Ji Zhixun stood completely still in the pouring rain as the old man walked toward her. She couldn’t even react and activate the mechanism of the black cane when the latter passed her by.
It wasn’t that she didn’t want to do so, but an invisible power had enveloped her, causing her body to stiffen up. Cold sweat wouldn’t stop flowing down her back.
The old man was dressed in an out-fashioned western style suit topped with a gentleman's hat. His gaze was strangely drawn to the book Ji Zhixiu was holding.
"It's this book. Lucky lass,” he muttered in a hoarse, raspy voice.
Under the concealment of the umbrella, Ji Zhixiu could vaguely see an ancient black iron mask covering the old man’s face. She could only see her beady snake-like eyes peering out of the mask, directing a razor-sharp gaze at her. It looked oddly dissonant with his refined appearance.
Ji Zhixiu only managed to catch a glimpse of the red words on his black book cover when the old man passed her by—Void Extinguishing.
A chilling, eerie sensation crept over her bare skin.
Ji Zhixiu heaved a huge sigh of relief before slowly turning her head back toward the bookstore.
Muffled voices sounded as the door slowly closed.
"Welcome… Ahh? Old Wil, it's you! Have you come to return your book?"
“… It still sounds a little odd even though you told me that the nickname symbolizes our friendship. Mr Lin, won't you call me by my name instead?”
“Of course, Mr Wilde."
"Phew… That sounds much more comfortable. You had a new customer, Mr Lin?"
"Yeah, Old Wil."
"My name… Forget it. I noticed that you loaned the book you seem to be always reading out to the new customer. You must really be really fond of her. Anyway, here's the book I borrowed."
"A frequently read book is still a book. That book felt just right for her. If I recall correctly, our bet was 30 days. You’re back within 20 days, which means that it’s my victory. You just wouldn't believe me when I told you that this book is too complicated for older people."
”… My apologies for doubting your words, I acknowledge my loss. This book is too profound. It's like an enormous world filled with mystical and magical unknowns, transcending the limits of space, time, birth, life, and death. With my inadequate knowledge, I can only imagine that the one who wrote such a monumental work must be a great being."
"Of course! He was a giant of the literary world that has since passed."
"A giant? No wonder..." Old Wil's voice trailed off.
Ji Zhixiu's focus fell onto the book and umbrella in her hands.
The conversation between the owner and his regular customer was really casual, probably a result of a deep friendship forged over the years.
However, Ji Zhixiu broke out in cold sweat when she recalled her earlier encounter with that old man.
’Faceless Black-scaled Man', Frank Wilde, a Destructive-rank black magician.
Those dark green snake eyes that manifested from his half-snakeman blood and that black iron mask were his distinctive features.
Despite his kind appearance, this old man had a fearsome reputation. He was known as a cruel murderer whose hands were stained with the blood of thousands.
Once, he clashed with Secret Rite Tower's Ten Great Radiant Knights and destroyed an area spanning a diameter of thousands of kilometers, which led to others recognizing him as a Destructive-rank black magician.
But after that incident, for some unknown reason, he vanished from public view.
In accordance with the Truth Union's stipulated regulation in 1788, extraordinary beings were classified into four grades, and this was known as the 'APDS Classification Law'. Since then, the Truth Union would publish a register of extraordinary beings, as well as changes to their ranks each year.
The APDS classification was as follows:
While Wilde's name in the register had since been tagged with the 'whereabouts unknown' and 'Secret Rite Tower offering a reward for his whereabouts' labels, his Destructive-rank status was never changed.
One must know that there were less than ten Destructive-rank beings in the upper level of Capital City Norzin; in fact, there weren’t even a hundred of them in the entirety of Azir!
Why did a ruthless black magician who has long vanished appear here?! On top of that, he appears to be on friendly terms with that young man!
Ji Zhixiu took a deep breath before leaving hurriedly.
The owner is an unbelievably powerful and mysterious magician indeed! Perhaps, similar to Wilde, he might be a Destructive-rank! It looks like I’ve found myself an impressive backing to fall back on this time around...
Lin Jie took the book, 100 Years Of Solitude, and returned it back to the shelf. "Old Wil, you seem to be a little down today."
Wilde could be considered a regular here. Lin Jie's rundown bookstore rarely saw any customers, and the number of regulars could be easily counted with the fingers on his hands. However, Lin Jie had made sure to build up a deeper bond with each of them through his heartfelt engagement, compelling them to visit out of habit.
Wilde first stepped foot into this bookstore two years ago. Since then, he had dropped by a total of five times to borrow new books. It might appear to be infrequent at first glance, but one should note that Wilde’s usual borrowing period was a month. In other words, he had devoted 4 out of the 24 months of the two year period here, which was equivalent to a sixth of his time!
That was sincerity!
In the three years Lin Jie had run this bookstore, he practically saw no business in the first. Therefore, Wilde was considered as a veteran regular of his humble place.
At the same time, he was also someone whom Teacher Lin frequently gave guidance and counsel to.
Sigh. Old people, especially empty nesters, are really susceptible to mental and psychological issues.
Old Wil was definitely one such old empty nester.
Based on what Lin Jie had heard, Old Wil had two estranged children and a departed lover. He was excluded by his colleagues and feared by others because of his appearance, leaving him to live a lonely life in the huge city of Norzin.
Old Wil had no lack of food or clothes, but there was a gaping hole in the spiritual aspect of his life.
This deficiency wasn't just due to the lack of concern from friends and family; most importantly, he lacked recognition from peers.
Old Wil was a linguistics expert and an academic with great interest in researching all sorts of rare languages. Those in that field eventually got used to being alone, but the pain of not being understood by others was still a difficult one to bear.
Thus, Lin Jie chose to proceed from this angle!
From the first meeting, Lin Jie made sure to look Old Wil in the eye and treat him with respect so as to win his goodwill. From the books that Old Wil had brought to sell, he managed to deduce quite a bit of information.
In the end, he casually recommended a book — Wenzhounese.
Dubbed the "Devil's Language'', Wenzhounese was considered to be amongst the most difficult languages in China. In the Wenzhou prefecture itself, there were more than 12 different variants of this language. Furthermore, during war time, Wenzhounese was even used as a secret code that enemies had no way of deciphering!
Old Wil's expression had gone from lackluster to skeptical to fright before becoming consumed with ecstasy as he exclaimed, “Demonic, this is truly demonic!" Such a scene made Lin Jie feel the significance of his chicken soup.
The happiness of a life mentor could be as simple and dull as this.
But as there was no Wenzhou nor China in this land known as Azir, Lin Jie could only explain that this book had come from a long-lost place and time.