vol. 1: chapter eighteen – looking inside the memories

After Li Jinghua, Li Xinwen and Xue Rui settled on an agreement between themselves, Xue Rui was once again chased out.

“Xinwen… Can’t I stay the night? It’s already this late,” Xue Rui asked, trying to incite pity from Li Xinwen by giving him a puppy look.

“No. You no longer have any valid reason to stay the night, Rui-ge. So, off you go,” Li Xinwen replied with a small chuckle and he pushed Xue Rui out the door.

Realizing that there was no way of convincing Li Xinwen, Xue Rui decided to give up for the night. He turned around and walked towards his car when he heard Li Xinwen call after him.

“Ah! Rui-ge… Speaking of which,” Li Xinwen’s voice made Xue Rui stop and turn around, looking extremely hopeful. Li Xinwen also saw this, but deliberately ignored it and continued, “Can you tell me the name of the shop where you bought the jades from? I’d also like to buy something for Mom.”

“The shop? I can take you there tomorrow.”

“No. Just tell me where it is. If you come along, you’ll end up paying again… I don’t want that. This is going to be my gift to Mom, so it must come from my own money,” Li Xinwen responded, quickly rejecting Xue Rui’s offer to take him there.

“Then I’ll send the location and the name of the shop to your phone later…” Xue Rui paused. “Xinwen, I–“

Li Xinwen cut Xue Rui off saying, “Alright. I’ll wait for your message with the name and the location of the shop.”

Li Xinwen turned around, smiling as he walked towards the front door, leaving Xue Rui discouraged and heartbroken. Xue Rui sighed in resignation and proceeded towards his car. Upon reaching his car, Xue Rui looked up at the night sky. His throat hurt, and his eyes stung from suppressing the tears that were welling up out of frustration.

‘I know I’m not a saint and I don’t think I’ll be one anytime soon, but can’t you give me a break? Just a little? Is that too much to ask?’

Xue Rui sighed a deep, heavy sigh and hung his head low. He sat in the driver’s seat and turned on the engine. He was about to close his door and drive off when he heard Li Xinwen call out.

“Oh! And Rui-ge, don’t forget our date this weekend…” Li Xinwen teased. “I promise it will be something that you will never forget.”

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“Huh? A date? Xinwen do you mean that? You’re actually asking me out on a date this weekend?” Xue Rui asked enthusiastically. His eyes sparkled and he forgot all his frustrations, until Li Xinwen chuckled and dropped the punchline.

“Hahahaha… Rui-ge, you make me laugh. Yes, it’s a date. To be more precise it’s a group date, you, myself, Ah‘Xiao and Mr. Min… and probably several other students at that martial arts school,” Li Xinwen said, his hands already itching at the thought of what he was going to do this weekend. “Well, I’ll see you then Rui-ge. Drive safe…” Li Xinwen responded with a glint in his eyes, full of seduction, at least from Xue Rui’s perspective. “Wouldn’t want anything to happen to you before I can even have my fun,” he added in a low voice. This time, Li Xinwen walked to the front door, opened it and shut it behind him, without waiting another second for Xue Rui’s reaction.

Xue Rui was left stupefied, his mouth hanging open. Perhaps if he hadn’t snapped out of his stupefaction he would have started drooling. Xue Rui shook his head and leaned into the steering wheel.

“Ugh! And here I was thinking that the universe had answered my prayers… good god I’ve become such a fool. The young master of the Xue family is a fool. If anyone finds out, I will be a living laughingstock! Why must you tease me Xinwen ah… It’s hard enough as it is, not being able to stay beside you or touch you or even just hold your hand. Now that you know the engagement with your sister is over it will become even more difficult…” Xue Rui lamented. He let out the heaviest sigh. “God… is this what you call karma?”

Li Xinwen who had just entered the house rubbed both hands as if trying to calm himself down. ‘I’ll need to be careful not to overdo it when the time comes,‘ Li Xinwen reminded himself, not realizing that Li Jinghua was standing in front of the front door, her arms crossed over her chest, a dissatisfied look on her face.

“Did he leave? He didn’t do anything else while I was in the kitchen, did he?”

Before Li Xinwen could answer, the sound of a car driving away was heard from outside, as if to answer Li Jinghua.

“There’s your answer Hua-jie…” Li Xinwen answered, smiling at Li Jinghua. “You don’t have to worry about him taking advantage of me anymore,” Li Xinwen said, as if to tone down Li Jinghua’s overly protective aura right at that moment.

“It’s late. Go and rest. You have work tomorrow, right?” Li Xinwen turned Li Jinghua around and started pushing her playfully from behind as he said this.

“Off we go to sleep,” he said with laughter. “Oh, and about the investment thing you mentioned before, I’m not very knowledgeable about it, so I will just leave it to my elder sister. How much do you need for starters?” Li Xinwen asked as they went up the stairs.

“I have about half a million in savings with me. If possible, I would like to ask for another half a million from you.” Though Li Jinghua had already decided on this, to ask her little brother for financial help still filled her with embarrassment. “I’ll be sure to pay you back.”

“Does money still have any value in the apocalypse?” Li Xinwen asked.

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“Well, no. Once the apocalypse starts, money will have no value at all. Financial systems and institutions shut down shortly after. It was a mess. People didn’t trust each other. It was every man for himself… everywhere, people stole and pillaged whatever resources they could get their hands on. The most valuable things were food and clean water. Eventually people started banding together,” Li Jinghua shared, wincing as if the memory was too painful to think about.

“The military eventually could no longer control those groups and an exchange system was established as a form of transaction between individuals. It was fairly organized in the beginning, but some people became greedy. Some groups monopolized resources and started exacting exorbitant rates for exchanges, and underground transactions became rampant…”

“It was later found that when people turn, a crystal nucleus forms in the brain. This serves as kind of the central processing unit for zombies and connects them to one another like a network. These nuclei can be used to increase the power of the ability users. When that news spread, the exchange system also changed. People started using nuclei the same way as money. The higher the level of the zombie, the higher the grade of the nucleus, thus they have more value than the nuclei you get from a level 1 zombies. Collecting the nucleus, especially the high-grade ones, is our priority so we can increase our strength as fast as possible.”

When she reached the top of the stairs, she turned her head and looked at Li Xinwen. There was a hint of worry in her eyes as she contemplated what to say next.

“What’s wrong, Hua-jie?” Li Xinwen asked with a gentle smile on his face. “Worrying about me again? You know you don’t have to, right? I already promised to learn martial arts. I won’t be a burden.”

“That’s not it. In the future that I experienced you went through many hardships because you’re not an ability user. So, I was thinking… maybe I should let you handle the zombies alone as early as possible so that you will get more experience. As much as I want to protect you, there will be other things that I cannot predict. Being separated in the apocalypse is normal so, the earlier you can depend on yourself, the more I will feel at ease.”

Looking at Li Jinghua’s expression, Li Xinwen couldn’t help but feel touched. He lifted a hand and pinched her cheek playfully. “Hua-jie, stop worrying so much. You’ll end up with more wrinkles if you do,” he said in a joking manner. “I’ll work hard. So, you can worry less about me. I’m actually more worried about Mom…”

When Li Jinghua heard the last sentence, she bit her lips and looked down on the floor.

“But I know we’re going to protect her anyway! So, we just have to worry about making Mom live well, even in the apocalypse!” Li Xinwen grinned as he turned Li Jinghua around and pushed her towards her room. In front of her door, he said, “Good night, Hua-jie. Rest well. I’ll transfer the money tomorrow.”

***

After seeing Li Jinghua to her room, Li Xinwen went into his own room and the first thing he did was to take out the rusty jian. “Time to reveal your true form, hmm?” Li Xinwen said as he injected his spiritual force into the sword. The sword shook lightly in his hand and soon, the rust on the sword turned to dust and its beautiful design could finally be seen.

The sheath was white with silver and black fittings, and upon closer inspection, one could see that each design was made with care. The guard of the sword and its pommel were a matching color of silver. The black handle was smooth to the touch and as soon as Li Xinwen pulled the blade out, he couldn’t help but admire the craftsmanship of the sword. Just below the guard, on its blade, Li Xinwen noticed that the characters that were carved on it read Shuang Ren1Shuang RenTop-Grade Jian.

“… But how could treasures such as this and the cauldron end up in this lower realm?” Li Xinwen couldn’t help wondering as he sheathed the jian. Then he glanced at his palm where Lan Yu was currently. “And you too. Surely before me, you had your master.”

As if responding to him, Lan Yu sent out a stream of warm spiritual energy, which made Li Xinwen chuckle. “Right, since you’re already in this state, then your previous master is long gone. I’m your new master now. Tomorrow, I’ll check out that place where Rui-ge got you so we can see if we can recover those parts you’re missing. As for you…” Li Xinwen eyed the jian in his hand. His heart was itching to try it out, but he was afraid that using it might cause a huge commotion within the Li household.

“I’ll bring you over to Mr. Min’s place on the weekend. No, wait… I don’t think that’s a good idea. I need to be wary of that expert who put the seal within Mr. Min’s mind…” after the betrayal by a fellow sect member back in Long Xing, Li Xinwen had become more distrustful when it came to fellow cultivators. Min Xiaoyu was alright since Li Xinwen was the stronger one, but when it came to the expert that had placed the seal, he couldn’t help but be cautious.

Li Xinwen let out a heavy sigh and placed the Jian on the table. “I guess I’ll just have to wait until the apocalypse,” he murmured in a soft voice before he went to his bed. He laid down on the soft mattress and started to look through the original’s memories. He sifted through everything, absorbing all the knowledge within the memories. By the time he was done, he looked at the clock on the wall and saw that it was past midnight. “Hua-jie should be in deep sleep by now, right? Time to see what traumatized her so much.”

As soon as he said this, Li Xinwen sat up cross-legged on the bed and closed his eyes. He sent out his spiritual energy towards Li Jinghua’s room and easily entered her mind. Then, he manipulated the spiritual energy to play out the memories of Li Jinghua’s past life.

Back in LongXing, memory search was one of the most dangerous techniques for cultivators. If not done carefully, it could cause mental damage to the one whose memories were being searched. But the main cause for that was cultivators who instinctively resisted the memory search, thus causing the seeker to expend more force to get what they want.

Memory search could also be used as a form of mental attack, but this kind of attack was like a double, double-edged blade and almost none of the cultivators would risk doing it.

Fortunately, mortals had no way of resisting this technique, so Li Xinwen was easily able to extract the memories from Li Jinghua’s mind. He picked a timeline at random and let his consciousness enter her memories so he could get a glimpse of what Li Jinghua had experienced.

‘I’m sorry, Hua-jie…I promise I’ll erase this nightmare when I leave, so you won’t remember ever dreaming about it…’ Li Xinwen thought, feeling a little guilty. But he still wanted to know how he could better help her.

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