9 Diametric Opposites
If we wanted to make it to the other end of the Eastern District, we would have to run for another 15 hours. But since Nie Zun's words made a lot of sense, I ended up running alongisde him, towards the Eastern District's other district line. No matter the district, rooftops are the best for traveling. The path was completely devoid of any other people.
When we arrived at the border forest, there were still ten hours left before day. I jumped up onto a tree and rested on a branch, planning to sleep for a bit. I didn't hear anything from Nie Zun, so I glanced down at the ground. What I saw made me laugh so hard I nearly peed my pants.
Nie Zun was at a tree across from me, exhausting himself as he tried to climb up a tree. While his tall, black-clothed figure didn't appear clumsy as he climbed, he did sort of look like a silly monkey all the same.
"Monkey Nie, do you have enough bananas?"
Nie Zun continued to climb diligently, but his voice carried the same carefree quality as before. "This is to conserve my mental force, okay?"
"Oh please. When the light of day hits tomorrow, our mental force will be replenished."
"We're in the Eastern District right now. What if someone tries to ambush us? It's never a bad idea to be a bit cautious."
I laughed at his going to such efforts. Then I put my arms behind my head and looked up at the night sky. It had always just been a whole bunch of darkness, without any stars or lights. There's nothing that illuminates the night here, unless you count fluorescent lamps. The only reason we could see at night now was because of our visiblity radius.
In this forest, my visibility radius currently extends about ten meters around me, which I feel is quite sufficient. If it were pitch black in the real world, forget ten meters, I wouldn't even be able to see my hands.
Despite the fact that in this world, we're stronger than in the real world, I greatly missed living the life of an ordinary person. People have always been like this. We have these expectations of setting ourselves apart, but when we're truly different from everyone else, when we cannot be accepted by them, all we feel is loneliness. It feels asking for normalcy is some kind of extravagant demand.
It's a feeling of sadness, and I've always preferred to avoid that sadness. So, I decided to distract myself by starting a conversation with Nie Zun. I asked quietly, "So, what kind of personality defect did you have?"
While Nie Zun was alive, he'd suffered from deficient personality disorder, which is said to be a pretty rare disorder. It's because of his unusual illness that he became involved with my second identity. After he and my second identity overlapped, he was forced to remain within 500 meters of me at all times.
I'll always remember what Mr Blond told me back then. "His name is Nie Zun. He and you just happen to be complements. It's rare for someone with multiple identities to arrive in Split Zone No.13, because they have two conscious existences, which makes it less likely that both of those will be caught and brought here. But you were the lucky one in ten thousand. Because your second identity resonated with Nie Zun at some point, your identity overlapped and filled in what Nie Zun was missing. In other words, someone with too much dropped a bit, and that bit was picked up by someone who was missing a bit; thus two complete persons were brought here. Since there was a time difference between your existences, one of you arrived an hour earlier, and one later. Of course, an hour in the Split Zone is hardly considered any time at all."
I also remember the scene when Mr Blond told me those words. I'd grown very anxious. I pointed at Nie Zun and asked Mr Blond, "What you're saying is that my second identity lives within him now?"
"That's not entirely correct. You can think of it that way, but Nie Zun is still Nie Zun, not your second identity. However, because the two of you arrived here as complements of a whole, you two cannot be separated."
For a long time after that, I detested Nie Zun. Even now, I still hate him, because I suspect that the one who killed the person I loved was now a part of him.
It's because of this unusual relationship that the two of us must always remain within 500 meters of the other. Once the distance between us passed 500 meters, neither of us would be able to move if the other didn't follow and cooperate. But this tethering bond between us didn't make me like him any more. I still hated him, even though I knew that I didn't have any real reasons to. In the end, the person who killed my beloved wasn't him, but me.
Maybe I'm just being selfish. I can't hate myself, or rather, the hate I have for myself can never surpass the guilt and pain I feel. So, I chose to hate him.
Nie Zun's quiet voice cut into my thoughts. "You're that interested in my past? You should at least wait until we live past tonight to ask."
When he said that, I grew alert. I quickly sat up on the branch and reached for the bow on my left shoulder. I looked around, and then I suddenly felt a prickling sensation on my face, like something was sweeping past it. I turned my head up.
"Ahhh—!!!" I couldn't help screaming at the scene above me, but my body remained still, only swaying ever so slightly.
There was a woman looking down at me from above my head, and her hair swept across my face. Screaming had just been a subconscious reactional habit that I retained from being alive. I soon calmed down and tried to make sense of what I was seeing. There was a woman sitting on a branch above mine, and after I took a good look at her face, I realized I recognized it.
I couldn't not recognize her. That pale, white face and that pair of large, dark, and empty eyes. Unless you had amnesia, you wouldn't forget that face after you saw it once.
I steadied myself, and then leaned up against the tree trunk. My left hand was holding my bow, as my right hand held onto the tree. I put some distance between our faces, but she didn't move, her expression blank.
With a charming laugh, I said, "Jiao S, I am Li Shen."
Her soulless eyes suddenly quivered slightly. Just slightly. "What are you doing in the Eastern District?" This was the first time I'd heard her speak. In the past, I'd only seen her from afar, never face to face. Her voice didn't sound at all like I'd expected. It was strange and thick, a bit coarse, but not entirely unpleasant. It had a womanly appeal to it.
Suddenly, I couldn't come up with a response, so I ended up saying, "I came to hang out with you. Exchange our feelings and the like."
Just as I spoke, I heard Nie Zun's mocking laughter. I couldn't help turning to his tree to send a glare his way. But after I looked that way, I saw three white-robed people. They wore conical hats that hid their faces, as they floated in the air behind Nie Zun.
According to Nie Zun, floating in the air required 30 MF. In that case, these people must have had at least 40 MF, though, likely more than that. I started to panic a bit, and I couldn't help look to Nie Zun. But he wasn't looking at me. Instead, his gaze was fixed on the girl above my head.
I started winking energetically at him, to signal the danger at his back. No matter the effort I put in though, Nie Zun's eyes were still glued to the demoness above me. I looked up, and after seeing that Jiao S was still looking at me intently, I turned back to Nie Zun and continued winking. I'd rather keep winking than look at this frightful woman!
Nie Zun spare me a glance, but he did respond in his carefree tone, "Your eyes are going to start flying. Stop blinking. I'm aware of the three dear friends behind me." After he said that, I suddenly grew embarrassed.
Jiao S's rough voice sounded again. "Without my instruction, they won't make a move. Don't be scared."
Who's scared?! I couldn't help rolling my eyes in my head. I was completely aware that those three floating people were the so-called Protectors that were never far from Jiao S. No one had ever seen their real faces, because they were always wearing those hats. Legend has it that they all look exactly the same because they're triplets. But who knew if that was true.
I wasn't sure how strong the three of them were either. In the stories I'd heard, when Jiao S was in great danger, her three A-rank guards were also present, so these three guys hadn't even needed to make a move. From the current situation, it seemed that, at the least, they weren't weak.
My mind suddenly started to calculate the odds of my escaping if a fight were to really start up. (Passerby A: Shouldn't you be calculating your odds of victory? Me: Quit playing. How could I possibly be victorious in this kind of situation.)
But soon, my thoughts moved to another question. What was she doing out in the middle of the night? And didn't this mean that she hadn't gone to the Southern District as Nie Zun had predicted? As I was considering the different possibilities, Jiao S jumped off the tree. When I saw her, I quickly followed suit and jumped down as well. At the same time, Nie Zun also left his tree, and the three shadows behind him floated down to the ground, still circled around him.
Black lines appeared on my forehead. Didn't the fact that they were circled around Nie Zun mean that they felt his threat to Jiao S was greater than mine? Were they looking down on me? (Passerby B: Of course he's a bigger threat. His MF is more than 10 levels higher than yours! Me: slaps Passerby B)
Jiao S and stood across from each other, and she looked like she wanted to say something. Then, suddenly, two gusts of wind brought two people before Jiao S. Muscle Man and Bandages. My heart wailed in anguish. 6 v 2, no way we could win.
But aside from a quick glance over, neither Muscle Man nor Bandages seemed at all concerned with me. Instead, they hastily reported to Jiao S, "Commander, four of the seven B-rank officers have been assassinated. They're dead inside of their rooms."
Four of seven B-rank officers were killed?! From what I know, B-rank officers in S Clan had MFs around 35-40. Who could possibly kill off four of them? And since Muscle Man and Bandages were making this report, they must have been at least B-rank officers as well.
"What about the other three?" Jiao S didn't sound panicked though. In fact, she didn't have much of a reaction at all, remaining emotionless.
"The other three B-rank officers have yet to return from the Southern District. We were able to call them, and they're safe for now."
Okay. So Muscle Man and Bandages must be two of the A-rank officers then.
Suddenly, Bandages' eyes swept over me. "Commander, the Western Commander came to see you today, so I'm afraid that she can't be cleared from suspicion."
I immediately retorted, “Don't make blind allegations. You're suspecting that I'm related to those deaths?"
"Your visitation today was the only thing out of the ordinary. Who else would be able to kill four B-rank officers?" Bandages glared at me with hostility.
"Let's not make such hasty conclusions," Jiao S said. And then, she slowly turned her head towards the three white-clothed people behind Nie Zun. "Find out who did this. And whoever it was, make sure they disappear from the Split Zone."
At her words, my hairs all stood on end.
After hearing her order, the three white-robed figures vanished from my sight with a whoosh. Even though Jiao S didn't seem to express any reaction to the death of four high ranking officers, she must have felt angry and hurt. I may not understand her, but I do know one thing—that she had never before ordered the white robes to leave her side.
Suddenly, a strange feeling slipped into my heart. I felt a sense of sadness from out of nowhere. I raised my head and looked at Jiao S. She was looking right back at me.
Well, now we know how our pair ended up essentially handcuffed together, and it really makes me wonder how their love-hate relationship will pan out. We get to hear all of Li Shen's internal monologues, as she's the narrator, but I'd also like to know how Nie Zun feels being on the other side of things. That's why I love stories where characters take turns narrating, because we get all those different perspectives. (Too bad this isn't one.)
Also, it looks like the guys over in the Eastern District are having some troubles of their own. Which suggests to me that whatever is happening is bigger than the characters—or at least Li Shen—are anticipating.
Nie Zun suffers from 'deficient personality disorder,' but without more details, I don't think we can match it to a real disorder. (In fact, it may not be based on a real disorder at all.) What we do know about Nie Zun's personality is that in Li Shen's opinion, he's excessively carefree and rather aloof to most. Maybe that's relevant.