in that room, thought of her mentioning someone hurting her true body back in the real world and my brows furrowed. I walked over to her, seeking answers to countless questions but was met with a soft tilt of Jiao S’ head, silently assuring me that all was fine. And so, eventually, I stayed silent and kept my questions to myself.
Guan Nie shook his white hair and came to my side, the corners of his lips still stained scarlet red. His almond eyes were coy. “Aiya-ya-ya, Li Shen. You better not have a dalliance with my pet. He's mine.”
Had he stopped there it would have been fine, but oh no––on ‘mine’, he turned and shot Nie Zun an alluring look.
… I can't even be bothered with him.
Nie Zun chuckled. “It'll be turning dark soon. Best cross the forest before it does and head back to the Eastern District.”
Jiao S nodded. “Let's go.”
The group of us continued stalwartly towards the boundary lines. I know I don't have the luxury of time to be hurting, but I couldn't help myself turning back once more before we left, my eyes fixated at the place where we just battled upon.
When we arrived in this district, I would never have believed any of this could have happened. We failed to save Laurel, we have no idea whether Yu Liang is still alive, and now Song Lu has been taken away to be an experiment subject. Adding insult to injury, Jie Pa lost his ability to heal and even the Western District has fallen into the hands of the enemy.
And me… I just keep losing.
From losing Gao Qi, my motivation, then finally losing my sanity and arriving at Split Zone No. 13… I keep losing.
I began to wonder… if Gaoqin Jiuye looked identical to Gao Qi, then was fate toying with me on purpose? He pointed to me and said, “I don't care about anything or anyone, including you.”
A mirthless smile tugged at my lips.
I am truly useless. I can't protect anyone around me, just as Li Wen said; I can't even protect myself. I came to the split zone, have lived here since, but… for what purpose?
Jiao S seemed to notice I was deep in thought, and came back to my side. “Li Shen, let's go,” her hoarse voice brought me back to the present. “We'll return again, and when we do we will take back everything we've lost.”
I twisted my head to look at her. It was a long while before I could muster up a smile. “Yeah,” I finally said. “We will take back everything.”
With that, the two of us hastily caught up with the three people ahead of us, and continued towards the boundary lines.
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