A sharp kick landed squarely on Liam's stomach, causing him to double over in pain. He was nothing more than a frail figure.
"Didn't I tell you to bring more lunch money today? Do you want me to starve, you little punk?" sneered a healthier-looking student clad in a school uniform as he delivered yet another blow to Liam's battered body.
Liam coughed up blood, his feeble frame collapsing onto the ground. He lay there, helpless and broken, while the relentless assault continued.
"Hey, take it easy, man. Don't go too far," another student cautioned, watching from the sidelines.
"Nah, this guy's a pushover, but he can take a beating. Ain't that right, Liam? You're the best punching bag in the whole damn school," taunted the healthier student, preparing for another kick. However, their cruel intentions were interrupted by the blaring sound of the school bell.
"Alright, let's get out of here. We don't want to be late for that horrible teacher's class. I'm not spending my evening in detention, staring at her ugly mug again," the group of high school bullies casually conversed, leaving Liam behind in the alleyway, forgotten and discarded.
Liam lay there in silence, his body frozen with fear. It wasn't because he dreaded the bullies who had just mercilessly beaten him. No, it was something entirely different that paralyzed him.
Just moments ago, he had been fighting for his life, competing for an elixir that was a coveted treasure. But how could he measure up to the other formidable contenders? He was nothing more than a small fry.
In the end, he had been struck down without breaking a sweat. But instead of meeting his demise, he found himself inexplicably transported back in time three years to when everything began.
With each passing second, Liam became increasingly certain that what he was experiencing was real, not a twisted figment of his imagination. There was no denying it—he had miraculously been granted a second chance, back to the days of his high school life when everything had yet to unfold.
The reality hit him like a hammer, his heart pounding loudly in his chest. The pain that coursed through his battered body served as a stark reminder of the authenticity of this bizarre phenomenon.
Liam was no stranger to pain. He had grown accustomed to its touch. What he wasn't accustomed to was... luck! Yes, he had stumbled upon an unimaginable stroke of luck.
A wide grin spread across Liam's face as he slowly rose from the ground, his unsteady body teetering as if it could collapse at any moment. But behind his trembling exterior, his eyes burned with a cold and piercing gaze. There was a darkness swirling within, a darkness that would send shivers down the spines of those who had just beaten him mercilessly.
"I'm back," Liam whispered, slamming his bloody fist against the dilapidated wall nearby. The impact sent a resounding thud through his body, reinvigorating him.
With a slow, determined stride, he then limped out of the alleyway, paying no mind to the school he was supposed to be attending. His home was his destination, just ten blocks away.
Throughout the whole way, despite the excruciating pain, his expression remained fixed in a wide, almost obscene grin. But Liam's smile vanished in an instant as he arrived at the apartment and caught sight of a familiar figure peeking out.
He had been so consumed by his thoughts that he had completely forgotten about her!
"Mei Mei!" His voice caught in his throat as he lunged forward, embracing his little sister tightly.
She's alive! Liam trembled, holding her delicate figure in his arms.
"Brother... What happened? Are you crying? Did they hurt you badly again today?" The little girl lifted her head, her eyes full of pity as she surveyed Liam's swollen and cut-up face.
Seeing her brother's wretched state, tears welled up in her eyes, streaming down her cheeks.
"Ah... Ummm..." Liam was rendered speechless. Consoling girls had never been his forte, no matter how long he'd known them.
Unsure how to comfort his sister, who was nearly four years younger, he ruffled her hair awkwardly. "Let's go inside and talk."
The two siblings entered their small apartment, and Liam shut the dull, rusty door behind them. It was just the two of them now, alone in their cramped living space.
Their parents had passed away a few years ago in a construction accident, leaving them with no one else to rely on. But Liam, with his wits about him, had fought tooth and nail to ensure they received the settlement money they deserved.
He was like a scrappy mutt, unwilling to let go of his bone. Although ultimately swindled, he managed to secure enough to sustain them for a few years.
With that money, he rented this dingy apartment in a dilapidated building in the slums. It was clear the place needed some serious renovations.
But all of that was inconsequential now. Nothing mattered because, in just a couple of days, everything was about to change completely.
Liam glanced around the familiar yet unfamiliar surroundings, his eyes brimming with anger and pain as memories of what had transpired—or rather, what was yet to happen—rushed back to him.
Clutching his fist, he collapsed to the ground, releasing a burst of maniacal laughter.
"Brother... Are you really okay?" His little sister blinked, staring at him with a mixture of concern and confusion. Liam's behavior had taken a turn for the bizarre.
"Heh. I'm fine, Mei Mei. Don't worry. Everything will be fine now." Liam rose to his feet and heated up a pail of water, intending to clean his injuries.
His hands moved with practiced swiftness as he swiftly tended to his wounds, carefully bandaging the cuts and broken skin. He popped a couple of painkillers, which dulled his agony and sharpened his focus. First things first, he needed to obtain that item as soon as possible.
Liam checked his injuries once more before slipping into a fresh pair of pants and a shirt.
"Brother, are you going back to school? Won't you be late?" Meilin asked, her worry evident.
"Nah, kiddo. I'm going somewhere else."
Huh? Meilin was taken aback. "The grocery store? But it's not Sunday today?" The siblings had established a routine, so Meilin couldn't help but be surprised by this unexpected change.
Liam tousled his sister's hair, causing her to pout in an adorable manner. "No. I'm heading to the game store. I'll be back soon. Behave yourself."
"Eh? Ehhhhh? Ehhhhhhhh?" Meilin stood at the doorstep, dazed, watching her brother's figure fade into the distance.
"The game store? Since when does my brother play games...?"