"It's so beautiful..."
Standing in front of the big French window in Jiang Shaoliu's room, Jiang Xiaoyun watched the blurry distant buildings. "Brother, come and see!"
"I don't care." Jiang Shaoliu was sitting on the sofa, having a drink of water.
Xiao Bai was lazily sprawled on the carpet, equally disinterested.
Such things were nothing out of the ordinary ever since the great changes.
"Brother?" Jiang Xiaoyun turned around curiously, "What're you thinking about?"
Her brother had had the same serious expression plastered on his face ever since she entered his room.
Jiang Shaoliu looked up and frowned at the floating mountain in the sky, half-hidden in the fog.
It's been two months already and still no one knew what that thing was, where it came from, and if it would ever disappear again.
He stood up slowly and looked at his sister.
"Xiaoyun, follow me."
Xiao Bai growled in a low voice and climbed up from the carpet to rub his big head on Jiang Shaoliu's leg.
He just wanted some more of that delicious meat from yesterday.
"I'm taking you to our parents. It's not safe for you here," Jiang Shaoliu said decisively. "Li Xiang cannot be compared to our parents, no matter how good he is to you. Shanghai is safer than here since it's guarded by the country's best troops."
Jiang Xiaoyun was taken by surprise.
Yesterday they talked so pleasantly and he even considered joining the Hongfa Group, but now…
She shook her head gloomily, "I can't, it's over a thousand kilometers from here to Shanghai and the roads are infested with monsters!"
She had been entirely dependent on Li Xiang ever since the great changes and had already acclimated to her life in the Hongfa Group.
"Xiao Bai and I will protect you." He looked out the window coldly, "I will exterminate every monster in my path."
In tears, Jiang Xiaoyun sat on the sofa next to him and said in a shaking voice: "Brother, I'm not as strong as you. I'm afraid of those monsters, I've seen them kill so many people and they all died so miserably! I miss our parents and you, but where were you when the disaster happened?"
Jiang Shaoliu didn't reply.
During the cataclysm, he was being carried to Huaguoshan on the Monkey King's shoulders.
The disaster occurred so suddenly that it was hard to even protect oneself. Only the luckiest survived those first few days.
"Back then, Li Xiang thought of me even in the chaos," Jiang Xiaoyun trembled slightly. "He and Bai Long fought the monsters to protect me. I really appreciate them and trust them just like I do you and our parents."
Jiang Shaoliu closed his eyes. After a long while, he said in a low voice: "Sorry, Xiaoyun."
"Brother, you shouldn't say that." Jiang Xiaoyun buried her head in Jiang Shaoliu's shoulder and cried out: "Brother, when will this all be over? I'm so afraid."
He could understand her now.
Running his finger through his sister's hair, Jiang Shaoliu had mixed feelings.
That was why she trusted Li Xiang so much. She was just a helpless, terrified girl in the chaos of that day and Li Xiang had saved her and took her in. But Li Xiang was just…
"Xiaoyun," Jiang Shaoliu took her hands and looked her in the eye, "I've always been a good judge of character. Li Xiang and Bai Long are good to you only because of some ulterior motive. They are acting on a hidden agenda, and what's more…"
He told her about the maid's visit last night and stared deeply into her eyes as he waited for her reaction.
"Brother, are you sure?" she looked at him incredulously.
Her brother would never lie to her about something like this. If Li Xiang and Bai Long attempted such nefarious means to obtain Jiang Shaoliu's skills, was that their real purpose all along?
"Xiaoyun, believe me that I have thought carefully about whether I have to take you away or not."
His sister was just an ordinary person, so he could understand that she feared the monsters. It was hard to predict the potential danger on the long road to Shanghai, and tearing her away from her new home so suddenly would be very irresponsible.
Besides, Li Xiang wouldn't dare to mistreat her in the near future, as he had to keep up his 'nice guy' act if he were to have any chance of getting Jiang Shaoliu's techniques. For now, Jiang Xiaoyun was safe enough.
He would have to wait for the right opportunity to take her away, when he could guarantee her safety during the trip or when he was strong enough.
"Brother, look at me. I'm a complete mess and I can't make any important decisions right now," Jiang Xiaoyun sobbed.
Standing up slowly, Jiang Shaoliu caressed her hair and said gently: "Xiaoyun, you can stay here for now, but you must always remember to be cautious and take good care of yourself. I will be back soon to take you away from here."
"What?" Jiang Xiaoyun was stunned. "Wait, are you leaving?"
He shook his head: "I have other things to deal with and it's a bad idea for me to overstay my welcome here."
He covered her small hands with his large palms, just like during so many winters in their childhood when the older brother warmed his little sister's fingers. "Xiaoyun, protect yourself. I will be back for you soon."
After this, he turned around and left without looking back, Xiao Bai trailing after him.
They had only been reunited yesterday and already had to separate.
As he walked out of the Hongfa Hotel, Jiang Shaoliu took a deep breath and jumped on Xiao Bai's back. "Let's go."
Jiang Xiaoyun went out to the gate of the hotel and kneeled on the ground, sobbing pitifully.
She turned around and exclaimed with surprise: "Brother!"
Atop Xiao Bai's back, Jiang Shaoliu straightened his hair. "I need to replace my ID card and I also need to get a phone and a new SIM card, but I don't have any money..."
Now they had to say goodbye again.
And this time, he would really be leaving.
Jiang Xiaoyun stood at the hotel gate alone, gazing after the tiger and her brother's receding figures. She tried to wipe away her tears with her sleeve, but they wouldn't stop...
The South Yungang Police Precinct.
"Ugh, what's with these crowds? You'd think there's isn't an apocalypse happening out there or something…" the sweating, obese police clerk muttered under her breath. A long queue stretched out in front of her booth.
A dozen windows and a dozen long queues. It seemed like hundreds of people were waiting in line.
"Xiao Bai, you stay outside."
Jiang Shaoliu lined up at the end of the nearest queue, but the tiger was too big and took too much space, and might cause a panic inside.
Many people had lost their ID cards in the chaos and the police were busy every day dealing with them, even working overtime in some branches.
"The process is so quick nowadays, you only have to wait a few minutes. They're more efficient than you'd think!" a young man with a brush cut hair style turned around and whispered to the man behind him. "I will go and join the army as soon as I get my new ID card. What about you? Shall we go together?"
The smart-looking man behind the brush-cut young man sighed, "I'd love to, but I doubt they'll accept my fashionable hairstyle."
"Oh, please!" the brush-cut young man poked him on the elbow. "Your hair style is so outdated. Just do what I do and get a buzz cut, it's so neat!"
The smart young man smiled knowingly, "We can still practice martial arts and take on tasks from the army. If we make ourselves useful enough to them, we can get some rare fruits and maybe even get a new house in the city center, so that we can live with our family in safety and not be afraid of those monsters anymore."
Jiang Shaoliu clearly overheard everything they said and creased his brow in thought.
Tasks? Getting a new house in the city center? What did they mean?
He wanted to know more, but the two young men had stopped talking as they made their way to the front of the queue.
Twenty minutes passed before Jiang Shaoliu's turn came. The policewoman behind the window was very efficient and processed his application in just two minutes.
Sliding his new ID card into a pocket, Jiang Shaoliu waked out of the hall and found Xiao Bai lounging in the shade, catching the occasional nervous glance from the passersby.
"Let's go, Xiao Bai!" Jiang Shaoliu pointed in the direction the two young men had went. He wasn't sure he'd be able to catch up to them after so much time had passed, but it was worth a try.
The city center was awash with people, so finding them would be no easy feat.
Considering that he would have to fight monsters again sooner or later, Jiang Shaoliu stopped to buy a special mobile phone intended for outdoor use, made from hardened materials which could resist water, physical shocks and dust. It felt indestructible in his hand.
"That'll do," he nodded appreciatively as he inserted the SIM card and opened the local forums.
The netizens were still talking about the anomalies in the sky as well as the martial arts from heaven, the magical fruits and the power of the monsters, et cetera.
A new discussion attracted his attention.
Liu Guang, a master with three bronze rings, had found a rare fruit. Now he had the chance to win a villa in the city center and enjoy the protection of the military.
"The Lingbao fruit?" Jiang Shaoliu narrowed his eyes.
Several days ago, the man with the broadsword had told him that this kind of fruit could be used to cure wounds and increase power. It could also be used to improve the quality of a life ring as well regrow lost limbs, or even grow wings!
It was necessary to know the effects of each fruit.
After a quick search on the web, he found much the same information as the swordsman had given him.
A kind of fruit called the Lingwen fruit caught his attention.
The flesh of the fruit was stripy. When eaten, one could spontaneously learn new breathing techniques or martial arts. It was extremely valuable and there were very few official records of it in the world.
"It can be used to understand breathing techniques and martial art forms?" he thought. "How can a fruit do that?"
Jiang Shaoliu could feel the power of his breathing technique when he practiced the Great Sage's Formula, while the Ape Fist and Demon Fist were powerful martial arts as well.
Anything that could spontaneously bestow the knowledge of such techniques upon someone would be invaluable.
Many pop-ups from the four major powers in Yungang - the military, the Yungang League, the Gangxin Group and the Hongfa Group - appeared as he browed, all seeking to recruit new masters into their ranks.
"The Hongfa Group is completely out of the question." Jiang Shaoliu immediately excluded it, as he knew Li Xiang and Bai Long were after his martial arts.
The Gangxing Group, which owned the advanced steel alloy metal manufacturing plants, had left a bad impression on him after the encounter with the five-man hunting party that he was forced to eliminate. It was passed up as well.
"The military or the Yungang League?"
They both paid generously in order to be attractive to the powerful masters, but they also put limitations on their members, which most concerned Jiang Shaoliu.
The memory of the lieutenant at the city gates flashed in Jiang Shaoliu's mind. The officer had been kind and respectful to him. "Why not try the military first?"
Jiang Shaoliu stretched out his hand, pointing in the direction of the city gates.
"Onwards, Xiao Bai!"