106 What the Heart Really Wants
"I fell in love with who again?" I was rather taken aback.
Nie Zun looked at me with sparks in his eyes. "Have you mistaken Gaoqin Jiuye for Gao Qi? Developed feelings for him again?"
My mind was a blank.
Why… why say that?
Seeing me silent, he looked incandescent. He pulled my face closer to his!
I stared with wide, open eyes as I made contact with those icy lips.
His eyes were such a fiery contrast to the grey, sunless sky.
No, what am I thinking?! What's he doing?!
I hurriedly pushed him away as he was about to pry open my lips with the tip of his tongue.
"You, you, you, what do you think you're doing." I looked at him, not knowing what to do. His hair hung over his forehead, obstructing the firelight in his eyes.
"Answer me. Did you fall in love with Gaoqin Jiuye?" He voice was deep and hoarse, and he stopped closing the distance between us.
I felt angry all of a sudden. "Why would I fall in love with him?!"
"Because he looks exactly like the person you were holding a torch for when you were alive?"
I was once again reminded of Gao Qi's pale face, becoming momentarily speechless.
Old Man Fan, how does that sealing technique of yours work? Was what I saw just a hallucination, or was it reality?
Gao Qi… Is he really alive?
"Now that I think about it, what did you see when you were there? Do you think that's really the real world?" I asked Nie Zun hastily, moving closer to him.
Nie Zun replied in his deep voice, "Answer me first. Did you fall in love with him?"
I gave him a hard shove. "I might misunderstand that you have feelings for me if you continue being this ridiculous. Why would I fall in love with that ruthless character? I did love Gao Qi, but he isn't Gao Qi."
"How would I know if you didn't confuse him with Gao Qi." Nie Zun sounded stifled.
He looked absurd in this moment, but I stopped myself from laughing.
"Alright, how about you tell me what you saw? Whatever happened in that crack in space, was it a reflection of the real world?"
"I wasn't paying attention. I only saw you and Gaoqin Jiuye sticking together." Nie Zun put his hands back into the pockets of his windbreaker, and his voice regained that lackadaisical tone as he spoke.
Shocked at what I heard, I asked, "What? You could see the both of us? Why couldn't I see you? Where were you?"
Nie Zun looked at me lazily. "I was inside you."
Pfft… This sounded way too hilarious…
"Why do you look like you just ingested feces?" Nie Zun looked at me in confusion.
I did not reply.
Yeah, right! As if I'd admit I thought of something dirty.
Nie Zun's eyes suddenly shone, looking enlightened. "You're that filthy, Li Shen?"
I rolled my eyes.
"What I meant was that my consciousness was inside your body."
"Why would your consciousness be inside my body?" I asked with a muffled voice.
"Because… I don't actually know either."
"Maybe your second personality didn't have a place to go because the crack in space is a different dimension from the Split Zone, and my consciousness just so happened to be dragged along with her when she merged with you." Nie Zun came up with an analysis.
"You know my second personality so well," I answered with sarcasm.
Sensing the mordacity in my voice, he locked his eyes on me. "Why are you so prejudiced against her?"
I scoffed, "Why then are you so concerned that I'm prejudiced against her? You think you know her well? Would you know her better than me? Or are you predisposed to defending her because of your link with her? Do you want me to return this body to her, so that she can be alive again?"
For some reason, I was agitated, and it has been a long time since I said so much.
Nie Zun's eyes gleamed. "I just wanted to let you know that she is you, and you are her. The split identities are caused by your prejudice against this part of yourself. The tragedy when you were alive - it also happened because of this split. You're in pain because you do not accept yourself, and I don't want to see you in pain."
Although those words were spoken with concern, it was merely an annoying sound in my ears.
I said frostily, "I'd not be in pain if not for her. She's the cause of all my pain. Thanks for reminding me that she's in you now, or I would probably have forgot!"
"She loves you more than anybody else, because she is you. Only you can truly protect yourself." Nie Zun kept his gaze on me.
My heart started hurting.
"She's not me!" I shouted at Nie Zun. "She's a devil! She's a murderer! She's a psychotic! If not for her, my life would not be like this! I wouldn't have lost Gao Qi, and I wouldn't have ended up here in the Split Zone!"
Nie Zun looked like he was in agony. "I know that. But you can't change the fact that she is you."
I felt like crying, but I took a deep breath and forced myself to hold the tears back.
"Don't be like this, Nie Zun. I might start hating you," I said, sniffing.
After what felt like centuries, he finally let out a sigh, and did not speak further.
The atmosphere felt empty and it became a little awkward, but I did not want to speak first. Nie Zun, I understand all these. But I'm a sinner, I'm different from everyone else.
Even though there are many who care for me in the Split Zone, even though I told myself not to be cowardly anymore, I still can't do it. I couldn't forgive myself. I was too used to being ostracized and too used to the solitude to forgive myself.
I could not forgive her because I could not forgive myself.
"Nie Zun, since your consciousness was with me, you saw my mum too, right?" I ended up speaking first.
We kept our gazes on each other.
"Yes, I saw her."
"Have you ever thought of leaving this place? Going back?"
I thought Nie Zun would hesitate and remain silent, but he answered swiftly, "Yes, I want to go back. My sister is waiting for me."
I was rather stunned. This was the first time I heard Nie Zun say he 'wanted' anything, something that he actually wished for.
Nie Zun always gave the impression that he did not have a care in the world, and that he wanted nothing and needed nothing. Was it because of this that I neglected his feelings?
Whether I chose to leave or stay, I did not think of Nie Zun at all before this.
Our lives are tied together and my decision will definitely affect him! Only if we manage to find our soul splitters can we go back together.
And I did not, even for a second, think of what he wanted?
I was shocked at the abrupt realization of how selfish I had been.
As if able to read my mind, he spoke softly, "I just decided today that I want to go back. There's no reason for you to blame yourself about this."
"Why did you decide to go back?"
"Because you want to go back," Nie Zun casually said as he smiled.
"Pft." Looking at that unconcerned expression of his, I could not tell if his words were genuine.
My relationship with Nie Zun has always been like this. There are times when I suddenly hate him, and there are times when I rely heavily on him. In the Split Zone, Nie Zun is the only person I can trust whole-heartedly.
It might be because she's with him, or that deep inside, I knew that she and I were actually the same person. The fact that she is with him makes it feel like I am always together with Nie Zun as well.
"You want to go back, for real?" Nie Zun looked at me squarely.
My smile faded, and looking at him intently, I said, "To be honest, I really don't know. I promised Li Qing and Ta Lai that I won't ever think about going back."
"Are you regretting now that you've seen your family?"
I shook my head. "I have no idea. It might not be regret, but it seems selfish of me to keep hiding here in the Split Zone. It feels as if I were an invertebrate only focused on protecting myself, that I wasn't able to put myself in the shoes of others who might be sad after I was gone. Nie Zun, I always thought it didn't matter if I lived or died. But I only realized recently that as long as one is still alive, everything still matters."
"It's impossible to be fearless as long as there are things you still care about." Nie Zun arranged his fringe casually.
"It's because you hate yourself that you didn't want to return, you didn't want to take on the role of district commander, and you were running away from everything. You hate yourself for killing the one you love, and it isn't the Split Zone that you can't let go off, it's that self-loathing."
Nie Zun sounded gentle, "We all need to learn how to give ourselves a chance."
I was silent. I did not know what to say.
"Alright, let's not talk about this anymore," he said, walking towards me with a smile.
"From the looks of it, we might actually stand to gain some things from Du Yue's experiment. A number of soul splitters are involved, and the experiment is connected to things we previously didn't know about. We might be able to uncover some clues that could help us find our soul splitters and leave this place."
"Hmm, that's right. Let's first look at the experimental grounds - 27th floor of the Residence, right? Now that I think about it, I seldom visit other levels apart from where I live on level 13," I said.
With a nod, Nie Zun and I started walking in the direction of the Residence.