159 A Fight Between the Snipe and the Clam
(T/n: A phrase in Chinese, yu bang xiang zheng, that describes a third party benefiting from a fight between two others.)
I addressed Jiao S while keeping my eyes on Nie Zun, who remained looking innocent.
"I should be fine… I guess."
There was a chill in Gaoqin Jiuye's gaze as he asked, "Nie Zun, can you give us some sort of explanation?"
Nie Zun gave a casual laugh, and he quickly repeated what he previously told me about being taken away by Ta Lai. I then told him about what happened to us when he was missing.
After that, there was nothing but silence in the room.
Gaoqin Jiuye was the first to break the silence.
"You were rather merciless when you went against us previously, so why should we believe you now?" He directed this question at Nie Zun, as if snubbing him.
Nie Zun was his usual, calm self. "You can choose not to believe me."
Okay, a stalemate again.
I looked at the two of them and thought to myself, When did the two of them start hating each other like this?
But this might not be peculiar, since Gaoqin Jiuye wasn't a popular person, and he didn't care about others anyway. As for Nie Zun, he always had this demeanor as if he couldn't be bothered about anything else, and he was an even more unpopular individual.
I guess it's quite normal that such individuals would hate each other?
I was never good at dissipating such situations, but Jiao S was a natural at this. She said, "Good that you're back, we need to work together so that the soul splitters can't get the better of us."
However, what Nie Zun said next seemed to carry some hostility. "Work together? Among us, you're the only soul splitter here, right?"
He looked at Gaoqin Jiuye with a smile, and even I trembled at that smile which was obviously far from genuine.
I always knew that Nie Zun only looked like a lazy bum on the outside, but in reality, he was someone you do not wish to ever offend. Even so, he cared so little about the things around him that it was rare to see the other side of him. From the current situation however, he could no longer sit back and watch while doing nothing at all.
Gaoqin Jiuye returned the smile, his cruel lips turning up at an angle. "That's right. When you guys say work together," as he said this, he pointed at the three of us one by one. "The three of you are on the same side, while I'm a soul splitter. So I'd suggest you don't put too much trust in me.
"I've also said this before, that I'm doing all this for Si Luo, including going with all of you to the Northern District. You could say it's partially for Guan Nie too. Once I've obtained what I set out for, there's no need for us to be working together anymore."
Looking at how clearly he drew the line between us, I felt a little upset at it, weirdly.
Yes, why did I forget that Gaoqin Jiuye is different from us again?
Weren't we fighting against him in that battle which caused me to activate my split symbol?
He does everything for Si Luo.
Only for Si Luo.
But why did I have a feeling that he was creating this veneer to separate himself from others on purpose? Why did I want to believe that he wasn't such an individual?
No matter how many times others have told me to stay away from him, to be wary of him, and even when the things he did could harm me, why did I still want to believe in him?
"How badly is Guan Nie's split symbol peeling?" Nie Zun asked abruptly.
Seems like he cares quite a bit about Guan Nie too.
Before I could answer, Gaoqin Jiuye laughed. "No use worrying about him. If we don't go to the Northern District to find the individual who can save him, death will come knocking on his door."
"Furthermore, I'm pretty sure you know how bad his injuries are. That shadow which appeared in front of the window and beat Yu Liang - that was you, right?" Gaoqin Jiuye asked with narrowed eyes as he lifted his head, seemingly looking in Nie Zun's direction.
My heart skipped a beat. Right, how could I forget. According to Nie Zun, demonic energy was seeping from his hands after he got injured, and he left alone because of that. He met Ta Lai shortly after, and he'd been under Ta Lai's control since. If that's the case, why did he appear in the Eastern District on that day? He even helped us out, and let me find him?
I looked at Nie Zun doubtfully.
There was no change in Nie Zun's calm expression. "Ta Lai let me go on purpose that day, and it was a coincidence that we met. After I helped you guys out, Ta Lai took control of me again."
"You mean all that was planned by Ta Lai? Then we're back to that same question. What's Ta Lai's objective?"
Nie Zun did not answer Gaoqin Jiuye this time.
I took a deep breath, saying to Gaoqin Jiuye, "I trust Nie Zun. If you're coming with us, then I hope you'll trust Nie Zun too. No matter what, I believe he wouldn't hurt me."
I was met with Gaoqin Jiuye's frigid gaze as I looked up.
"Huh, is that so. You believe that he wouldn't hurt you no matter what? Is that why you refused to let go of him even when he created a bloody hole in your body?" Gaoqin Jiuye sounded harsh and angry as he said this.
I did not expect him to say such a thing, and I was rendered speechless at how direct he was.
Nie Zun's gaze darkened, and I knew that he was upset at how Gaoqin Jiuye brought this up again, because it was an undeniable fact that he had hurt me.
This was probably unbearable for him.
Gaoqin Jiuye just had to mention it to rile up Nie Zun and I, and I spoke in the spur of the moment, "So what? He was being controlled at the time, but you actually went against me on your own accord. By this logic, should I be more wary of you instead?"
I said this without thinking it through, and I felt a tinge of regret after that as I saw a look of self-mockery on Gaoqin Jiuye.
I quickly suppressed that feeling. What I said was the truth, so why should I sympathize with him?
He was the one who brought me here to the Split Zone. He was the one who went against me before. And now he's trying to put some sort of blame on Nie Zun when we're trying to work together?
Gaoqin Jiuye, who are you to put the blame on others? Do you treat me that well? In fact, you should be my greatest enemy, my soul splitter.
Gaoqin Jiuye kept his eyes on me, and I returned his stare.
Sometimes, I'm curious why we would be able to meet here in the Split Zone, with this rather complicated relationship. Why did I meet you, someone who looks exactly like Gao Qi, here?
Fate loves to play games with us, don't you think?
"What's the use of bickering now? Our goals are one and the same. Gaoqin Jiuye, both you and I are doing this for Si Luo and Guan Nie, while Li Shen is doing this for her friend. Since our aim is to reach the Northern District, why're we fighting here?" Jiao S finally spoke.
"Furthermore, two days have already passed. There're still five more days to go before Guan Nie's split symbol completely peels off, and before his consciousness disappears in the Split Zone forever. He no longer has a will to live, and if we don't reach the Northern District in time to find the one who can save him, he'll definitely die.
"Gaoqin Jiuye, instead of arguing, why don't you use this time to think about how to save Guan Nie? Or are you happy to see him die because of you?" Jiao S looked at Gaoqin Jiuye with a frown.
Mentioning Guan Nie worked as Gaoqin Jiuye quietened.
"Moreover, we're now in the Southern District. Doesn't matter if it's Ta Lai or Du Yue, it's obvious that entering and leaving the Southern District is a piece of cake for them. Si Luo is in a deep sleep now, and as the person he trusts the most, and also as someone who's among the candidates for the next Southern District Commander, can you just sit back and watch as you let all this happen?"
Jiao S's eyes shone with a light that looked so full of justice. "Gaoqin Jiuye, I know you're not interested in being District Commander and whatnot, and you've never had a sense of responsibility for whatever you do. But even if you didn't bother about all this, can't you protect what Si Luo built?"
Compared to Nie Zun and I, Jiao S was sharp and precise in her words, and it was difficult to argue with her since whatever she said was indeed true.
In the past, I never would have thought Jiao S could be such a reasonable individual who fought for justice.
Gaoqin Jiuye asked with narrowed eyes, "What're you planning to do?"
Jiao S looked at him. "Do you know where the Southern District's experimental grounds are?"
Gaoqin Jiuye laughed cruelly. "I really don't know. You have to ask Si Luo or Rong Jin."
His evil smile froze as he seemed to be reminded of something. All of us froze as well.
Rong Jin… Where's Rong Jin??
Rong Jin was the first to show up in Ta Lai's dark space, but after Ta Lai appeared and engaged us in battle, where did he go? Also, why would he be involved with Ta Lai?
"Why did Ta Lai side with Du Yue all of a sudden?" Jiao S voiced our doubts.
I caught Gaoqin Jiuye's gaze wavering as Du Yue was mentioned again. When Du Yue appeared that day, I had no spare time to pay attention to Gaoqin Jiuye's expression. I wonder what happened between them.
"You can't find the experimental grounds, but you can find Rong Jin, right?" Jiao S asked Gaoqin Jiuye again.
Gaoqin Jiuye replied, "I can't. You should know this too. Ever since he went under Si Luo's wing, he never showed his face. He always used those shadows of his. No one knows where he is or why he's suddenly working with Ta Lai instead of properly protecting the Southern District."
Jiao S tilted her head. "Alright, you don't know anything and you can't find anything. I'll ask you one last question. As a soul splitter, you should at least know how to go to the Northern District right?"