I shot a charming smile at the muscular man. Stepping forward, I raised my right hand to touch his toned right arm. His left hand was still holding down the elevator button. (t/n: the muscular man will henceforth be called Muscle Man)
Seeing me move, the mummy pulled back his left leg and turned slightly, to face me. At the same time, Nie Zun’s left foot moved slightly forward.
Muscle Man didn’t move. I gave his arm a gentle rub.
“Since you know that I rarely pay visits, the fact that I’m here today means that there’s a reason that I must see your district commander. Even if you won’t let me see her, I can’t just let things go. So, how about this? You tell me a way to meet your commander that doesn’t put you in a tight spot. It’s better than us resorting to violence, isn’t it? After all, if we were to really fight, are you sure that you would win?”
I tilted my head and gave another pretty smile, slowly pulling back my hand.
Muscle Man was silent a moment, and then he looked to me with bright eyes. “Ms Li Zhen, let’s do it this way. You and Mr Nie Zun return to the 26th floor and wait. I’ll report to the commander and have her make a decision. What do you think?”
I felt somewhat unhappy at this. We were both district commanders, so what was up with the air of arrogance?
Well, fine, I’ll tolerate it. This was their turf after all.
Sigh. Even though I was a district commander, I didn’t feel like a leader at all. I always mixed with the other residents on the 13th floor. I spent half my day lying in bed, like a paralyzed patient. It was no wonder that Mr Blond was angry with me.
As I thought about this, Nie Zun and I were being escorted out of the elevator. We stood in front of the elevator doors on the 26th floor, waiting for the muscular man’s response.
After the elevator doors closed, I turned to look at Nie Zun. His careless appearance seemed to have hit a limit. Perhaps he was tired because it was nighttime. He swayed slightly as he stood, as if he might fall asleep at any moment.
I was about to scold him for being so leisurely while we were in enemy territory, when he suddenly laughed at something behind me. “What is it?”
I started. Was there someone behind me? Even though my mental force wasn’t very high, I was still pretty sensitive to my surroundings. Who could have gotten this close to me without my taking notice?
I hated this weak and feeble feeling. With a taut face, I stubbornly refused to turn around.
“It’s like this. There’s something I must report to you, but it didn’t seem safe to do so in the confines of Westside, so I followed you and the commander here. Only, I was more than half an hour later than you two. I made it past the district border right at the last minute, so I was only able to find you now.”
This voice sounded very familiar, so I immediately turned around.
It was Jeppa. (t/n: Or Jie Pa, as I called him previously. But I’ll be using Jeppa now.)
Jeppa was still dressed in a suit, standing behind me, looking ever like a perfect gentleman. He was looking respectfully towards Nie Zun, his eyes not covered by that pair of black glasses.
Startled, I said, “Jeppa?”
“It’s me, Commander.” As always, Jeppa gave a bow to me.
“What are you doing here?” I asked. Then I turned to Nie Zun, who didn’t look at all surprised. Rather, he nodded to Jeppa. “Continue speaking. We’re waiting for someone now, so it might not be convenient to talk in a bit.”
Jeppa understood. He got to his point and said,
“I suspect that Ms Laurel didn’t really die.”
My eyes widened. “What do you mean?”
Jeppa looked at me as he said, “As you’re aware, Commander, after a person dies, someone from the marketplace is designated to transport the body to the corpse pit near the forest. Then, in the real world, that person’s heart will stop beating. After their body grows cold there, the corpse in this world will disappear.”
He paused and adjusted his glasses. “Before that happens though, after a splitting key is inserted into someone’s split symbol, they will die in this world, but their body form remains unchanged. Only in the final moments before their consciousness truly disappears from here do they return to their original form. I was suspicious, so I went to the corpse pit to find Ms Laurel’s body, and I watched it until it disappeared. In the final moments though, her body didn’t look like Ms Laurel’s, but rather some other 20 something year old girl.”
Jeppa continued, “There are three (t/n: ?) possibilities. First, Ms Laurel had been maintaining her appearance with her mental force. Second, someone used their mental force to make themselves look like Ms Laurel, and it was during that time that they were killed.”
I frowned. The first situation was impossible. Because Laurel was still young, and her death hadn’t come about from a very particular illness, she was entrusted to me by Mr Blond; she hadn’t walked into Westside by her own choice. That meant that she wouldn’t have been familiar enough with using mental force to put on a fake appearance.
But the second situation wasn’t very likely either. While it was very easy to disguise yourself as someone else, you couldn’t fake a split symbol. Everyone’s split symbol gave off a faint light, a kind of light that we couldn’t replicate. If the dead Laurel was a fake, how did we explain the butterfly symbol on her neck? I’d seen her split symbol before, and it was indeed a butterfly.
Seeing the doubts on my face, Jeppa continued, “Commander, split symbols come in a large number of varieties. Everyone’s is different, and no symbol is repeated. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t symbols that look very similar. Even if the symbol on that girl’s neck was a butterfly, it may have been a different butterfly to Ms Laurel’s. Try to recall it.”
Hearing Jeppa say this, I suddenly felt that something wasn’t quite right. Because I’d been so enraged by Laurel’s death, I hadn’t considered the possibility that someone had disguised themselves as Laurel. I didn’t really think much about it at all. But with Jeppa’s words now, I tried to recall the symbol I saw on the corpse’s neck. My memory is very strong, and it really did seem that the butterfly on the corpse wasn’t exactly the same as Laurel’s butterfly.
They looked similar, yes, but they were two different types of butterflies.
“Who would want to disguise as Laurel to get killed? What do they mean by that? And where’s the real Laurel?” I grew anxious. Because if what Jeppa proposed was true, then that meant there was a chance that Laurel was still alive.
Jeppa responded, “I don’t understand the reasoning behind it either, but I suspect that many recent events are not normal. After Nie Zun told me to secretly investigate this, I started to pay more attention to these things.”
Nie Zun told him? I turned to glance at him. Of course, he had the same lazy expression as always. And then he even yawned.
Looks like I’m the only one who doesn’t concern themselves with all these things, I couldn’t help deride myself.
Ding!, the elevator suddenly sounded. Must be Muscle Man. I glanced back to the elevator to catch the doors opening. But when I turned back around, I found that Jeppa had already disappeared.
What agility! I guess Jeppa was staying hidden from the Eastsiders.
I looked back to the elevator. “Ms Li Zhen, our commander is not currently in. I’m not just saying that, but she’s really not in the building right now. I didn’t know earlier, as she doesn’t usually leave the residence at this time, but she’s not one to report her activities to me. So, I must apologize, but I’m afraid that you’ll have to leave now.”
I thought back to what Jeppa told us earlier. If what he said was true, it wouldn’t be wise to rush in and interrogate Sly S right now. So, I just laughed. “Alright. Sorry for the troubles. We’ll head off then.”
“There are still 29 hours before day returns. Why don’t I arrange a place for you and Mr Nie Zun to stay?”
“There’s no need. When travelers pass through another district, they can stay in the school dorms. At the least, I’m aware of such a rule. There’s no need for you to inconvenience yourself. You can go. Nie Zun and I will head to the school building.”
Muscle Man nodded. “Be careful on your way.” As if not wanting to speak with me for an extended time, he pressed the button to close the elevator doors.
Seeing the elevator doors close, it appeared that the man had no intention of seeing Nie Zun and myself out. My lips twitched.
“Where’s Jeppa?” I asked Nie Zun.
“On the rooftop, probably.” Nie Zun yawed again.
I really couldn’t be bothered to retort to such a response. Rather than wait for the elevator, I slipped out the 26th floor window and used my mental force to take me to the 30th floor.
Nie Zun followed behind and jumped up as well.
As Nie Zun had said, Jeppa was indeed standing on the roof, waiting for us.
Spotting my arrival, Jeppa immediately proposed, “Commander, I think that it’s better if we return to the district forest. Neither you nor Nie Zun are familiar with the way things work here, so I suggest that we wait in the forest. We’ll be able to return to Westside right away when day breaks.”
“You’re really quick, you know.” I commended Jeppa’s abilities, not opposing his suggestion.
Nie Zun suddenly spoke up. “Jeppa, you should return to the forest and wait for us there. Li Zhen and I are going to take a look at the other district border. Before the sky lights up, we’ll meet back up with you. If we don’t return, you can head back to Westside first. You don’t have to wait for is. The same as before.”
After listening, Jeppa nodded. Then he turned away and seemed to vanish.
“Wow, he actually listens to you,” I couldn’t help sighing.
“Who told you to ignore all your duties?” Nie Zun smiled slightly.
“But why are we going to the other district border?” I asked with confusion.
“I suspect that we’ll be able to meet Sly S there.”
Nie Zun turned his head to the dark, night sky. It was rare for a district commander not to be in the district residence during the night. A situation like that meant that it was likely that she wasn’t in Eastside now.
“If she had gone to Westside, it’s not possible that neither Jeppa or You Ji noticed. So, my guess is that she went to Southside. In that case, why not wait for her at the border?”
“But if Laurel’s not dead, I don’t need to find her.”
“No. Whether or not Laurel is dead, you still have to meet with her,” Nie Zun said.
“Why?” I asked, a bit confused.
“There haven’t just been one or two strange occurrences in Westside. You just remain blind to them. The bugs that covered the body that fell from the roof earlier carried a certain scent. And I just smelled that scent on the bandaged man we met, which means that Sly S must have had some involvement in the strange things happening in Westside. Even if you don’t plan on interrogating her, you should at least meet with her, to see what kind of reaction she has. You must know yourself and your enemy to be victorious in every battle. She’s a legendary figure, and yet, after you became the Westside commander, you never once met with her. Do you think that’s right?”
“I’ve never met Si Luo either.” I didn’t sound at all confident in my retort. Nie Zun’s senses were stronger than most people’s. If he smelled something, then I wasn’t going to doubt him.
“Si Luo’s an exception. He doesn’t like outsiders.” Nie Zun suddenly laughed. “What, are you scared of Sly S?”
“Who’s scared? Fine, let’s go!” I clenched my teeth. You’re a funny guy, huh. Who’s scared?!