After a few weeks had passed, when Wenyi and Jueqing began to realize that Zhennan would not regain his memory, they began to act strange. That was what his sister Rongtze had said anyway. To Zhennan, they had always been strange from the very beginning.
Before Zhennan had come here, he was sure the original owner of his body was already receiving some crazy spartan training from Wenyi. However, according to Rongtze, Aunt Wenyi would never cross the line and endanger his life for the sake of making him stronger. Aunt Jueqing would usually also speak up for Zhennan and ask her to tone it down, but for the past 6 months, they had treated him like they were training a battle slave.
Or at least that was what his sister had been shouting as she clutched Zhennan’s scarred hands tightly. The tears streaming down her face reminded him of his own older sister in his original world who was also quite protective of him after both their parents died in an accident. He wondered if his real sister would be alright after finding out about his death. He hopes she won’t be too sad.
As Rongtze was angrily reciting profanities, Wenyi’s face was also dark but she didn’t say a word back and silently let her niece berate her. Zhennan felt bad watching this family fight break out but he couldn’t butt in.
He literally could not. With his entire body bandaged up like a mummy after sustaining those (probably) life-threatening injuries from falling off Thundering Peak’s slippery cliff while sword fighting with Aunt Wenyi. Most of his bones were broken after falling from that height but oddly enough, he didn’t feel much pain, really. He felt more hurt looking at Rongtze and Wenyi fighting.
He felt himself getting more and more tired before everything faded to black.
“Hey, Secretary Li. What are you looking at?”
He almost jumped ten feet into the air.
“Oh, it’s nothing.” Zhennan quickly closed the app and tucked his phone away into his pocket.
He was almost caught slacking off at work. He was hardly distracted during work, but the novel he picked up last night was just too intriguing.
His boss frowned and that was when Zhennan knew that he was about to be fired.
However, before he could explain himself, a gentle hand reached out to ruffle his auburn hair.
“Have the rest of the day off, the dark circles around your eyes are getting worse these days.”
He was ready to receive a scolding at the bare minimum, but this was…
Could his boss have meant: ‘You can go back home but don’t come back or show your face at work ever again if you intend to really leave??’
A shiver went up his spine, however before his boss could say another word, Zhennan profusely bowed at him.
“I’m really sorry, director. I will be more diligent next time!” As he was about to run off to his office, his arm was grabbed tightly.
Turning around, he realized that it was the director’s hand that was stopping him. It must’ve been his imagination, but for a second, the look the other had on his face… was it one of hurt? That was impossible. Director Qiu was a cold, complex man that no one could read. There was no way he could’ve made that pitiful expression. Zhennan thinks he should really stop staying up late to read this novel, it made him hallucinate something strange.
When he took a second glance up at the other’s face, it was already replaced by a smile.
“Since you have the rest of the day off, let’s go have lunch together.” His boss had spoken nonchalantly while leaning in close to his face.
Was his boss inviting him to his own farewell lunch?!
He wanted to take a few steps back, anything to increase the distance between them, but he couldn’t due to the firm grip his boss had on his arm.
“Ahaha… It’s alright. I’m going back to work right this instant.” And please don’t fire me, he thought.
When his boss finally loosened his hands, Zhennan could no longer walk away. Turns out it wasn’t his imagination after all…
“Why… Zhennan, why are you always running away from me?” His boss, no– Linghua was looking down and due to their height difference, Zhennan could clearly see the emotion he had on his face. It made him look like a kicked puppy.
Huh?! Why are you the one crying? I’m the one who’s going to be out of job soon!
Feeling awkward, Zhennan quickly took out a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped away the tears that were threatening to trickle down his boss’ face.
“Haih… we have a general conference scheduled in thirty minutes. I can’t promise you lunch, but we can both get off work earlier to have dinner… Is that okay, director Qiu?” He added the last part quietly. After all, who would be daring enough to ask their boss whether they could leave early, much less apply for half a days’ worth of leave.
As soon as Zhennan finished speaking, his boss straightened up right away. Any trace of his previous fragility completely disappeared.
“Alright then, it’s a promise.” He had said as the corners of his eyes creased.
“What about the promise?”
Zhennan could still hear shouting.
“There’s no more time, we have no choice!”
He slowly opened his eyes, but there was a cool, wet cloth blocking his vision. His head hurt and his entire body felt hot. Did he have a fever?
“It’s for his own good! He’ll never survive out there if we don’t…”
The loud voices had slightly changed from before. As he slowly got up, the cloth naturally fell away from his face. Who was shouting…?
“There’s no point if you kill him yourself before the gates open!” Jueqing had her forehead buried in her hands as she towered above Wenyi. Wenyi sat on a stone stool with her hands crossed. Her eyes were shut tight but the area around them was reddened.
“His departure ceremony… isn’t there a way we could just-”
Jueqing shook her head. “It’s… our obligation. The only thing we can do for him has to be done now, we can’t…”
“What departure ceremony?”
The two women looked towards the direction of a third voice. It was hoarse and weak but held more conviction that the two combined.
Wenyi got up from her seat. Her mouth opened and closed a few times but no words came out.
The novel Zhennan read was called 《画龙点眼》. Literally, the meaning of its title was to dot the eyes on the dragon. What it really meant was to add-on to perfection, making something more perfect. Before reading the novel, most readers would probably think that the title was meant to describe the protagonist and the female lead. However, after Zhennan read half the chapters, he began to think that maybe the author was alluding to the protagonist’s and the villain’s relationship. Though the protagonist’s life was tough and he often got involved in conflict, he somehow managed to turn the situation around to its most desirable outcome, making it a perfect world.
Somehow, wherever the protagonist went, the dragon villain was always there too. The dragon was not evil, Zhennan thinks. In fact, both the protagonist and dragon both shared similar ideals, which was to ultimately make the world a better place. However, no matter how much the effort the protagonist made in ensuring that his world was perfect, the problem that the real world faced was much harder to fix.
In this world, ether was slowly beginning to fade and become corrupted. Whether it was from overuse or if it were because the Gods have abandoned the now independent creatures on Earth who have long forsaken them, no one knew why this was happening.
Ether was an important commodity for magic to work. Growing crops, moving mechanical machines and even the simplest magic spells required ether. As such, there were many greedy people who wanted to hoard as much magic for as long as possible. Many who were over-reliant on the once abundant ether began to suffer.
This dragon villain was not only as powerful as the protagonist (or perhaps even more). They even worked together to protect the Golden Pavilion City from an evil third party. It was there where they both gained a higher respect for one another. Of course, at the time, both parties did not know it was each other even if it was not the first time they both met. The protagonist only thought that it was a random stranger who was as well-matched as him in terms of power.The dragon had transformed into a different human form while the protagonist donned an identity-sealing mask. After they defeated the evil third party, they were dragged into the ninth layer of hell. Even though the evil third party had attacked his home, the protagonist still wanted to forgive him. But as the evil third party was at the brink of death; he refused to admit defeat and used a forbidden cursed technique.
It was there where they both gained a sort of trust and respect for one another, but ultimately where they understood that both of them will never be on the same side. During the tribulation to open the second layer of hell’s doorway, the protagonist blocked a fatal attack for the still-disguised dragon, causing his mask to crack and its magic identity-sealing properties to fade away. At the time, the dragon quickly brought him away and healed the unconscious protagonist. After that, they quickly cleared the remaining tribulation which sent them both to different locations. The last tribulation happened to be the simplest, which was to answer a single question honestly.
After he went back to the Golden Pavilion City, the Herma female lead had sensed some dark magic on him. Only a handful of people knew how to use dark magic proficiently, one of them being the dragon villain. When he thought back on the mysterious stranger’s fighting techniques, he immediately realized that it was that same dragon villain all along but also began wondering if the other was truly evil.
Whatever happened next, Zhennan thought it was weird how a dragon, which was a creature born of magic, wanted to destroy magic while the protagonist, who was a human, wanted to save it.
“Big brother…” Rongtze was out of breath. She finally managed to locate him in the library after looking for him everywhere.
After Zhennan was told of his fate, he began to work harder during physical and ether manipulation training. Even though he stayed in the same room as his sister, they hardly saw each other. They used to eat their meals together, however, to be cost-efficient about his time, Zhennan had opted to eat magical pills to sate his hunger and fulfil his daily nutrition intake requirements. He wished that they had magical pills in his previous world, it would’ve made his work a lot easier and he wouldn’t have passed out so often when he forgot to eat for a few days.
He was never much of an outdoors person, however after knowing the contents of the novel, he’d be pretty damned if he didn’t try his best to learn as much as he could while he was still permitted to stay in Secret Vermillion Forest City. The last time he properly exercised was probably when he was still in high school for some compulsory marathon event, but even then, he was sure he came in dead last for his category.
Even so, luckily once he puts his mind into doing something, he won’t give up so easily. Even if the daily training Wenyi and his other teachers put him through was tough, he will have to put up with it to prepare for the eventual apocalyptic event that occurs in the novel.
When he first overheard Wenyi and Jueqing’s argument, he wasn’t even angry that he was the only one who had to leave. If anything, he felt almost nothing but numb. After all, some children in his world were chased out by their parents as soon as they turned 18. He could just treat it as something similar to that. Besides, aunt Wenyi and Jueqing along with Rongtze weren’t really his actual family. The only family he had left was his sister, who he had left behind after passing on to this world. Both his parents had left him early too, when his real sister and him where just 16 and 12 respectively. None of their relatives would take him in because they believed he was a child of bad luck, and although they did not outright say it, he believed they also blamed him for his parent’s death.
This should’ve been an easy thing to accept, he’s experienced this before. But for some reason, what he couldn’t accept was why he had to experience the same thing in his new life too. Even if he wanted to get angry and yell at the elders for coming up with such a ridiculous prophecy or even his aunts for just allowing this to happen, he had no right to. After all, this life wasn’t really his. In fact, it was just someone else’s life that he borrowed.
Four months had already passed since he came to this world.
“Talk to me, please.” Rongtze begged. “I hardly get to see my favourite twin anymore these days, what’s wrong?”
Zhennan kept quiet. They weren’t supposed to talk in the library anyways.
“Li Zhennan.” Rongtze hardly used that tone with him.
Re-ravelling his scroll, he turned to face his sister. She looked so alike to him; except she had a sharper gaze.
“You mean your only twin?” Zhennan whispered.
Rongtze sat down on top of the table in front of him before hugging his head.
“Don’t worry. I won’t ever leave you alone. We will find a way.”
Zhennan only sighed before hugging his sister back.
To be honest, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to stay either. If he were to choose between the brutal training and crazy women, or the incoming apocalyptic event in the future, he’d take his chances on the outside world, far from Secret Vermillion Forest City. Besides, there were still a few other places that were said to be safe from ether corruption, such as the Golden Pavilion City where the protagonist lived.
Of course, for now he could still endure a few more years here. He’ll treat it as some mandatory bootcamp to prepare him for his upcoming departure, but to live here for the rest of his life and undergo such strict daily regiments?! He used to be a sedentary office worker… to suddenly be thrust in such an active lifestyle was torture to a modern-day human like himself.
Squirming out of his sister’s strangely strong hug, he said. “I’m going to wash up. Wenyi wants us to practice sword fighting again at Thundering Peak at sunset.”
Walking out of the library, he was about to shut the door gently when his sister followed him outside too.
In silence, they walked through the open courtyard corridors, passing by a field where many other Herma disciples were training. When they finally reached their shared room, he slowly opened the bamboo doors only to be pounced by a very familiar looking phoenix. As it made itself comfortable on his shoulders and draped its wing feathers around his face, it also began to lick Zhennan’s short hair. He had cut it short after he recovered from his fever. As a modern-day person, having long hair felt a little weird to him, especially when some of the strands would tickle the back of his head. After the people around him noticed that he trimmed his hair, they were shocked but said nothing about it. They looked away guiltily, probably thinking that he had a deeper reason for doing so, but really, he just thought it was too much of a hassle to maintain. Plus, summer was coming and it was getting hotter and hotter every day.
Back to the strange creature… As soon as it started ‘grooming’ Zhennan’s hair, he recognized it right away. It was that stinky firebird from last time!! What was it doing in their room?! Seems like it has gotten smaller since the last time they saw each other…
His sister behind him quickly tried to grab the offending creature.
“Oi, you damn chicken! Don’t eat Zhennan’s hair!” She shouted while pulling it from its neck. Too bad it didn’t budge, instead, it clutched onto Zhennan more tightly with its claws.
Rongtze always had a short temper, much like aunt Wenyi. Getting angry, she immediately squeezed its head and forcefully pulled on it. Because it was a particularly prideful bird, at the risk of its head feathers being torn off, it quickly got off Zhennan’s shoulders and flew away to perch on the table inside their room.
It made an aggrieved chirp at Rongtze before starting to tend to its own feathers with its beak.
Zhennan gave it a quick glance before entering the room himself and gathering fresh new clothes to change into after his bath. The phoenix had probably gotten smaller after moulting off its previous round’s fireskin. Sure enough, when Zhennan took a closer look, the stinky firebird had an additional seventh feature on its tail now.
“Why is this thing in our room?” He asked.
Rongtze looked casually between him and the firebird before replying. “Well, probably it’s mating season and the turkey’s restless so the conservation department decided to let it fly freely for a while. A training collar has been put on it so if anything happens, they can stun and recapture it immediately.”
The prideful phoenix hissed at Rongtze for a moment when the word ‘turkey’ came out of her mouth.
Zhennan nodded thoughtlessly, not really listening as he was tired. “Perhaps we could let her stay inside in the meantime so she won’t be chased by other ho-ny male birds.”
He picked up the stinky firebird and wanted to pat its head feathers, feeling that the tiny thing seemed a little pitiful. However, before he could do so, his sister quickly cast a space-splitting spell directed towards the phoenix in his hand. “You…! Get away from my brother!”
And just like that, there was now a massive hole in the wall where the spell hit. The lucky phoenix managed to dodge the potentially feather-decimating spell and quickly flew out the freshly-made hole.
Originally, Zhennan felt sleepy. Now he was wide awake.
Looking at his sister, he was bewildered at her reaction.
Could she have been jealous?
He slowly walked over to her and reached out his hand to pat her head, just like his older sister used to.
Rongtze only swatted his hand away and shouted at him, “Stay here!”
Without any further explanation, she quickly rushed outside. What came back was a bobbing large wooden basin with a paper folding screen inside it. The large wooden basin was plopped on the floor and behind it was his sister. She took out the paper folding screen and summoned a water spirit to fill the tub.
“Zhennan. From now on, don’t bathe in the clear cavern pool anymore.” At that moment, his sister’s eyes looked particularly deadly so he only gulped and nodded.
When his sister went to get some soap, he quickly stripped and went to sit inside the tub. The water was cool and refreshing, making him sigh. When Rongtze returned, she insisted on helping him scrub his hair. He was too tired right now to refuse.
“Promise me you’ll come back to rest tonight?”
Zhennan nodded, at the brink of dozing off as his sister comfortably massaged his scalp.
Before he went out to meet Wenyi, he opened the window by his bed, feeling a little bad at the thought of the phoenix being chased around by other birds though the thought of more tiny chirping baby birds did seem cute.
That night after he returned from the tough training, he was about to pass out in his bed but realized that it was filled with many high-ether crystals and colourful feathers. He reached out his hand to remove the strange assortment of objects but quickly retracted them when he touched a white glue-like liquid.
“That damn chicken is going to become sticky honey roast tomorrow!” His sister had suddenly appeared right behind him.
Zhennan sighed as he wiped his hands using the clean parts of the quilt. Just what is that weird-smelling liquid?
“It’s alright, I’ll just sleep in your bed tonight.”
His sister was fuming earlier, but after hearing the second part of his sentence, she brightened up significantly.
“Oh okay! Let’s go now~” She chimed, hooking her arm with her brother’s.
That night, Zhennan had no way of knowing but as Rongtze watched his peacefully sleeping face, she was muttering under her breath.
“Must somehow keep brother locked inside, can’t let other ho-ny males come near…”
A/N: When Zhennan realizes that there is something wrong with his sister, it would probably be too late. Lul
A/N: When Zhennan realizes that there is something wrong with his sister, it would probably be too late. Lul
Ahhhh!!! Also, Huahua will make an appearance in the next chapter! For real! I’m sorry he couldn’t make it in this one, the chapter sort of got longer and longer every time I reviewed it and ended up needing to be split or else it’ll be too long… ✍(◔◡◔) The next chapter will be released very soon, please leave some comments! It means a lot to me, really!