241 You're Wrong!
Drawing a circle in the air with Scorpion Ray, I had Song Lu entrapped in a ring of light. I could adjust the size of the ring with the tip of my finger through a string of light that served as a connection between my index finger and that ring.
Song Lu looked rather calm as she remained motionless. "You're a quick learner. Are you imitating the way I controlled the water earlier?"
Focusing MF on my finger, I tried to keep the ring of light stable. "I'm not imitating you, but I did learn something from you earlier. You've never used such a restriction technique in the past, and there aren't many in the Split Zone who use such techniques either. Du Yue is one of them, so it's obvious that you've learnt it from her. The foundation to such techniques is identical, and one can create further advanced techniques with that.
"I used my MF to sense how you controlled yours when you attacked that ice phoenix, committing it to memory at the same time. I'm simply using my MF at the same frequency as yours when I activated Scorpion Ray to create this ring of light."
Song Lu's eyes flashed. "You've always been intelligent. You've never bothered to learn how to manipulate your MF seriously when I tried teaching you in the past. But even so, you've always been able to control it well. I knew at that time that if you were willing to put in more effort, you'd definitely have been able to create stronger and more advanced techniques.
"You've improved a lot, seeing that you don't have a teacher like me. I'm not sure how I fare in the Gate of Heaven, but I know that I'm the best in manipulating MF compared to everyone else in the Eastern, Western and Southern Districts. You've made great improvement in the time we've been separated. I guess I've underestimated you earlier, since it wasn't that you couldn't stop me from attacking that ice phoenix, but because you wasted some time in trying to sense how I was using MF."
I actually had Li Wen to thank for this improvement, since I was able to manipulate my MF much better after that session of meditation. Calculating MF before launching an attack was not a good strategy at all. The real skill lies in using what little MF we have to its fullest extent.
Thus, there was no actual need to calculate the exact MF used for each attack.
"But you're still a beginner in this, and there is still room for improvement." Song Lu's eyes flashed again.
Song Lu was trapped in the ring of light at the other end, but there was a layer of moving water that wrapped around that ring. That water was creeping slowly towards my finger.
"Since you've already made a move, is there really a need to go this slowly? If this water is moving so slowly, does it mean that you don't actually intend to hurt me?" I gave Song Lu a mirthless smile as I kept my eyes on her.
"You've really changed, Li Shen. You're more rational and intelligent now."
"I was forced to." After I spoke, I deactivated that string of light immediately.
Song Lu was referring to how I had to use that string of light as a connection to trap her within that ring, while she could easily restrict the movement of the ice phoenix as if through telekinesis.
This was where I was lacking, and this was also why I deactivated that string of light.
A gust of wind howled past me as I grabbed the air with my hand, but that ring of light shattered around Song Lu.
I stared at the broken ring. I guess I've failed this time.
Song Lu walked towards me elegantly, making me back away subconsciously.
She drew Piercer as she said, "Do you know why you've failed? You don't have enough power. But you're pretty good in being able to see that I controlled my MF without needing a connecting factor. You might just be able to do that in future, as long as you practice, but you'll also have to learn how to manipulate MF more intricately."
I stared at her as I asked, "Why are you telling me this?"
Lifting Piercer to observe it, she smiled. "Because I've never wanted to see you as an enemy. You should know that."
"Let her go then." I pointed to Jiao S who was in the cell.
Song Lu caressed Piercer as she continued, "Her? I really can't do that. I can't help you with this since Du Yue is the only one who has the key."
Jiao S spoke. "Leave it, Ah Shen. She literally cannot let me go."
I was a little agitated as I turned to her. "Why did you flinch when I mentioned her earlier? Jiao S, when did you start saying things like 'leave it'? When have you become such a coward? There's no way I'm giving up on you like this, so please don't give up on yourself either."
Song Lu flashed a brilliant smile as she heard this. "What an endearing relationship. I wonder how you can save her though."
Even without her eyes, Jiao S was able to determine where I was as she looked straight at me. "Ah Shen, listen to me. I'm not afraid of anything. You should know this. It's just that things aren't as simple as you think they are. You can't even imagine the price you have to pay in order to save me. I won't die, so there's no need to worry about me. Don't you trust me?"
"But…" Nie Zun interrupted me before I could continue. "Why can't that rationality and intelligence last for a while longer in you?"
Hearing that reminder, I took a deep breath and forced myself to calm down.
I've been trying very hard to stay calm in situations which had the potential to push me to the edge of my sanity, but I was no holy being and I believed that the only ones who could look at everything with equal calmness was someone who did not have a heart.
As long as we were worried about someone or something, there was no way we don't fear anything.
Those who feared nothing at all were those who didn't care about anything.
I cared too much about everything. The calmness in me came from all that I've thrown away, but there was no way I could turn into a cold-blooded monster. I don't think I did anything wrong.
But no matter how upset I felt, I knew I had to remain calm in this situation.
I turned back to face Song Lu. "What do you want? Just say it."
Song Lu laughed. "Since no one else will come to this underground prison, we can work out an agreement in here. How about this, I'll let you spend some time with Jiao S here while I take Nie Zun to Jie Pa. Though I'm not able to release Jiao S, I can release Jie Pa. Wait for me here if you really want to save her."
Nie Zun responded immediately with a question. "Why should I believe you and leave with you?"
Song Lu looked at him. "Do you have any other suggestions, Nie Zun? Or are you afraid that Li Shen might end up in trouble if you leave her alone here?"
I turned to Nie Zun, whose eyes seemed to turn cold as he looked at me. "I've got nothing to do with her. I'll leave with you."
Though my heart felt like it was being smashed into smithereens, I forced myself to smile. It's okay, Li Shen. You'll be fine on your own. Are you really going to rely on Nie Zun forever?
Isn't it great that he's going to save Jie Pa? Don't you want him to save Jie Pa?
But… why did I feel so heartbroken?
Did I really not want him to leave, not even for a minute?
Or was it because I would be afraid if he left me for just a minute?
"Let's go." Song Lu glanced at me before stepping onto a new set of stairs that appeared behind her. Nie Zun followed closely behind, never turning back.
Jiao S spoke in that coarse voice as I sat on the ground hugging my knees. "Have they left?"
"Ah Shen, is there anything you want to ask me?"
With a bitter smile, I said, "I'm sorry. I know that I won't be able to understand all the pain that you have been through during this time. This is why I'd rather not ask you anything."
Jiao S seemed to sigh. "Ah Shen, you're being too hard on yourself, as always."
My tears started falling. "No, I'm not being hard on myself. I'm being too easy on myself. I hate to see the people around me leave or turn into someone else. But more and more of them have been forced to change because of my inability and weakness. First it was Laurel, then Song Lu, and now it's you. This is all my fault."
"Ah Shen, I've never changed."
"No." I was crying now. "You've changed. You weren't like this in the past. Because of me, that aura and attitude of yours is all gone. You're not the Jiao S from before, and I know this is all because I didn't come to save you in time. I let them hurt you. Just look at Song Lu, she wasn't like this in the past. It's all because of me that all of you are hurt and forced to change."
"You're wrong." Jiao S spoke loudly this time, using a tone that made it difficult for others to argue with. The old Jiao S seemed to have returned. Hearing her like this, I stopped crying and looked at her.
She regarded me with those black holes for eyes. "Ah Shen, I've never changed. I've always acted according to what the situation requires of me. You can't say that I've changed because I'm not always acting the same. This is your first mistake. Your second mistake is that you're always blaming yourself for everything that happens. Why do you have to take responsibility for everyone's lives like this?"