58 Don’t Even Think About Taking Song Lu
After revealing her symbol, Li Wen rearranged her clothes unhurriedly before turning back around. “This is the truth. I am a soul splitter and so is that broken-armed woman. I don’t know with whom her symbol corresponds, only that you won’t be able to defeat her.”
“The soul splitters we’ve been pursuing for so long have never made an appearance in the split zone and now, out of nowhere, there are two?” Jiao S scoffed. “How do you expect us to believe it?”
Li Wen smiled. “It doesn’t matter either way. This is the truth. Every single person here has been to the hall of Northern District. Do you recall that there isn’t a ceiling over it?”
At her words, the image came back to me at once. That’s right. The hall had been almost a thousand square metres in size, surrounded by four slabs of snow-white porcelain walls. With the exception of the screen which could show real-time snippets of the real world, there was nothing else there. Looking ahead, the only thing you could see was a flood of blinding white light.
However, if you did look up, you would realise that there was no ceiling over it. The top of the hall was nothing but an infinite black hole. I had once pondered over it too but did not pay it much mind. Since the sky in the split zone is grey, I didn’t bother dwelling on any other strange phenomenon that happens here. Back then, I had only lifted my head slightly; the hall looked as though it had been built at the bottom of a pitch-black pit, seemingly running endlessly deep. Even if you did lift your head to its full extent, you would not be able to spot the end of that tunnel. All you would be able to see… is total darkness.
“That black hole you saw is the habitat of soul splitters. Mr Blond can’t reach it either. No one knows the secret to split zone’s soul splitters; it’s mere conjecture even on Mr Blond’s part.” Li Wen’s gentle voice was strong and forceful at the same time, slapping us with these words of reality.
I deepened my frown. “If there is truly such a secret, then why are you telling us?”
With a faint smile, Li Wen replied. “I didn’t say anything and I never will. I’m a soul splitter after all. The only thing I can tell you is that, if Du Yue succeeds with her experiment then a bloodbath in the split zone will not be far away.”
My eyes widened. “This… What exactly is this experiment about?”
“There are two segments. One of them is the body constitution that would allow reproduction of these diabolical leeches and seamlessly infuse them with the body at the same time. Their blood will carry an eternal ability to damage those who come in contact with it, and the offsprings of those leeches will be the perfect specimen to continue on to their next subject. This is where Song Lu and I failed.
“Then, there’s Laurel. Her experiment is on mental strength. Children have greater potential in honing their mental strength due to their young age, and they are easily manipulated and controlled. They want to create a child with high MF. Laurel was the first experimental subject who was near success, but the specific details aren’t known since she ran away.”
I clenched my first, my mind preoccupied by the words: Experimental subject… Experimental subject… how could they, Laurel is still so young!
“Why would they choose a soul splitter like you to conduct the experiment? Isn’t that claim too far-fetched?” Jiao S sneered.
Li Wen shook her head in resignation. “I’m just their sacrificial lamb. They wanted to find out if a soul splitter’s body was any different to a regular body o
f consciousness. In any case, I can’t say anything more than that. The reason I’m here, is to take Song Lu away.”
At her words, I firmly and immediately shook my head. “Don’t even think about it! Li Wen, after all that you’ve spouted, your real motive had been to take her away?”
Li Wen stopped smiling, and looked me right in the eye. “Ah Shen, I know this is upsetting but you must hand Song Lu over to me. I’m still one of them which means two things. One, I have to bring her back to them and two, you will only end up getting her killed if she continues to stay by your side!
“Her body is imperfect. I suppose she only regurgitated those worms once? Did you think that will be the end of it? I trust you saw how she looked then, and it’s going to happen again for a second or third time but never more than that. After the third, there’s no doubt that she will be die. Even if it’s to continue the experiment, the only way we can save her is for me bring her back.”
“No! Absolutely not! Don’t even think about it!” I was practically screaming those words. I can never forget about that day outside that stone wall; because of my hesitance and cowardice, I saw for myself the torture they put Song Lu through. Apart from Li Qing, Song Lu was the one person who was kindest to me, who treated me well. I will never condemn her to that hellhole again!
As I screamed, a wisp of red hair swept across my face and stuck itself to my quivering lips. Song Lu was still here, right by my side, yet for some reason it felt as though I had just been robbed of my dearest treasure. The image of Song Lu covered in blood that day, her sunken eyes, her flesh relentlessly torn apart by those poisonous insects to such an extent where she was unable to even let out a proper cry. That image… For the past few days, I hadn’t even the strength to recall them.
No… I will not allow that to happen again!
I bit down on my bottom lip harshly and the taste of blood spread across the tip of my tongue.
Li Wen looked as if she was caught between a rock and a hard place. “It doesn’t matter if you believe what I’ve said or not. Regardless, you’ll have to return to your own districts now. As far as I’m concerned, they’re still lacking something and will not be able to complete the experiment immediately. Please stay united no matter what; only with the alliance of the Western and Eastern Districts will you have even a glimmer of hope at winning.”
All of a sudden Guan Nie, who had thus far stayed silent, stopped toying with his hair and directed his words at Li Wen. “If everything is as you say, then I’d like to know more about that broken-armed woman, Du Yue. Why is she looking for Si Luo?”
The look in Li Wen’s eyes shifted at the mention of Si Luo and I grew alert as well. Why is everyone connected to Si Luo in some way?
As I was stuck in my musings, Li Wen had already started her response. “I can’t answer that. I can only tell you about the things you have to be on guard against. There’s not much time left––please hand Song Lu over to me.”
Without warning, Jiao S started laughing hysterically. “Li Wen, I see you’re still as cunning as ever! When all is said and done, aren’t you just afraid you’d get decapitated by the broken-armed woman if you don’t return with Song Lu?”
Li Wen, who had always been gentle and pure, suddenly let out an alluring laugh. “Decapitated? I’m a soul splitter, Jiao S. Have you forgotten? Only Li Qing’s split key would be able to kill me, but Li Qing… As you know—”
Before she could even finish her sentence, Jiao S was already glaring. “I won’t allow you to sully her name!”
A sudden storm surged, the influx of air howled and columns of whirlwind charged towards Li Wen. I have grown so accustomed to the unpredictable attacks of those with control over airflow that by this time, no matter how much I swayed unsteadily against the storm, my expression remained relaxed. For some reason, I had a random thought: Gust and gale however they pleased––the boundary forest was sturdy enough anyway.
Perhaps I was trying to conceal my worries about our situation. Whether it was Li Wen trying to take Song Lu away, or the fact we may be forced to fight Li Wen at some point––neither was a scenario I was willing to confront. Somehow, since arriving at Split Zone No. 13, I’ve always been forced into this type of situation.
Just when I was feeling a little down, Jiao S pulled out her sword with lightning speed and sprung towards Li Wen.
“Don’t even think about taking any of us!” Jiao S’ shout was unusually loud, and with her hoarseness it sounded almost gruff.
I was taken aback for a moment––not because of the harsh tone of her voice, but that she had used the word ‘us’.
Even in face of Jiao S’ attack, Li Wen was unperturbed. Her black hair fluttered loose in the wind and danced in the air, her cheeks tugged with the hint of a smile. As Jiao S rushed at her with sword in hand, Li Wen’s plain shoes tapped the ground below and, lithely, she leapt.
In mid-air, Li Wen’s red lips parted and she spoke easily. “Since you chose to fight with a sword, then let me show you mine too!” Just as the words left her, she reached back with her right hand and pulled out a slender sword from thin air. Her expression was graceful and calm, as though what she’s holding wasn’t a sword sharp enough to wound but a peaceful dove.
We spent quite a bit of time together in the past but I have never seen her wielding a sword.
A feeling of unease filled my heart but I couldn’t be bothered with worrying any longer. Holding up the bow that was slung on my back, I set my sight on Li Wen with the three arrows. “Li Wen, if you insist on fighting her, then don’t blame me for this!”
Just as I was about to fire, Jiao S’ sword had already struck. Li Wen ignored me; instead, her gentle lips were curved into a cold arc. With light movements, her slender sword sliced in both horizontal and vertical strokes, drawing the shape of a plus sign.
Following her strikes, something akin to a cross materialized in the air and like a shield, it blocked the razor light that came from Jiao S’s attack. Jiao S reeled backwards as it deflected the attack back onto her faster than it had before. Jiao S arced her body backwards in haste, the light just grazing the tip of her nose.
From the impact of the contact, Jiao S fell back onto the ground. Stumbling a few steps back, I could see blood gradually flowing from her nose but the arrows in my hand never left. I clenched my teeth, watching Li Wen who had floated way up high.
Li Wen was never able to fly this high in the past because that would exhaust a great amount of MF. Yet, seeing her now, I realized that even as a soul splitter, she must have been hiding her real potential all this while.
She didn’t give me extra time to think either; with a smirk, she lifted the slender sword again and drew another three crosses in the air. Then, along with the first giant shield from before, those four shields fell from the sky without warning. Sensing the threat that rang in my subconscious mind, I immediately pulled out the Piercer with my left hand.
The first cruciform shield which attacked Jiao S had seemingly gained sight as it adjusted its direction like a homing missile and began charging towards me.
Crack! I waved the Piercer with immense strength and a flash of violet light shot forward.
Thump! Deflected by the shield, the violet light ricocheted towards me again. I jumped away from attack and the shield leapt along with me into mid-air. The other three giant shields seemed to come alive too, starting their attack towards Jiao S, Nie Zun and Guan Nie respectively.
No matter how I dodged, the cruciform shield followed closely at my heels without slowing down. I didn’t know what would happen if I collided against it and any attack will only be deflected… All I could do is to keep evading.