When I made it back to the Western Residence, there were more than ten hours to nightfall. Because each district was large but only contained three buildings, it could take some time to travel between the buildings. Of course, here, time was the one thing we had a lot of.
One day lasted sixty hours, thirty hours of day and thirty hours of night. Neither day nor night ever exceeded their time allotment. After thirty hours, our vision would instantly decline. This was the Split Zone, where it was perpetually dark and gloomy, even when it was day. It felt as if fog and darkness were the truly eternal things of this world.
I crossed my arms across my chest as I looked out the window.
Knock knock knock sounded from the door.
"Come in." I heard my voice sound, clearly and coldly.
I turned to the door and saw Old Man Fan, You Ji, Nie Zun, and also the marketplace supervisor, Jie Pa. I frowned.
Old Man Fan was the first person I met in the Split Zone, the crownless old man. When I became the Western Commander, I appointed him as the residence supervisor. I also appointed You Ji as the academy's supervisor. In name, she held the same position as Jie Pa and Old Man Fan, but in reality, she was essentially my co-commander. Because I didn't take care of anything, big or small, she had to pick up those duties.
I frowned as I looked at Old Man Fan's goopy, still-crownless head. Why did this old man like this chopped-off Hannibal style so much?
"In a bit, I'm going to head over to the Eastern District, before the district lines activate. In other words, I will be staying overnight in the Eastern District." I looked at the sixty-hour watch on my wrist. Ten more hours left. If I ran at my fastest pace, I'd arrive at the Eastern District just in time, so there was no chance I'd be able to return tonight.
"You're all aware that this is the first time, since I became the commander, that I'll be leaving the Western District for the night. While most people wouldn't dare kill a district commander, there will always be some level of danger. So, while I'm gone, watch over this place well. You may as well skip sleeping tonight. Nie Zun's coming with me, so Jie Pa and Old Man Fan, listen to You Ji."
Jie Pa appeared to be a 27 to 28 year old man. He always wore a suit and a pair of black-rimmed glasses. They say that while he was alive, he was a very intelligent scholar with a doctorate degree. After his death, he was still very enthusiastic about scientific research. I appreciated how he looked like an ordinary person and how gentlemanly his mannerisms were. He was also very capable, keeping the marketplace neat and tidy.
"Go with an easy mind. Leave this place to us." Jie Pa bowed to me.
In comparison, Old Man Fan looked at me with misty eyes. "Ah Shen, be careful. You're like a granddaughter to me." As he spoke, tears actually fell down his face. Oh, the blasted old man! Seriously disgusted, I actually made an effort to roll my eyes.
"Leave this place to us. Don't let any of the residents find out about your leaving the district, or it will just incite panic," You Ji told me.
I nodded. "Don't worry, I'll take care of it." I pulled my bow onto my back.
"Get rid of your appearance. You've already used your mental force four times today, and you'll have to use it again when you're running. Together with the MF you consumed during the day, you'll only have 47 MF left, and it won't replenish until after the thirty hours of night. How do you expect me not to worry while you're in a place like the Eastern District?" You Ji asked as she looked at me, heart full of worries.
You Ji was right. Though I only use up 1 MF to change my appearance, because all I do is change my figure slightly and turn my hair red, 1 MF was still 1 MF. I should get it back. I withdrew my mental force. My curly, red hair returned to its original long, straight, and black appearance, casually falling behind my shoulders.
"Tch. Still tiny without MF." Nie Zun shot a glance at my chest. A wave of fury rushed over me. I grabbed the cup from the table behind me and threw it at him.
You Ji pulled out a set of black clothes from the large bag she carried. "Put this on. A striking red dress, and you don't even try to hide your split symbol. Do you really think you're some kind of master in the Split Zone? You're always going around like you've got some powerful backer..." You Ji grumbled as she glanced at the scorpion pattern on my left ankle.
I laughed lightly. Without rebutting, I accepted the black clothes from her. They were ordinary black traveling clothes, along with a pair of flat, black boots.
"Do I look like an assassin?" I happily changed into the clothes and then walked out of the bathroom, looking to the others. My long hair fell straight, parting down the middle to frame my face on both sides. I stood in front of them, clothed in black, carrying my favorite bow.
"You might pass for an assassin in the real world, but in the Split Zone, you just look like any ordinary person." You Ji's face was full of abandon. But, she still gave a flick of her tail, and then she bent over and stuffed two guns into my boots. "Bring along more weapons. Two guns, twelve bullets-the best Western round nosed bullets. Only one shop in the marketplace carries them. They're covered in a mental inhibitor that causes paralysis for five hours."
Because of our incredibly fast healing abilities, ordinary bullets don't have much effect on us. With our ability to endure pain, an ordinary bullet entering our body is like a mosquito bite. Mental inhibitors, however, are a type of drug that can suppress our consciousness. The ingredients probably aren't complicated. They're akin to sleeping pills that cause our consciousness inside the Split Zone to fall into a deep sleep. Most bullets coated with mental inhibitors, though, can only cause someone to lose mobility for an hour or so.
I nodded and tidied my belongings. Then I dismissed the rest of the group with a wave. You Ji gave me a final worried look before leaving with Old Man Fan and Jie Pa. Only Nie Zun and I remained in the room.
I looked over to Nie Zun, who still wore his black, high-collared windbreaker, his bangs covering his eyes. He leaned against a wall, two hands stuffed into his jacket pockets, and looked around without a care.
"You're not planning on bringing anything with you?" I asked as my brows raised.
A smile appeared on Nie Zun's lips. "Do you think someone with an MF of 67 needs to bring anything?"
True. Nie Zun was a bit different from others in that regard. Of course, his physical abilities had limitations, just as anyone else's did, but he never wasted his mental force for his appearance. Today, he'd already run along with me and had to catch me from my fall. In total, he'd already used his mental force thrice, but even if he were to run again, he would still have 63 MF remaining, which meant it was true that he didn't really have anything to worry about.
I couldn't be bothered to say any more to him. Instead, I opened the window, letting the evening breeze flow into the room. I climbed onto the windowsill, about to head onto the roof to head over to the Eastern District. Suddenly, my clothes tightened around my neck, like someone was pulling me from behind.
Nie Zun's head appeared beside mine as he held me in place on the windowsill. "Let's walk. Since you never train yourself, when something requires more strength than you're accustomed to, you'll end up depleting your mental force." He pulled me down from the window, and then turned to the door. "I told you that you ought to train more regularly."
In the end, I followed him out angrily. What else could I do when he was right. I didn't often train, so if I had to exert even a bit of extra strength, I would end up using my mental force.
"After we get back, you should start training." He glanced back at me and snickered.
After we took the elevator up to the 30th floor, we started to fly across the rooftop.
The top of the Western Residence had become my personal traveling area. Because the residents of the district knew that I liked running across the top of the building, especially at night, they traveled on the streets to avoid my running them over. Although, that might not really be the reason. Maybe it was simply for the fact that ordinary people walked on streets and not on rooftops... After all, traveling by roof introduces the danger of falling off of it. (Passerby B: That's really only a danger for you. Normal people know to stop when they get near the edge.)
The nighttime wind whirred in my ears as Nie Zun and I ran. When I looked over at him and saw that ever-smiling face, I couldn't help but zone out.
Many times, as I ran through the night with Nie Zun, I would start to feel like I was still just a third year college student in the real world. Of course, I'd quickly regain my senses, because this was definitely an incomparably strange place. But I would still try to fool myself.
Half a year after I came here, I was assigned to the post of Western Commander. For the next half year, I spent every day practicing archery or holed up in my room to read. Aside from those things, I rarely did much else.
It's not that I had no desire to find my soul splitter. I just simply didn't know how. Even though some people would use violence to force others to reveal their split symbols, you couldn't really just look at other people's symbols at your whim. Still, we quickly realized that in this place, split symbols didn't repeat.
Slowly, people grew accustomed to life here. Life was much the same in the real world anyway, but at least in this place, there were no societal pressures. And so, everyone eventually gave up searching for their soul splitter.
I didn't give up. But neither did I have the necessary courage.
What I was nearly certain of was that my soul splitter wasn't in my district. Even if they were, with so many people in such a large place, I wouldn't be able to find them anyway. Soul splitters appear to be no different from ordinary folk, except for the fact that their split symbol isn't unique. The thing that makes them exceptional though, is that, if someone with a different split symbol inserts their key into a soul splitter's symbol, that soul splitter will not die.
I know that soul splitters exist, and that they exist in Split Zone No.13, but I still have no way of finding them.
After a person arrives in the Split Zone, they are only allowed a look at their life in the real world once a year. The time was arranged with Mr Blond, and he would escort you to the large hall at the heart of the realm. Then you'd be able to see your physical body in the real world.
Personally, after seeing my parents crying when I first arrived, and seeing my lifeless body lying on a hospital bed, I never asked Mr Blond to let me have a look again. I admit it. I've been running away.
Q: Li Shen enjoys long runs on rooftops to clear her mind. Besides reading, what do you do to distract yourself, clear your mind, relax in general?
A: One thing I like to do is sing. Only when I'm by myself though, because mind you, I'm a terrible singer. But it's just calming and maybe a bit liberating(?). I imagine it's kind of like when people go to the ocean to shout out all their worries or something.