DESIRES IN DARKNESS
Tit For Tat
We were currently on one side of Eastside, so it would take about 15 hours to make it to the opposite border. But Nie Zun’s words made a lot of sense, so I ran alongside him to Eastside’s other borderline.
No matter which district, the rooftops were the best place for traveling. There wasn’t a single other person in sight.
When we arrived at the boundary forest, there were still ten hours before day.
I jumped up onto a tree and rested against a branch, planning on sleeping for a bit.
Not hearing anything from Nie Zun, I couldn’t help glancing down at the ground.
And when I looked, I nearly peed my pants from laughing.
Nie Zun was currently at a tree across from me, exhaustingly trying to climb up a tree.
While his tall, black-clothed body didn’t appear clumsy while climbing, he did sort of look like a silly monkey all the same.
“Monkey Nie, are you finding enough bananas?”
Nie Zun continued to climb diligently, his voice sounding lazily. “This is to conserve my mental force, okay?”
“Oh please. When the light of day hits tomorrow, our mental force will be replenished.”
“This is Eastside. Who knows if someone might try a sneak attack? It’s never a bad idea to be cautious.”
I laughed at his going to such efforts. Then I put my arms behind my head and looked up at the night sky.
It was always just an expanse of darkness, no stars or lights. There was nothing to illuminate the night here, unless you counted fluorescent lamps. We’re still able to see things because even in the night, we have a visual radius.
In this forest, my visual radius was roughly ten meters around me, and I found it sufficient. If it were pitch black in the real world, forget ten meters, I wouldn’t even be able to see my five fingers.
Despite us having more abilities in this world compared to humans in the real world, I still greatly missed living the life of an ordinary person.
People were always like this, looking forward to being different and setting themselves apart. But when we really find ourselves in a different situation, the loneliness we encounter when others cannot accept us makes it feel like asking for normalcy is an extravagant demand.
It’s a feeling of sadness, and I’ve always preferred to avoid this sadness. So, I decided to distract myself by starting a conversation with Nie Zun.
“So, what kind of personality disorder did you have?” I asked quietly.
While Nie Zun was alive, he’d suffered from schizoid personality disorder (SPD), which is said to be a pretty rare disorder. It’s because of his unusual illness that he became involved with my second identity. After my second identity was superimposed with him, he had to remain within 500 meters of me.
I’ll always remember what Mr Blond told me back then.
“His name is Nie Zun. He and you just happen to be complements. It’s rare for someone with multiple identities to arrive in Split Zone No.13. Because they have two conscious existences, it’s less likely that both of those will be caught and brought here. But you just happened to be that lucky one in ten thousand. Because your second identity resonated with Nie Zun at some point, your personality overlapped and filled in Nie Zun’s missing part. In other words, someone with too much dropped a piece, and that piece was picked up by someone with too little, and then two complete persons were brought here. Since there was a time difference between your existences, one of you arrived an hour earlier, and one later. But an hour in the Split Zone is hardly considered any time at all.”
And I remember the scene when Mr Blond told me those words.
I remember that I grew very anxious. I pointed at Nie Zun as I asked Mr Blond, “What you’re saying is that my second identity lives within him now?”
“That’s not entirely correct, but you can think of it that way. Nie Zun is still Nie Zun, not your second identity. However, because the two of you arrived here as complements of a whole, you two cannot be separated.”
For a long time after that, I detested Nie Zun. Even now, I still hated him, because I suspected that the one who killed the person I loved was now a part of him.
It’s because of this unusual relationship that the two of us must always remain within 500 meters of the other. Once the distance between us reached 500 meters, neither of us would be able to move if the other didn’t follow and cooperate.
But this tethering bond between us didn’t make me like him any more. I still hated him, even though I knew that I didn’t have any other reasons to. In the end, the person who killed my beloved wasn’t him, but me.
Maybe it was just my selfishness. I couldn’t hate myself, or rather, the hate I had for myself could never surpass the guilt and pain I felt. So, I could only hate him.
Nie Zun’s quiet voice cut into my thoughts. “You’re that interested in my past? You should at least wait until we live past tonight to ask.”
Hearing him say that, I suddenly became alert. I quickly sat up on the branch and reached the bow on my left shoulder.
When I finally took a look around, I suddenly felt a prickling on my face, like something was sweeping past it. I turned my head up.
“Ahhh—!!!” Seeing the scene above me, I couldn’t help screaming out. But my body remained still, only swaying ever so slightly.
I saw a woman’s face above my head, and her hair was sweeping across my face.
Screaming was a subconscious reactional habit that I retained from being alive. But after my scream, I calmed down and looked at the face before me.
I took in the scene. There was a woman sitting on a higher branch, and hers was a face that I recognized.
Of course I couldn’t not recognize her. That pale, white face with a pair of large, dark, and empty eyes. Unless you had amnesia, you wouldn’t forget that face after you saw it once.
I stabilized myself, and then leaned back against the branch, until I returned to my original position. My left hand was holding my bow, as my right hand steadied myself on the side. I put some distance between our faces, but she didn’t seem to move, her face still expressionless.
With a charming laugh, I said, “Sly S, I am Li Zhen.”
Hearing me speak, her soulless eyes suddenly quivered slightly, but just slightly.
“What are you doing in Eastside?” This was the first time I’d heard her speak. In the past, I’d only seen her from afar, never face to face. Her voice didn’t sound at all like I’d expected. It was strange and thick, a bit hoarse, but not unpleasant. And it seemed to have a womanly appeal to it.
I didn’t know how to respond, so I said, “I came to hang out with you. Exchange our feelings and the like.”
Just as I spoke, I heard Nie Zun’s mocking laugh. I couldn’t help but turn to glare at him, sitting on another tree.
But after I looked that way, I saw three white-clothed people floating in the air behind him.
Each of them had on a conical hat that blocked their faces, as they floated there in white robes. (t/n: Wiki on Asian conical hats)
According to Nie Zun, floating in the air required 30 MF. In that case, these people must have had at least 40 MF, though, likely more than that.
I started to panic a bit, and I couldn’t help turning to Nie Zun. But he wasn’t looking at me. Instead, his gaze was fixed on the female above my head.
I vigorously tried winking at him, to signal the danger behind him.
No matter the effort I put in though, Nie Zun was still staring at the demoness above me. I turned my head up, and after seeing that Sly S was still looking at me intently, I turned back to Nie Zun and continued winking.
I’d rather keep winking than look at this frightful woman!
Nie Zun didn’t look to me, but he did respond in his lazy tone, “Your eyes are going to start flying. Stop blinking. I’m aware of the three dear friends behind me.”
After Nie Zun said that, I suddenly became embarrassed.
Sly S’s rough voice sounded again. “Without my instruction, they won’t make a move. Don’t be scared.”
Who’s scared?! I couldn’t help rolling my eyes in my head. Of course I knew that those three people were the so-called protectors that were never far from Sly S. No one had ever seen their real faces, because they were always wearing those hats. Legend has it that they all look exactly the same because they’re triplets. But who knew if that was true.
I wasn’t sure how strong the three of them were either. In the stories I’d heard, when Sly S was in great danger, her three A-rank guards were also present, so these three guys hadn’t needed to make a move.
But from the current situation, it seemed that they weren’t weak.
My mind suddenly started to calculate the odds of my escaping if a fight were to really start up. (Passerby A: Shouldn’t you be calculating your odds of victory? Me: Quit playing. How could I possibly be victorious in this kind of situation.)
But soon, my mind moved to another question. What was she doing out in the middle of the night? And didn’t this mean that she hadn’t gone to Southside as Nie Zun had predicted?
Just as I was considering the different possibilities, Sly S jumped off the tree. Seeing her jump down, I also quickly leapt down from the tree.
And following that, Nie Zun also leapt down. And then, of course, the three shadows behind him also floated down, though they still circled Nie Zun.
Black lines appeared on my forehead. Didn’t the fact that they were circling Nie Zun mean that they felt his threat to Sly S was greater than mine? Were they looking down on me? (Passerby B: Of course he’s a bigger threat. His MF is more than 10 levels higher than yours! Me: slaps Passerby B)
I stood across from Sly S, and she looked as if she wanted to say something. But suddenly two gusts of wind appeared and two people appeared before Sly S.
Muscle Man and the mummy.
My heart wailed in anguish. 6 v 2, no way we could win.
But after glancing at me, neither Muscle Man nor the mummy seemed at all concerned with me. Instead, they hastily reported to Sly S, “Commander, four of the seven B-rank officers have been assassinated. They’re dead inside of their rooms.”
This news was greatly alarming. Four of seven B-rank officers were killed? From what I knew, B-rank officers in S Clan had MFs around 35-40. Who could kill off four of them? And since Muscle Man and the mummy were making this report, they must have been at least B-rank officers as well.
“What about the other three?” Sly S didn’t sound panicked, and in fact, didn’t have much of a reaction at all. She remained emotionless.
“The other three B-rank officers went to Southside and have yet to return. But we were able to call them, and they’re safe for now.”
Okay. So Muscle Man and the mummy must be two of the A-rank officers.
Suddenly, the mummy’s eyes swept over me. “Commander, the Westside commander came to see you today, so I’m afraid that she can’t be cleared from suspicion.”
I immediately retorted, “Don’t make blind allegations. You’re suspecting that I’m related to those deaths?”
“Your visitation today was the only thing out of the ordinary. Who else would be able to kill four B-rank officers?” The mummy glared at me with hostility.
“Let’s not make such hasty conclusions,” Sly S said.
And then, she slowly turned her head towards the three white-clothed persons behind Nie Zun. “Find out who did this. And whoever it was, make sure they disappear from the Split Zone.”
With her words, my hairs all stood on end.
After hearing her order, the three white-robed figures vanished from my sight with a whoosh.
Even though Sly S didn’t seem to express any reaction to the death of four high-ranking officers, she must have felt angry and hurt. While I may not understand her, I did know something, and that was that she’d never before ordered the white robes to leave her side.
Suddenly, a strange feeling slipped into my heart. I felt a sense of sadness from out of nowhere, and so I lifted my head to look at Sly S.
She was looking back at me.