61 A Difficult Choice
My own head and heart were beginning to heal while Jiao S was trapped on the ground. Just as I started to get up, the silhouette of a man dashed out from the jungle––out of nowhere, Ku Fei emerged. His eyes were washed with anger when he stared at me. “Li Shen, you lied to me?!”
He glanced over at Huan Qing then rushed to his side, supporting the unconscious man on himself and glowered at me once more. “You did have something to do with Lord Huan Qing and Ms Mi Fu’s disappearance! It was a good thing I followed all of you in secret. I even took a long time searching for you when you disappeared out of the blue!”
I was just about to speak when Li Wen got there before me, her brows creased. “You’ve been following them all this while? That means to say, you’ve been there all along until we disappeared? So you heard everything we spoke about earlier?”
Ku Fei was stunned at the fact that the beautiful Li Wen was speaking to him, but he quickly gathered himself and responded immediately. “Yeah, but what was the deal about all of that? I can’t be bothered about anything else, I just want to know the whereabouts of Ms Mi Fu. Where have you people taken her?”
Li Wen’s eyes flashed with an indecipherable delight. My heart sank.
Sure enough, Li Wen worked MF suddenly, “Fall!”
In that instant, a cruciform sword fell from the sky and drove towards Ku Fei. At the same time, Li Wen lifted a hand and dug her nails into the pulse of her other wrist. Blood sprayed from the punctured wrist and as the sword flew past her in mid-air, she coated it with her blood.
No… That’s not good. She’s planning to send him to his doom! Her fresh blood was enough to let Ku Fei lose his healing abilities. I reacted at once, stumbling to my feet with full intention of rushing forward but there wasn’t enough time. The sword was going to plunge itself into Ku Fei and Huan Qing any second now.
All of a sudden, there was a flash of movement and they… they actually disappeared! With a thump, the sword stabbed straight into the ground instead.
I hadn’t caught Ku Fei’s movement at all. In the midst of my shock, I saw Ku Fei carrying Huan Qing in his arms, having dodged to the other side of the attack. Ku Fei’s eyes were filled with rage, but both his arms held onto Huan Qing steadily.
Li Wen was obviously bewildered, “How did you—Your speed could actually surpass my cruciform sword? Who are you?”
Ku Fei was fuming with anger. “What do you mean who am I?! What’s so difficult about dodging that giant sword of yours? I’ve never met anyone who could run faster than me! And while we’re talking about that—are you crazy, woman?! I heard the talk about you being a soul splitter, which means you’re not associated with Li Shen and the rest, so why in the world did you attack me?!”
Li Wen stared wide-eyed at the mention of her being a soul splitter. “Because you’ve heard things you shouldn’t!”
Ku Fei leapt further away from Li Wen with Huan Qing in his arms. “Who cares about all that? I just want to know where Ms Mi Fu is!”
I replied hastily, “Ku Fei, listen to me. We weren’t the ones who hurt Huan Qing, we brought him along to save him! You didn’t see it when we disappeared but we were the ones who concealed his presence so we could prevent this woman from hurting him! Mi Fu was also taken by them!” I declared loudly, pointing to Li Wen.
Yet Ku Fei only shook his head furiously. “Stop lying to me! I’m not going to believe any of you––I’m taking Lord Huan Qing away!”
He had probably realized there was no
way he could go up against us all by himself, and so with his words he fled in haste into the deeper end of the forest. Li Wen swung her sleeves with full intention of chasing after him, but with a wave of his hand Guan Nie obstructed her sight with a puff of fog.
Li Wen glared at Guan Nie and halted in her steps, lifted a hand and waved it downwards again. With that movement, the sword she had stuck into Jiao S let out a violent, raucous wail.
I twisted my head towards Jiao S and saw the sword in her back glowing in a blinding light. All at once Jiao S’ eyes widened, as though she was enduring some form of torment.
Just as I was about to rush over, Li Wen spoke up coldly, “Li Shen, one more step and I will leave her in such an overwhelming agony, she’d rather die. My Parting Sword can absorb MF and forcefully drag it out of her. She’s already regaining MF at a slower pace too. With the combination of the two, I suppose, I can completely damage her mental strength at any time. If you dare take another step forward, I will leave her forever wrecked in paralysis!”
I bit my lips, my enlarged eyes turned to glower at Li Wen, an arrow already locked and aimed at her.
Li Wen merely smiled at the bow in my hands. “Li Shen, recklessness won’t do you any good. Look at your situation now––none of you can resist my Demonic Tune in this state. Even if you were able to, with just a shift of my hand, Jiao S’ mental strength will be completely exhausted by my Parting Sword. I presume you didn’t know about this before but her split symbol is also on her back… and my Parting Sword is now jabbed right into it, able to completely destroy her MF at my whim! Even if it’s not stained with my blood and I’m unable to kill her, she will still remain paralyzed for the rest of time.
“And you… Are you confident that you’ll be able to kill me in the split second before I drop my arm?”
My lips had already been injured from my biting and was slowly beginning to mend, but I didn’t give it the chance. I continued chewing till it split open once more. I honestly had no idea what else I could do to vent this misery in my heart.
There was a dull aching along the rim of my eyes, I suppose the damage caused by her Demonic Tune had yet to be fully recovered, but I couldn’t bother with such insignificant pain and attempted to widen my eyes even more to glare at Li Wen.
Li Wen had already lifted her arm slightly, a gentle smile on her face. “Look at the people around you.”
Following her words, I looked towards Nie Zun who remained by Jie Pa’s side, both hands protecting him and prepared to shield the man from any attack that might threaten him. On the other side, Guan Nie sat atop the tree, the blood along his lips had yet dried and with his almond eyes, he stared intently at Li Wen’s back.
“None of you here are confident that you’ll be able to subdue me before I drop my arm, right?” Li Wen chuckled.
Jiao S gasped, obviously using all her might to keep from crying out in pain. The split symbol is the most important part of our body in the split zone; it is where our mental strength converged. To have your split symbol pinned down by such a MF weapon… I can’t imagine the kind of pain she must be going through.
I could hear wheezing from Jiao S who was still lying on the ground, her hoarse voice travelled from behind me, “No, no, no. Don’t bother about me.”
I clenched my teeth.
Li Wen’s smile became even gentler. “Li Shen, there’s really no need for us to be like this. I never had the intention of injuring any of you, so why are you even doing this? All I wanted was to take Song Lu away. I promise, as long as you allow me to take Song Lu away without a hitch, I will not hurt Jiao S.”
I took a look at the unconscious Song Lu. Her wavy hair had slightly covered her pale face and her eyes were still a little sunken. She was lying quietly on the ground, unaffected by the unrest and bloodbath around her.
Song Lu, if you are dreaming… Then, is the world within that dreamland more peaceful than it is here?
Tears streamed from my eyes.
“Ah—!” With the slight lowering of Li Wen’s arm, Jiao S was finally unable to restrain herself as a strangled cry escaped, her voice was hoarse and shrill. How I wished I could just rush towards Li Wen and tear her into shreds, yet, for Jiao S’ sake, I mustn’t move a single step.
I spoke through gritted teeth, “Li Wen, it seems the time we spent together was too short. If I had known that you were such a character, I would have cheered and applauded back when Jiao S was tearing you apart in front of everyone!”
There was a fleeting look of dejection in Li Wen’s eyes, but it was gone soon enough and she fitted her smile again. “Think whatever you want. If you can’t bear to let Song Lu return as an experiment subject, then you’ll have to pay the price. If you can’t bear to hurt Jiao S, then you’ll lose Song Lu. Li Shen, this is the split zone––what right do you have to be a commander if you can’t grasp this simple logic? Seeing you like this, don’t you think Li Qing would be bitterly disappointed?”
Jiao S who had been panting behind me shouted in her gruff voice, “Don’t you dare bring up Li Qing!” But what followed after was a horrible shriek of pain.
Li Wen’s smile turned cold, “I don’t have much time to talk through it all with you. If you continue on like this, then the choice you make today will be nothing but a mere drop in the ocean; one day, you’re going to lose everyone you care about!
“Li Shen, make a choice; allow me to take Song Lu away or let me disable Jiao S.” Li Wen seemed to have run out of patience, presenting me with an ultimatum.
All of a sudden, from afar, Guan Nie’s voice rang out, “Li Shen, Jiao S is still my district commander. If you allow for her to be paralyzed, then don’t blame me, Guan Nie, for disregarding all the rapport we’ve built up over the past few days!”
Nie Zun spoke coolly before I could breathe a word. “Guan Nie, trust her.”
Listening to Nie Zun, Guan Nie swept his gaze coldly over me but said no more. My lips have already by ruined by my chewing and even my gums were beginning to bleed. I knew it was impossible for us to stop Li Wen before the drop of her arm, so I could only make a choice between the two.
Raging tears streamed from my eyes; I truly am sick of myself for being such a crybaby, but when I looked to Song Lu in her sleep, my heart felt like it was being pulled and wrung.
I could still hear the ceaseless pants of Jiao S. Even though she could hardly talk anymore, she still managed to force a speech in a low voice. “Guan… Guan Nie, I want y-you to help Li Shen kill her. Don’t bother about me!”
On the tree opposite us, Guan Nie squeezed his eyes shut, unable to bear hearing those words from her.
Li Wen moved her hand slightly but Jiao S didn’t scream this time round. It was as though she could no longer muster any cries, although I could hear her increasing labored breathing. I didn’t dare to turn back, didn’t dare to take a look at her. My falling tears merged with the blood on my face.
The streaks of tears on my face seemed to dry instantly with the gust of a chilly wind, taking with it the last trace of warmth.
“Song Lu…” I shut both my eyes, refusing to let the tears that had welled up escape once more. “Just take her.”