“Yo, she’s out.”
The second Lin Sanjiu rushed out of the basement door, she heard a lackadaisical voice commenting light-heartedly. Stepping on a pile of woodchips, Lin Sanjiu stood in the dimly-lit corridor and looked into the living room.
The candlelight from the flickering flames dyed half the living room orange-red. It was a stark contrast to the serene night sky outside the window. Qing Jiuliu was standing in the warm flickering candlelight. He turned his head to face Lin Sanjiu and flashed a pearly smile at her. His eyes were half hidden in the shadows but his eyes seemed to be sprinkled with starlight which sparkled like diamonds.
Ji Shanqing was standing beside Qing Jiuliu. When the grand prize saw that Lin Sanjiu had left the basement, he turned his head away slightly. His ponytail slipped past his face and blocked his slightly ashamed expression. He had pinned Carrot Lo to the dining table with Qing Jiuliu’s help. However, he did not move his hands an inch away from Carrot Lo despite seeing Lin Sanjiu.
Carrot Lo was surprisingly quiet even though his face had been planted flat into the table. He wasn’t even struggling.
“Both of you know that you can’t trap me in that basement,” Lin Sanjiu grimaced without moving.
Qing Jiuliu crooked his head like a child. An aura of insobriety tainted his languid movements. Whenever he acted this way, everything around him seem to fade into the background. It was as if Qing Jiuliu was the only person shining brilliantly in the room, a person who held the balance of power in his hand. No matter what he did, he could draw everyone’s attention to the point that they wouldn’t even avert their gaze.
This effect he had on others probably wasn’t only due to his good looks.
“I know,” he slurred slightly. The mermaid (Specimen 12) he held in his hand was still right beside Carrot Lo’s ears. “I wasn’t planning to trap you. We just need an opportunity to deal with him.”
Lin Sanjiu cast a glance at Ji Shanqing. The latter had found a knife somewhere and was now pressing it sharp blade against Carrot Lo’s artery.
“Both of you took such a short time to discuss the matter,” Lin Sanjiu sighed again. “I know you can fake that whistle but how did you create the wind outside? The house was even shaking.”
“When this fellow here pushed away your [Tornado Whip], I passed it to your grand prize secretly,” Qing Jiuliu answered indifferently as he held a stick of cigarette in his mouth. “Since there were many things on the table, you didn’t notice one missing when you were trying to keep them in a hurry.”
Lin Sanjiu was stunned. If she only heard the whistle, she would have assumed that the dimensional rift was still far from them so she would be so anxious. However, she didn’t expect Qing Jiuliu to prepare for that as well. He even tricked her with her own item.
She was tricked unwittingly only because she trusted her companions.
“Both of you—”
“What are you planning?” she wanted to ask. Before she could finish her question, Carrot Lo returned to his sense unexpectedly. When the effect from Qing Jiuliu’s mermaid disappeared, Carrot Lo was immediately aware of the situation he was in. He started struggling desperately while he swore at them, “You bastards! Let me go!”
From the looks of it, Carrot Lo was totally unafraid of the knife in Ji Shanqing’s hand. As he struggled, he accidentally cut his face and neck. However, as his blood seeped from his neck and face, Carrot Lo let out a bitter laugh.
“All of you will regret this!”
His face was beet red. He panted heavily as he spat viciously on the table. “I belong to the Consular Officer Association. Have you heard of them? All consular officers in the Twelve Worlds abide by one rule. Even if our lives are at stake, we will never issue a visa under physical force!”
It went without saying that Lin Sanjiu knew this. This was common knowledge to anyone who had been to the Twelve Worlds. She had already heard about it in Red Nautilus. The current elevated status that most consular officers have is precisely due to this rule which act as a deterrence for other and a protection for them. As it involves the interests of all the members of association, the association would even sent out assassins to kill both traitor and coercer if they discover that a member had issued visas under duress— and there were always more than enough people who would willing kill for the association.
Threatening a consular officer is not only something that will bring endless troubles. Furthermore, a person might just end up with nothing but a dead body. Carrot Lo probably thought of this so he struggled even hard. He was betting that these people wouldn’t do anything so he became even more bold. At that point, he even stubbornly rebuked them, “If you don’t let me go now, you can just go to any random world! Let me tell you! Even if a consular officer dies, that’s because they won’t issue a visa for nothing!”
“You’ve said so much,” Qing Jiuliu turned to Carrot Lo and blew a breath of cigarette smoke in his face. The white smoke slowly dissipated under the candle light, “but you’re assuming that we want the visas you issue.”
Just like Lin Sanjiu, Carrot Lo was flabbergasted, “Isn’t that the case?”
“Of course not,” Qing Jiuliu grinned as if he heard something ridiculous. His white teeth sparkled under the candlelight, “Getting a visa from you will only settle the problem once, I plan to solve this issue once and for all.”
Carrot Lo blinked his eyes blankly.
Qing Jiuliu did not answer him. He shifted his gaze to Lin Sanjiu. The light from the flames highlighted his almost hauntingly beautiful side profile. He smile faintly and spoke to her quietly, “You don’t have to deal with this matter anymore.”
This was the second time Lin Sanjiu heard these words from him. The moment he uttered them, Ji Shanqing plunged the knife deep into Carrot Lo’s carotid artery.
Blood spurted from the man’s neck. Under the candlelight, droplets of dark red blood sprayed everywhere. The grand prize narrowed his eyes. His face had been hit by a splatter of blood. Blood rolled down his skin. Even half his coat was soaked in blood. He closed his eyes. He did not draw out the knife but instead stabbed it deeper. Ji Shanqing only loosened his grip on Carrot Lo when that man finally stopped twitching like a fish out of water.
The black haft of the knife protruded from Carrot Lo’s neck. When Ji Shanqing took a step back, the corpse lost its support and fell to the floor with a gratuitous plop. A pair of widened lifeless eyes stared straight at the ceiling. An expression of bewilderment and derision remained plastered on Carrot Lo’s face.
The very moment Ji Shanqing plunged his knife deep into Carrot Lo’s carotid artery, Lin Sanjiu lowered her head and averted her gaze. She placed her knuckles between her brows until she heard the sound of blood splatter. She sighed and finally understood Qing Jiuliu’s objective. Somehow, this man could always crossed a certain moral boundary without any sign of guilt. Whenever he wanted something done, he seemed to abide by no worldly taboos.
Without looking at Lin Sanjiu once, Qing Jiuliu turned to Ji Shanqing and prompted, “Try it now.”
Ji Shanqing wiped the blood from his face and suddenly muttered, “Sis.”
Lin Sanjiu turned to Ji Shanqing and she noticed a new-formed visa in the grand prize’s hand. From where she was standing, she could not read the words on the piece of paper which glowed dimly under the candlelight. However, it was undoubtedly a visa.
“It’s ‘The Olympics'”, Ji Shanqing said placidly to her. He approached her gently as if she was startled critter, “My ability changed. It is now [Inadequate Consular Officer]. Sis, we can now go to the next world together. You can also continue protecting Magus.”
“That’s right. Ji Shanqing had already killed many people before this—” Lin Sanjiu looked at him with her mouth agape. She was dumbstruck for a moment. While she kept her silence, Qing Jiuliu took his cigarette from his mouth and suddenly laughed, “You must be relieved, right?”
Appalled, Lin Sanjiu stared at him.
“Don’t look at me like that, I’m not implying anything.”
Qing Jiuliu looked away from Lin Sanjiu as if he knew what Lin Sanjiu was feeling. When a person’s hidden dark emotions (those that they might not even acknowledge) are suddenly exposed, they would feel naked. No one would want an audience to witness that open shame.
Looking at another wall, Qing Jiuliu opened his mouth slightly. Cigarette smoke lingered around his lips making it seem as if he was standing in a white dreamy mist.
“You are a good person. You have a conscience and your own principles,” he said with mellow voice. Every word he said reached Lin Sanjiu’s ears unobstructed. “Whenever I hear others describing someone as having no particular good qualities except kindness, I would find it laughable. Living a mediocre life in a civilized society means most people don’t have the courage or the opportunity to break the law. If that’s that case, everyone would think themselves as kind, good citizens. Being labeled as a ‘kind person’ suddenly becomes the world’s most worthless compliment. To be honest, that sort of hypocrisy still disgusts me.”
Lin Sanjiu’s breath quickened.
“But you, you’re different. I have never seen a person who had gone through an apocalypse and multiple worlds but still remain like you…” Qing Jiuliu seemed unable to find an appropriate word at this point. After pausing for a while, he continued, “You remind me of a medieval knight. Despite living in darkness, you always head for the light.”
“I’m not a —” Lin Sanjiu couldn’t bring herself to say the words ‘good person’. She wiped her face, “Just as you said, when I… I saw him dead, I really felt a sense of relief.”
“That’s because you’re still human. That’s understandable,” Qing Jiuliu turned his head and narrowed his eyes, “If you want to be a person that holds on to your principles, you will find that it is a burden far heavier than you imagine.
“After spending such a long time with you, I realized that you will only kill out of self-defence or when there are no other options,” Qing Jiuliu laughed when he said that, “To be honest, it impresses me. However, killing Carrot Lo is my way of handling things. Killing him makes me happy. It has nothing to do with you.”
“You are only saying that to make me feel better,” Lin Sanjiu responded with a bitter smile, “I let both of you do the dirty deed…”
“Shut up,” Qing Jiuliu suddenly threw his cigarette butt at her. The lit cigarette create an arc in the air before landing in a puddle of blood and sizzling out.
He suddenly stood up. He was leaning lazily against the table previously but obviously he had finally lost his patience with Lin Sanjiu. He walked over to Lin Sanjiu and stood in front of her with his arms crossed. The grand prize looked at Qing Jiuliu then at Lin Sanjiu but eventually didn’t say a word.
“You are just an ordinary person. It is difficult to follow your principles.”
“Recognize your limit. Recognize that this time, you couldn’t do anything. Accept this fact. It is your business how you’re going to settle it next time. But, remember, you are only human. You can only be good person for so long because it is too difficult.”
Inexplicably, Lin Sanjiu felt herself slowly relaxing. It was as if someone had taken a heavy burden from her shoulders or like walking into a hot spring. With this sudden liberation, she was overwhelmed by a bone-deep exhaustion.
Of course, she knew that things would be so much easier if she could do anything without qualms for her own benefit. However, she was deeply afraid that she once she crossed a moral boundary, once she gave in to that temptation, her morals would end up in a downward spiral. With this thought in her mind, Lin Sanjiu had inadvertently pressurized herself to keep to her strict principles. The longer she lived in the apocalyptic worlds, ironically, she found it harder to just do whatever she wanted without qualms.
Lin Sanjiu looked fixedly at the dead body on the floor. At that moment, it seemed as though there were countless thoughts racing through her head and oddly as though her mind was blank. After a few minutes, she stared at the two people around her who remained silent.
“Since we killed him, how are we supposed to report this to Cyrus?” she exhaled. When she looked up again, her usual bright eyes was closer to black under the candlelight. “We can’t possibly say that Ji Shanqing did it.”
“Four consular officers are already dead, what’s one more?” Ji Shanqing chuckled— he seemed relieved. Needless to say, to him, a human’s death did not hold much significance, “We can always send them a message to tell them not to come here.”
“Wait,” Qing Jiuliu suddenly waved his hands, “Have you forgotten? There is another commonality between all the dead consular officers.”
Lin Sanjiu who had just undergone an emotional roller coaster didn’t catch what he meant immediately. She stared blankly at him. She looked at her two companions and then at the dead body before a sudden thought flashed in her mind: ” Every dead consular officer had been robbed clean.”
“I have not against you if you want to take the moral high ground and refuse any of his items—” Qing Jiuliu grabbed the Carrot Lo’s ankle and shook the body from feet up. “But, i find it pretty pointless. He’s dead anyway so it just recycling stuff. Oh, are you sure you don’t want anything?”
He withdrew his gaze and suddenly tossed the [Military Compressed Energy] that he found onto to dining table. “Alright, then you better not eat any of this even if you starve to death.”
Qing Jiuliu knew indubitably that Lin Sanjiu had been famished for a long time.
Lin Sanjiu covered her face. She really didn’t know what to say about him. After a while, she cussed hoarsely and snatched the [Military Compressed Energy] from the table, “You’re a demon!”
“I didn’t spend $1000 per hour on therapy for nothing.” Qing Jiuliu responded idly. Incidentally, he was blocking the dead body from Lin Sanjiu’s view.
When the invisible 1200KJ entered her body via her skin, Lin Sanjiu heard a snapping sound. She lowered her eyes abruptly. Even though that really wasn’t much energy, she felt a strange warmth spreading through her body. After that, Lin Sanjiu started feeling more energetic as if her organs have all been nourished.
Her two companions quickly found the two cards, [Oh My God! My wallet is missing!] and [An Unfinished Oil Painting], that Carrot Lo had taken away. They placed them on the dining table. As Carrot Lo did not hide his [Military Compressed Energy] and the mini trash can after taking them out, they immediately found them too. However, he seemed to have kept most of his items in some sort of interspatial storage. After searching for a long time, both of them finally realized that there was something different about Carrot Lo’s trousers.
They realized that items disappeared the moment they slid them along the seams of the man’s trousers. The pair of trousers were a sort of interspatial storage item!
“Even so, I don’t want to wear his trousers,” Ji Shanqing frowned, “They stink.”
“I don’t want them either. His legs are too short,” he concluded.
Lin Sanjiu pursed her lips while she sat silently. Things had changed too quickly and she was still processing the situation.
“Huh?” the grand prize remarked suddenly.
Startled, Lin Sanjiu quickly asked, “What’s the matter?”
The two people sitting on the floor turned back to look at her; their eyes were sparkling.
“He has many items…”