Li Xinwen was dumbfounded. His headache disappeared along with the voice. But that wasn’t what made Li Xinwen feel dumbfounded. ‘That voice earlier… wasn’t that the original Li Xinwen? Promise? Are you telling me that you willingly gave up your body so that your family could be protected better? No. That is not the most important thing… have we met before?”
Of course, his questions were met with silence. It made Li Xinwen wonder if he had just imagined it. He had used the memory search for a long period of time after all. “I feel like I’ve forgotten something…” Li Xinwen mumbled softly as he rose from the bed. Just then, he heard a door opening from outside followed by hurried footsteps. Before long, he heard a loud banging outside his bedroom door.
“Ah‘Wen! Ah’Wen!! Are you in there? Are you okay?!” Li Jinghua’s panicked voice could be heard from outside and Li Xinwen quickly opened the door for her. When Li Jinghua came in, she immediately inspected Li Xinwen from top to bottom, fussing over him. Only after seeing that her brother was safe did she let out a sigh of relief. “Thank goodness it was just a dream…” she murmured in a soft voice before she pulled him into a hug.
It was only after Li Jinghua mentioned the dream did Li Xinwen finally remember what he had forgotten. ‘Ah… right. Now I remember. I didn’t get the chance to remove the memories before I got kicked out. That nightmare must’ve felt real for her…’ Li Xinwen thought as he rubbed his sister’s back to calm her. After a while, Li Jinghua pulled away and Li Xinwen gave her a smile. “Did you have a nightmare? Looks like I really have to work hard so that my dear sister doesn’t worry too much!”
“En. Learn well… and during the apocalypse, please make sure you prioritize your own safety. Alright? Promise me this, Ah‘Wen…”
“Alright, I promise,” Li Xinwen’s mouth was saying this, but he was thinking otherwise. ‘I’ve seen how the apocalypse was in your memories. Those low-level corpse soldiers won’t be able to harm me in five years. But that level four might be a bit of a problem…’
“I will go and make breakfast. What would you like?” Li Xinwen was snapped out of his thoughts when Li Jinghua spoke.
“Soft food only,” Li Jinghua quickly added when she saw Li Xinwen’s excited expression.
The excitement in his eyes died and Li Xinwen let out a defeated sigh. “Then just make whatever… I’m sure Hua-jie has a better idea than I do what I can and cannot eat…” after saying that, Li Xinwen went to his bathroom to wash up and prepare for the day.
Li Jinghua saw the disappointed look on Li Xinwen’s face and couldn’t help but feel guilty. She went back to her room to take a quick shower before going down to the kitchen. She looked around for ingredients to make breakfast and while looking inside the freezer, she saw the leftover meat from the day before. She hesitated for a while before taking out her phone to browse the internet.
Li Xinwen had long finished taking his shower and was currently lounging in his room, reading a book. He was fascinated with a story about how spirits with unfinished desires are sometimes unable to go immediately to the afterlife to be reincarnated. Instead, they would wander around the world, and that is where the main character of the story comes in. The main character would lead the spirits to their hotel, which catered to their needs. The hotel’s main goal was to satisfy the spirits so they could proceed to the afterlife without any regrets.
He was just about to read the next chapter when Li Jinghua called out for them to have breakfast. Closing the book, Li Xinwen left his room and saw Sun Xiao exiting his room. With tacit understanding, the two of them went down together while engaging in small talk.
When they reached the foot of the staircase, they were able to smell the enticing scent of breakfast. The two brothers went to the table and before taking their seats, they made sure to greet mother Li who was already seated at the head of the table.
“Good morning, Mom. You look beautiful as always, ah!” Li Xinwen said with a huge smile as he kissed the side of her cheek.
“Good morning, Mom…” Sun Xiao said in a shy voice before he gave her a quick hug.
Only after doing so did the two sit down. Li Xinwen saw the colorful spread and it made his mouth water. The side dishes looked appetizing and delicious. The pickled vegetables looked vibrant and the steamed soft tofu bathed in soy chili sauce looked particularly delectable. Li Xinwen feasted with his eyes and took in the delicious scent with gusto.
Not long after, Li Jinghua came out of the kitchen carrying a large bowl of fried rice. Upon seeing the fried rice, Madam Li gave her a questioning look, as if to ask, ‘why would she serve fried rice when not everyone will be able to eat it?’ and Li Jinghua supplied the answer as she took her seat, “I’ve checked. Ah’Wen can at least eat fried rice. I’ve added minced meat and chopped vegetables to make it more nutritious and filling.” She patted Madam Li’s arm as additional reassurance and only then did Madam Li relax and unfurrow her brows.
Li Xinwen eyed the big bowl before finally scooping some on to his plate. He quietly ate it and had to admit it tasted great. So far, the food that he had been having here was all different from what he had in LongXing. After breakfast, he made sure to thank Li Jinghua properly before asking her where he could buy chocolate milk.
“Are you planning to go out?” Li Mother asked.
“En. I was in the hospital for far too long. I want to walk around and exercise,” Li Xinwen answered. This, in truth, was just an excuse.
“Alright, just be careful.”
“I will!” Li Xinwen gave his mother a hug to reassure her before turning to Sun Xiao. “Oh, Ah‘Xiao! How about I take you to school today?”
Sun Xiao was in the process of slinging his backpack onto his shoulder when Li Xinwen asked. The younger boy then remembered how Li Xinwen once took him to school in his car and it brought a lot of unwanted attention, so he shook his head in disagreement. “I’m alright, Xin-gege. I can just walk…”
“Aha! That’s a great idea! Then, I’ll walk with you,” Li Xinwen playfully flicked Sun Xiao’s forehead. “Wait here. I’ll go and get my disguise.”
By the time Li Xinwen returned with his disguise, he saw that Li Jinghua had left for her job and Sun Xiao was nowhere in sight. He had clearly told Sun Xiao to wait for him earlier. “Mom, where’s Ah‘Xiao?” Li Xinwen asked as he approached Madam Li.
“Ah‘Xiao? He should be outside waiting for you,” his mother replied as she looked up from the newspaper that she had been reading.
“Alright. Thank you, Mom. I’ll leave now,” Li Xinwen said with a chuckle. Leaning down, he planted a kiss on her cheek before walking to the front door. Although Li Xinwen wasn’t actually used to such intimate gestures, the original had made it a habit to do so. Remembering the original’s fate made Li Xinwen sigh. Shaking his head, he opened the door and saw Sun Xiao patiently waiting for him outside.
“Why did you wait outside? You could have just waited inside and stayed comfortable,” Li Xinwen said to Sun Xiao.
“I… just wanted to feed the neighbour’s dog before I left…” Sun Xiao answered as he looked down at the ground.
Li Xinwen compared this Sun Xiao to the Sun Xiao in Li Jinghua’s memories. Though his appearance then was different, his personality remained the same. He remembered seeing how Li Jinghua always had to save Sun Xiao from being bullied during the apocalypse. ‘This won’t do. I should help this boy gain some confidence,’ Li Xinwen thought as he hooked an arm around Sun Xiao’s shoulder.
“Right. Shall we go? I remember your school is only a fifteen-minute walk from here,” Li Xinwen said as they started walking. They left the main gate of the house and quietly walked through the neighbourhood. All the while, Li Xinwen kept thinking about how he could help Sun Xiao increase his confidence.
“Ah‘Xiao, do you still remember what Hua-jie talked about last night?”
“En. About the apocalypse and such… right?”
“Yes. And you said you want to learn martial arts so you can protect your elder brother, right?” Li XinwenXinwen turned his head to face Sun Xiao, flashing him a big grin.
“En! En! I will work hard and make sure to protect Xin-gege! Hua-dajie said that Xin-gege doesn’t have any ability and since Ah‘Xiao has two abilities, then Ah‘Xiao must protect Xin-gege!”
“Good, good. Then your Xin-gege will wait until Ah‘Xiao is strong enough to protect me! So, you should hurry and grow up,” Li Xinwen pinched Sun Xiao’s cheek playfully and the two started laughing. After a while, they stopped and Li Xinwen ruffled Sun Xiao’s hair. “You look better when you smile. So, smile more, okay? I’ll be very happy if my Ah‘Xiao smiles more!”
Sun Xiao stared at Li Xinwen’s smiling face and he suddenly felt his heart race. He quickly shook his head and took a few steps back. “Xin-gege, up until here is enough. Ah‘Xiao is running a little late so Ah‘Xiao is going to run now! Xin-gege is still injured so you cannot run with me!” Sun Xiao said before he turned and quickly dashed away. Even after he reached the school, his heart still hadn’t calmed down.
Meanwhile Li Xinwen, who was suddenly left alone, was confused. “Late? But there’s still thirty-eight minutes left before the school closes its gates! Or was the original’s memory wrong? I wonder what’s gotten into that boy? Hmmm…” Li Xinwen mumbled as he stared at the time displayed on his phone. After a while, he slid his finger across the screen, quickly opening the chat app. He saw several unread messages from Xue Rui from the night before and smirked.
“This little puppy really doesn’t want to give up…” he said as he tapped on the chat. The most recent message from Xue Rui was just this morning, greeting him for the day. Li Xinwen kept scrolling, ignoring most of the messages, only stopping when he found the message that he wanted to see.
It was the location of the shop where Xue Rui had acquired Lan Yu. Tapping on the link, the phone’s built-in map application displayed the different routes available.
According to the app, it was approximately 30 kilometers away from his current location. It would take around half an hour if he drove a car, around an hour traveling by train and two and a half hours if he decided to walk.
“If this was in LongXing, I could easily travel thirty kilometers in ten breaths of time. Being a mortal is so inconvenient. I guess I’ll have to do this the mortal’s way!” Li Xinwen especially lamented the fact that he could not use any of his skills to get to his destination.
Moments later, Li Xinwen found himself in the backseat of a taxi. The driver kept on glancing back at the rearview mirror, looking at him worriedly. Li Xinwen saw this and had to ask, “Is there something wrong with my face?”
“No! No! Nothing’s wrong! Just… um… that’s it! Your eyes look pretty!” the driver answered in a panicked tone.
Li Xinwen raised an eyebrow before lifting his hand to touch the sunglasses he was wearing. ‘Weird… I still have this on so why is he saying that my eyes look pretty?’ Li Xinwen couldn’t help wondering.
On the other hand, the driver gripped the steering wheel tightly. His mind was a mess while his heart was filled with fear. ‘This guy is not some gang member, right? The place he’s going to… isn’t that one of the underground organizations’ turf?’
With one person misunderstanding, and the other oblivious, the entire trip to Li Xinwen’s destination could only be described as awkward. Whenever Li Xinwen tried to strike up a conversation, the driver would answer, but then Li Xinwen would see that the driver was becoming increasingly anxious and uncomfortable. Each time Li Xinwen asked a question, the driver seemed to shrink away from answering it.
Half an hour later, the taxi finally came to a stop and Li Xinwen got out after paying. A huge building stood before him with a sign saying: “Hundred Treasures Antique Shop.”
The shop building stood out from the rest of the surrounding establishments. The area was mostly occupied by smaller buildings, a convenience store, a book shop, a couple of cafes, a laundromat and a quaint little restaurant. The shops were designed with modern and contemporary architecture while the antique shop building gave off a retro vibe. It was like traveling back in time.
Below the sign was a ceramic tiled roof which served as an awning above the entrance. It was intricately designed. The door was framed with wooden posts.
‘Interesting contrast,’ Li Xinwen observed. “Looks like this is the place…,” he muttered to himself before taking a step forward.
Just then, Lan Yu started sending warm streams of spiritual energy, but perhaps due to its excitement, the supposedly warm streams became increasingly hot to such a degree that Li Xinwen ended up hissing.
‘Calm down! I know parts of you are in there…‘ Li Xinwen scolded Lan Yu in his mind and only then did the jade calm down.
Li Xinwen was just about to take another step forward when he realized the spiritual energy around him had shifted. He knew this was Lan Yu’s doing, and under its guidance the spiritual energies gathered and formed a trail. ‘You want me to follow this spiritual trail?’ he asked and Lan Yu responded by sending out another stream of warmth towards Li Xinwen. ‘Alright. Let’s see where you’re leading me.’
Following the trail, Li Xinwen found himself walking towards the alley at the back of the building. The trail led him deeper until he reached the area where trash was being dumped. Don’t think that just because it’s a dumpster, it would look and smell disgusting. Unexpectedly, the dumpsters were clean and properly organized. Li Xinwen continued to follow the trail that Lan Yu made until he found himself standing before a black plastic bag. ‘In here?’ he asked, before he reached out with his spiritual sense. Sure enough, there were small bits of jade within the plastic. Left with no other choice, Li Xinwen ripped the plastic and began his search.
While he was searching, he noticed someone approaching him from behind. Thinking that it might just be someone wanting to throw some trash, he ignored it. That was until he felt the hostility emanating from the other person. Li Xinwen quickly stood up and turned to face the individual. The person who was approaching him suddenly stopped and pointed a gun at Li Xinwen.
“Don’t move! Raise your hands! Palms open!” the man dressed as a police officer held the gun steadily.
“Sir, I believe that there seems to be some kind of misunderstanding.” Li Xinwen said as he raised his hands, not wanting to cause any unnecessary problems.
“Keep quiet and cooperate! Turn around now!”
Li Xinwen sighed and turned around, still with both hands raised. He could hear the footsteps of the approaching officer and not long after, his hands were roughly pulled from behind and cuffed. “Sir, this is an… unlawful arrest… ” Li Xinwen stated with a slight hesitation. He himself wasn’t sure if that was right. He only remembered that there was once a scene in one of the original Li Xinwen’s dramas where he acted as a lawyer and had to defend a person who was arrested unlawfully.
“Someone from the underground organization is actually talking about the law?” the police officer scoffed. “Guys like you keep bending the laws to your liking and to get away with a lot of s#*&, so how is this unlawful?” the officer continued.
“Officer there seems to be a mistake, I–“
“Shut up punk! Keep your mouth shut before I charge you even further,” the police officer said, cutting Li Xinwen off and becoming rougher. At that point, Li Xinwen knew that he had indeed been misunderstood
‘Seems that there’s nothing else I can do… I can only knock him out and erase his memories,’ he thought. But just as he was about to exert some effort to break the handcuffs, a cold voice called out from behind them.
“This is not a place for you to be hanging about, officer. Let that man go, otherwise don’t blame me if you’re out of a job tomorrow.”