24 Strategizing...

- Later That Night -

I was sitting in my room, attempting to devise a good plan. Plan for what? Well, earlier today I promised Feng Mian to help her free her parents. From the very first time I met her, I knew this was a problem I would have to resolve eventually.

Why would I go out of my way to help her, you ask?

1. She was a nice girl deep down. This has been proven on several occasions.

2. I guess...she can be considered a friend of mine. She did take me to the infirmary, after all. I owe her.

3. I don't want anyone innocent to suffer the same fate as me - losing their parents.

Back then, I had let her go not because I was a kind person. No. It was because I knew the feeling of losing your family all too well. Whether I realized it or not, I probably made a vow in my heart to help her a long time ago. You ask again: am I a kind person? No, I'm not. I just want to live up to my parents' expectations.

I have power now. So I will fulfill the responsibilities that come with that power.

Soon after, I heard faint knocks on the door. I got up from the couch and gave a slight stretch. "Who is it?"

"It's me...F-Feng Mian..."

After making sure it was someone I knew, I unlocked the door and let her in. However, she seemed hesitant.

"Don't worry, I already disabled all the traps."

"A-Ah! I w-wasn't worrying about those..."

"Then what is it?"

"E-Er...it's just, you know, um..."

"..." Can you please get to the point? Though I didn't say this out loud, since it might've seemed harsh.

"A-Ah! Um...i-isn't t-this a-against the rules?"

"What?" The hell was she talking about?

She began fidgeting nervously with her hair. "You know...a girl coming over to a boy's room alone at night?"

Ah...there was indeed a rule like that. Every school has this rule implemented, as required by the IMF. After 9:00 PM every night, no one was allowed in the room of someone from the opposite gender. This was to prevent secretive sexual activities from taking place. If a boy was discovered in a girl's room, the boy would be punished severely, possibly even expelled. However, if a girl was found in a boy's room, the one to be punished was STILL the boy.

Such were the rules that the IMF established. But right now, it was only 8:00, and no one paid attention to my room anyway. I was practically free from the rules, as the faculty didn't even consider me a student...at least, until today. I had wanted to show just the minimum of my powers in the duel today, but unfortunately, the circumstances didn't allow.

Considering the large audience, there was going to be a huge commotion tomorrow. In fact, I'm quite surprised I haven't been approached by anyone apart from Feng Mian since the duel ended. They say 'I only believe what I see'...but sometimes, even things you see with your own two eyes are so unbelievable that you do not want to accept it.

In any case - we should be fine for now. I'll just have her go home before 9:00. "It's alright, just make sure you return to your room by 9."

"R-Right..." she responded timidly.

"Anyway, come sit. The first step we have to do is gather information," I said as I beckoned her over to the couch. "What do you know about that man?"

"...Not much, unfortunately," she replied as she sat down. "I don't even know his name."

"...As expected."

"You already knew?!" Feng Mian suddenly perked up. "Then why did you even ask in the first place?!"

"...Well, I was 99% sure, given how careful that man is, what with wearing the mask and cloak."



"...How did you know he wears a mask and a cloak?"

-Oh shit. I completely forgot she still didn't know that I eavesdropped on their conversation in the dark alleyway. "Er...to tell you the truth, I did indeed hear that exchange you had with him a couple days ago. Sorry for lying, I just didn't trust you enough at the time."

"..." she merely stared at me with a look of anger. But after a while, she sighed and the tension in the air evaporated. "Fine, I forgive you."

"Much appreciated."

She then faintly blushed and continued in a quieter voice. "Is that to say you trust me now, then?"

"Of course. We're partners." That was the best term I could come up with for our relationship at the moment. Friends might be taking it a step too far, but then again...she did kind of lean on me earlier today on the rooftop. I didn't push her away because well...she smelled pretty nice, you know? But that was just a one-time thing, I suppose.

"Hehe..." Feng Mian giggled cutely, which made my heart beat quicken.

"A-Ahem. In any case - right now we don't have any information whatsoever on that man. So all we have to do, is GET information."

"...Huh? How exactly will we do that?" Feng Mian asked as she tilted her face slightly.

"You have to keep doing what you are currently doing, and report back to him constantly. Basically...grow closer to him. And eventually-"




"Okay okay, fine. But why?"

"I'm not about to sell my body for this plan of yours," she said angrily. After a little bit, she looked downwards and her cheeks turned slightly pink. "Besides, there's already somebody I'm saving this body for..."

...I'll pretend I didn't hear that last part. "Er, alright. Plan B then."

"Plan B?"

"Full-on assault."

"That's not a plan at all!" she cried.

"Hey hey, just listen to me explain..."


- An unknown amount of time later -

I had just finished telling Feng Mian about my 'Full-On Assault' Plan, and she reluctantly agreed after I explained how it wasn't just 'charging in blindfolded'. Anyway, she had also given this plan of mine the name of 'Operation: Freedom' for some reason. Personally, I thought that 'Full-On Assault' was a fine name in itself. But she was the main character of this ploy, so I had to let her have her way.

She also had many, many questions, and I had to answer each of them. Quite tiring, in fact.

"What about Qing Yue? Is she in on this?" Feng Mian asked.

"No," I replied immediately. "I'm not about to get her caught up in this."

"You know...she's going to yell at you again if she hears that."

"So be it. It's too dangerous for her to participate. We still don't even know if that man has other accomplices or not."

"Hm...sure, I guess. Well then, I guess I'll be leaving now..." Feng Mian glanced at me with a look of hope in her eyes.

Uh...why are you looking at me like that? What, you want me to ask you to stay? Hell no. I'm bound to get expelled sooner or later, but not for something like this.

"Yeah. Be careful-" I looked at the clock hanging on the wall and my throat went dry.

9:17 PM.

"Xuan Kai?" Feng Mian waved her hand in front of my eyes. "Hello?"

I gulped and pointed at the clock my eyes were still fixed on. "Er...the time."

"Huh? What are you talkin-" she glanced in the direction of my finger and her vision landed on the object I was pointing at. I assume her throat also went dry.

An awkward air immediately filled the atmosphere. I broke the silence first. "Er...yeah. Explaining the plan took longer than I expected, and with all the questions you had..."

"H-Hey! Are you saying this is my fault?!"

"N-No...just...never mind. More importantly, what do you propose we do now?"

"Ahaha...." Feng Mian began nervously fidgeting with her elegant golden hair.

I sighed and pointed at the wall opposite of the clock. "The window."

"Eh?" she stopped.

"The last time you were here, you left through the window too, didn't you?"

"Oh yeah! You're right!" she exclaimed happily at me finding a solution. "But...um...my mana..."

Ah. Her mana still hadn't replenished itself since the duel? Casting an AOE (area of effect) spell along with four Glacier Forms in rapid succession in addition to a Shadow Element spell...that indeed drained mana very quickly. Normally, she could probably have cast far more spells. But casting them without even the slightest of breaks to rest...that consumed mana at an insane pace.

"...I see. I guess I'll have to think of something else then..."

"U-Um, no, it's fine, actually!" she interrupted quickly.

"Huh? Did you just drink a mana elixir or something?"

Elixirs were potions that gave buffs and healing. There are many different elixirs in the world, but even the simplest of them all, a mana elixir, costed around ¥1,000 RMB (Ren Ming Bi, the world-wide economy system, once again established by the IMF).

"N-No, my mana is still depleted, but I just thought of a slight alternative..." Feng Mian trailed off.

"Oh? Elaborate." I wanted to hear what kind of plan she thought of.

"Well, y'know, you can use every Element, right? I used Vanishing Shadows last time to get down to the ground safely from this height, and from what I was taught, if you are touching someone, they can enter the shadows with you too...so um, if you carry me...then we should be able to get down just fine..."

Ah. How could I forget that I can use every element now? Right. I went to open the window, and looked down. 12 stories, approximately 40 meters. Not too bad. I didn't want to do this to be honest, if only I could use the Level 3 Gravity Element spell Gravity Neutralize...

"Very well. I will do as you say," I replied as I picked her up in a princess carry.

"W-Wait! I-I'm not ready ye-AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

I took a running stance, and leapt straight through the window. Ignoring Feng Mian's desperate cries, I chanted. "Level One Shadow Magic: Vanishing Shadows!"

Immediately, I felt my body being pulled in to the wall of the building, which at nighttime like it was now, was just a giant shadow. Once I was halfway in, I decided to test if I could stop at will.

...It worked. I could pause and resume going at my discretion, so currently we were horizontally hovering in the middle of the air, half my body stuck in the wall (at least that's how it looked to outside viewers, if there were any) and the other half carrying Feng Mian. I'll leave the visualization up to you.

I continued going at a rapid pace, and stopped inches from the ground. By the way, Feng Mian was screaming the whole time. If she attracted attention, the whole point of this plan would be ruined.

Once we were safely on solid gravel, I put Feng Mian down. "Jesus...you mind not screaming? My eardrums were very close to exploding. Your screams are...something else."

"H-Hey! It's not my fault you just jumped off from the 12th floor of an apartment 40 meters above ground-level without ANY PRIOR WARNING!"

"Yikes...I just told you to stop screaming..." I winced as I covered my ears in defeat. "What will you do if someone hears you? We would've done all that for nothing."

"You-!" She raised her hand in an attempt to smack me, but then looked around and decided against it. "F-Fine. But I demand an apology for this..."

"Sure. I'll treat you to dinner...tomorrow."

Feng Mian closed her eyes and folded her arms, clearly embarrassed. "H-Hmph! Very well. B-But this is only for an a-apology, okay?! Okay?!"


And shortly after that, Feng Mian left for the girls' dormitories, and I headed back to my room via Vanishing Shadows. As I drifted off to sleep, I couldn't help but worry whether she remembered 'Full-On As-'

-'Operation Freedom', at all.

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