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Book 3 Chapter 31 – Picking a Side
Seeing Liu Meng's eyes was just like receiving a hammer blow to the head. Li Yiming felt the world around him spin once again, only this time, alcohol was not at fault. Rather, it was the result of a swirling vortex of emotions and thoughts. 'I confessed to Ji Xiaoqin the day after because I thought I should take on the responsibility for my mistake. But if it was actually Liu Meng… How badly I must have hurt her.
'She cut her hair. Was she only seeking a change in style, or was she looking for a change of heart as well? Why did she keep me company for all these years? Was it as a friend, or as a good 'bro'?' The conjectures, guesses, questions came crashing down and Li Yiming felt suffocated under the overwhelming weight of it all.
The color in Li Yiming's world receded, leaving only two things still warmed by colors amidst the greyness. One was Ji Xiaoqin's supple and warm body, still in his arms, her heart beating at a steady pace, and the other one was Liu Meng, who stayed still as a statue. Looking into her eyes was just like staring into an abyss of despair.
"I, I think I made a mistake," Li Yiming pushed Ji Xiaoqin away from him and said in a low voice.
"What?" Ji Xiaoqin, who smiled like a flower in full blossom bathing in the sunlight of happiness., turned her head shyly toward Li Yiming.
"Where were you last night?" Li Yiming remembered seeing Ji Xiaoqin's phone on the nightstand when he woke up in the morning, and after hearing from a classmate that it was Ji Xiaoqin who brought him to his room the night before, he assumed that the one with whom he had consumed his passion was also Ji Xiaoqin. However, this time, unlike in his memory, he still had enough judgment to remember what he heard during that crazy night.
"I went back to my room after bringing you to yours, what is it?" Ji Xiaoqin was surprised by the question.
"It… wasn't you last night?" Li Yiming hesitated.
"What?" Ji Xiaoqin reacted just as he had expected.
"Sorry, I think I made a mistake." Li Yiming pushed Ji Xiaoqin further away from himself. 'How could I not have asked her. How could I?'
"Yiming, what are you talking about?" Ji Xiaoqin noticed the oddity in Li Yiming's expression. Seeing him like that gave her a terrible feeling about what was about to come.
"Sorry." Li Yiming turned around and looked at Liu Meng. A smile still clung to the lips of the latter, but there was an incredible sadness hidden beneath it.
Li Yiming walked closer and closer to Liu Meng. Dragging both of his legs toward her became an incredibly difficult task, and, with each step, Li Yiming's heart trembled. As the two drew closer and closer, Li Yiming could see Liu Meng's radiant smile more and more in full details. But the happier she seemed, the more sorrowful Li Yiming became. He stopped as he remembered the streak of scarlet he found the next day on the bed sheet; there was barely a meter left, but to take that last step was harder than to travel through the entire world.
"Congratulations!" What came out of her mouth was a blessing for bliss, but a droplet of tear was seeping out of the corners of her eyes. The tip of her nose had turned red, and her knuckles whitened from the strength with which she clasped her hands.
'She hid that secret and after liking me secretly for that long. She's the one who gave me a place to stay when I was exhausted. She's the one who faced me with a smile and wept her pain and sorrow alone. You're brave and you sacrificed yourself for the sake of love, but have you given a thought about who's going to mend you? Who is going to heal the wounds in your heart and protect you?'
"I'm so sorry!" Li Yiming pulled Liu Meng and locked his arms tightly around her, as if he wanted to print her being into his very soul. It was the same "sorry" he said to Ji Xaoqin, except that one was an apology, whereas this one was nothing but bitter regret.
"Yiming, you…" Liu Meng's body stiffened. She raised her hand, unsure of what to do.
Li Yiming held Liu Meng's face right in front of his own, and, after a deep stare, he kissed her. He could feel the softness of her tongue, the familiar wetness between her lips, but also a bitterness that was not present the night before.
"Li Yiming—!" A loud screech was heard. Ji Xiaoqin's shameful and angry outburst reverberated within the lobby of the hotel.
Liu Meng tried to break free, but Li Yiming continued his long kiss that meant to show how sorry he was. Liu Meng quickly melted into nothing more than raw passion and reciprocated his kiss fervently.
"You… You… I won't let you get away with this!" Ji Xiaoqin's limbs trembled with anger. Her voice had become hoarse. She could not bear seeing the scene any longer and ran out of the hotel with her hand covering her face. Two of Li Yiming's classmates, who were close to Ji Xiaoqin, followed after a reproachful look thrown in Li Yiming's direction.
"Li Yiming, what are you doing?" Teacher Yu was also indignant. She was just rejoicing the happy union between two of her students, only for it to turn into a heartless man deceiving his lover a moment later. The transition from a scene taken out of an idol love drama into a real-life tragedy was too brusque.
"Forgive me, it's my fault." Li Yiming let Liu Meng escape his embrace, but still kneaded her hand tightly. He disregarded all of the surprised faces surrounding him; the only thing he wanted to do was to make up for his mistake.
"Who's Li Yiming?" A group of men suddenly rushed into the hotel lobby. There were about seven or eight of them, and each was holding a metallic weapon in their hand and had an ill-disposed expression.
"I am." Li Yiming turned around and put himself in front of Liu Meng. He was rather alarmed by the sudden deviation from what he remembered.
"You're the little punk who dared shame the sister-in-law of our boss?" The man who led the gang asked him angrily.
"You're talking about Ji Xiaoqin? I didn't know she had such a brother-in-law." Li Yiming squinted his eyes. 'They came way too quickly, Ji Xiaoqin just left! Something's wrong here.'
"That's not a question you should ask. Is she that shameless slut? Send the man to the hospital and take her away." The man ordered. He raised his metal rod and swung it down at Li Yiming's head. A horrified gasp was heard from those looked at the scene, but no one, not even Li Yiming's teachers and classmates rushed to help him: after all, Li Yiming seemed to have brought this upon himself.
Li Yiming snatched the metal rod calmly with his right hand and reached out for the man's throat with his left one. He raised him rather effortlessly into the air with one hand and looked at his friends menacingly. The mobster underlings were surprised by the instant demise of their leader and halted their advance. After another sweeping of his eyes around, Li Yiming raised the man higher still and then threw him toward the ground. A loud thud was heard and the marble floor tile fissured with a crack. The man spat out a mouthful of blood and went limp.
'That should be enough to scare them.' Li Yiming thought.
"Kill him!" The gang of mobsters was surprised, but instead of backing down, they were enraged. The rest of them jumped at Li Yiming.
Li Yiming frowned and spared some of his attention for Liu Meng. She seemed terrified by what she saw. Li Yiming dashed into the group of mobsters and made full usage of his level three strength. Wherever he went, whether it was with his fists, his elbows or his knees, a loud crack of bones breaking would ensue. It was not long before all seven of the mobsters were down on the ground, limp. The whole process happened so fast, they did not even have time to emit a moan of pain. Li Yiming's thoughts were simple: he was going to do everything to make sure that Liu Meng remains unharmed.
"Yiming…" Liu Meng stepped forward, visibly worried, but she had barely time to voice her concern before the screeching sound of cars brakes was heard. Two minivans had stopped in front of the hotel, and a group of people, wearing the same clothes as the group that came before them, descended from the vehicles. Each had a bloodthirsty expression and some kind of weapon in their hands.
"Go." Li Yiming picked up a chair near him and threw it toward the mobsters. He pulled Liu Meng toward the side exit. Although the projectile slowed down the mobsters, it was not long before they caught up. Despite the mobsters having the number advantage, Li Yiming could have easily taken them down by himself, but he decided to run with Liu Meng instead as he did not want to take the risk of Liu Meng getting hurt.
Li Yiming sprinted with Liu Meng on the road. Liu Meng was quick to tire out, so Li Yiming picked her up and carried her while running. With his current abilities, he could actually run faster like that instead of dragging Liu Meng behind. However, as he continued his escape, he realized how odd the situation was: not a single car on the road or a single pedestrian, yet the sea of men wearing black clothes chasing him seemed endless. They came out from every corner, and by now, their numbers had grown to a point that it was impossible to count them at a glance.
"So that's what the illusion is all about?" Li Yiming considered the solutions to his current problem.
As the group of people chasing after him grew larger and larger, and more of them appeared from different directions, Li Yiming knew he had to do something before he lost all of his space for maneuvering. Li Yiming found a structure erected for sightseeing purposes in a park nearby. Stairs circled the body of the antique but stylish tower, which was about eight or nine meters tall.
'There!' Li Yiming dashed toward the structure and rushed to the top with Liu Meng in his arms.
"Stay here. No matter what happens, don't come down, okay? Don't worry, I'm here." Li Yiming dropped Liu Meng down. Before she could answer him, he darted toward the stairs and gave it a vigorous kick. His blow was strong enough to cause the metallic structure to collapse.
Li Yiming turned back to glance one last time at Liu Meng and jumped down without hesitation. He looked at the sea of blackness that surrounded the park and came closer and closer with the intent to kill.
* * *
"It's been three days already. Is Yiming okay?" Qing Qiaoqiao looked at the dome of light in the distance. She wanted to approach it on several occasions, but her sister stopped her every time.
"It's useless. I can't get in." Zeng Qian dropped her hands down, a little discouraged. The buzzing cloud of insects flew away from the dome of light and gathered above her instead.
"How could you let Li Yiming go inside alone?" Eyeglasses seemed irritated as he lifted his head to look at the starry sky. He had arrived two nights ago and almost fought with Fang Shui'er when he learned that Li Yiming had entered the structure alone.
"Li Yiming will be fine, you have no idea how strong he is," Fang Shui'er said with a determined look. She held an almost religious belief in Li Yiming's power.
"But it's been three days already," Qing Qiaoqiao retorted. If it was not because it was physically impossible for her to enter the dome of light, she would have ignored her sister's exhortations entirely.
"There's no other way. We can't get inside so all we can do is wait." Qing Linglong walked toward her sister and put her hand on her shoulder to calm her down. 'Who would have guessed that he would be trapped inside when he seemed that confident? Well, Fang Shui'er and Zeng Qian are certainly going to wait for him, and same for Eyeglasses. As for Qiaoqiao, I think she'll turn against me if I was to tell her that I wanted to leave.'
* * *
On the other side of the light barrier, Big Beard was down on the ground with a pale face, shallow breaths, and brows furrowed. His shaking fists revealed his unwillingness at meeting his end in such a way. With his abilities, he would be able to kill the beast that trapped him here with one blow. However, he was in a situation in which he could use none of that strength and could only watch it fade away as time went by.
Li Yiming was still standing with his eyes closed, just like when he had entered inside. He seemed asleep, with steady breathing. The bracelet that hung from his neck and the ribbon around his wrist glowed with an intense white light. Suddenly, Li Yiming frowned and the ribbon was obliterated. The dust scattered as a weak wind blew in his way.
"Coming in like that with his guard down. That really gave me scare. But looks like he's nothing special after all." The silhouette hidden underground had a smile on her lips. Her silvery tail slowly slid across the ground and wrapped around her sensual body.
Next chapter marks the return of my favorite character! :3