Chapter 10: I Am Brave and Fearless
The tavern was quiet. Every Templar Knight stood utterly still as they looked at and listened to the old grand master. Their young faces stirred with a surge of excitement.
“We will charge!”
“We will die!”
“Hehe,” the old grand master laughed. He stroked his thick white beard, wiping off the alcohol stains, and said, “My strength was limited and I was pierced by countless swords and fell among the corpses like a dead dog. Haha, when I woke up I found myself at the Temple and I found out after that everyone except me of the Fifth Order had died.
“The Cold Fir Knights spared no one, every corpse was run through with a blade. Luckily, the knight who stabbed me used a rapier. It was stabbed through my eye, blinding me and penetrating my brain, my cerebral fluids leaking out.”
He reminisced with pride written all over his face. “It was the Emperor himself who saved my worthless life. He asked what reward I wanted. I then asked His Venerable Imperial Majesty to provide me with knights because I wanted to rebuild the Fifth Order of the Temple. That’s why you kids are here right now, did you know that?
“Otherwise, why would the grand Order of the Temple recruit so easily? You little kids were all lucky but you’re all still too young. Do you think that battle earlier has any worth?” the old grand master said and shook his head repeatedly and continued to drink, speaking nothing further. His words were terse and rough but the faces of the young Templar Knights in the tavern were all excited and discussed amongst each other.
“From what I know, in the battle of Jackal Valley, our Fifth Order, with only a thousand men, annihilated over five thousand men of the Order of Cold Firs and destroyed three of their units.
“The Order of Cold Firs was cleaning up the battlefield later when they were ambushed by the Third Order of the Temple who struck like lightning, finally burying them all in Jackal Valley. The Order of Cold Firs was the trump card of the Southern Noble Alliance and this battle broke the backbone of the Alliance!” someone spoke.
“That’s right, this is us Templar Knights! We are unmatched, unstoppable! Even when in dire straits, we will meet death with our heads held high!” someone else spoke proudly.
“That’s right, charge, charge, charge to meet death!” another shouted fervently.
The atmosphere in the tavern became lively once more. It was unknown whether it was due to the excitement or liquor but the faces of the young Templar Knights were all flushed red.
* * *
The memory faded but their voices echoed in Zhen Jin’s ears.
Charge! Charge! Charge to meet death!
Zhen Jin rushed over without hesitation.
The monkey bear’s ears twitched as it heard movement but it was sluggish due to its heavy injuries. By the time it turned its body, it saw the youngster midair. Zhen Jin had sprinted and then jumped, the dagger held high in his hands and flashing with a cold gleam. The bear was caught off guard as the dagger stabbed its remaining left eye.
In a split second, it was blinded.
“Roar!” The bear flew into a rage stimulated by the intense pain of its blinded eyes, bursting out with the ferociousness of a beast. It swung its arm and Zhen Jin was unable to dodge it. He could only curl up his body as much as possible and raise his arms to protect his face and chest.
Thump. With a muffled sound, the youngster was flung away from the bear twice as fast as he had approached it. He smashed hard into the cave wall. His arms used as a shield were completely broken and because of the force of his impact with the wall, and his shoulder blades and back ribs suffered many fractures. The violent impact also seemed to have caused internal bleeding and organ damage. Zhen Jin cried out and coughed out a mouthful of blood.
A sharp pain spread throughout his whole body as the youngster’s complexion turned deathly pale. However, even in such circumstances, he still felt a new power emerging from the depths of his body. He knew this was the effect of the berserk potion.
As he coughed out another mouthful of blood, Zhen Jin kicked himself off the cave wall. “Die!” he murmured and charged resolutely toward the bear once more.
In a split second, the wind whistled in his ears. He felt as if he had broken through the limits of pain tolerance because as his pain surged from the strenuous movements, so did his excitement. His arms were completely numb and were like two thick, fluttering ropes strung behind him as he madly dashed forward. The bear’s strike from before was no small matter, it had shattered the bones in the youngster’s arms, and battered his muscles into pulp. His body was barely holding together.
The bear went mad as it thrashed around the cave wildly, scattering the ores about, some small ores struck the grim-faced Zhen Jin. He ducked, dodging a swing of the monkey bear’s claws, and charged as fast as he could. He stamped on the cave wall, kicked himself up a few steps, and leaped into the air once more.
Toward the blind, raging, unaware bear.
Zhen Jin found the right moment as he fell down and kicked with his right foot on the dagger still lodged in the bear’s eye socket.
Spurt. Blood and brains splattered out as the dagger pierced deep into the bear’s brain. Earlier, there was still a section of the dagger jutting out from the eye socket. Now, it was completely stabbed in, including the hilt.
“Growl!” the bear wailed a painful, wretched scream.
Following its beastly instinct and intuition, it caught Zhen Jin in its grasp. Its sharp claws heated up and turned blazing red once more. The claws dug into Zhen Jin’s abdomen, piercing through to the other side of the youngster’s body. The bear then swung him down to the ground, the tips of the claws digging into the hard mountainous earth. The claws had pierced through Zhen Jin like a hot knife through butter.
Zhen Jin roared in pain as his intestines and flesh burned. At this moment, he fully felt the pain of those black leopards.
“Lord—!” Zi Di could not help but cry out in sorrow as she watched the bitter battle unfold before her. The cry reached Zhen Jin’s ears, rekindling a trace of clarity amidst his intense, searing pain. The claws had practically anchored his abdomen to the ground, almost completely immobilizing him.
Then, the monkey bear leaned over, its bloody mouth right in front of Zhen Jin’s face. At this critical moment, the youngster used all of his strength to twist his upper body to the limits. The bear was blind, Zhen Jin smoothly evaded its incoming maw. With a thump, the bear’s head hit the ground, its fangs bit the dirt, scattering small stones and gravel about.
Since Zhen Jin’s arms were long broken, under these desperate circumstances, the youngster learned from the bear and opened his mouth wide to bite its neck.
The bear’s neck had a terrible wound. It was the heavy price it paid not long before in its fight against the leader of the scaly, horned black leopards to kill it. There was no fur and the wound was bone-deep.
Zhen Jin leaned in and after a few bites, he had a mouth full of the bear’s flesh and blood. The wound had previously been bleeding but after the bear ate the ores, it had stopped. Now, it suffered the gnawing of Zhen Jin, and an artery was ripped open inside, causing fresh blood to violently gush out, flowing out faster than it did before.
In a split second, the blood was all over Zhen Jin’s face. He felt like he had plunged his head into a waterfall and had to shut his eyes tight. His nose was filled with a putrid stench along with the hot air and he tasted a hint of sweetness in his mouth. He fought with desperation as he kept tearing at the bear’s flesh.
Consequently, large amounts of its blood poured down his throat, nearly choking the youngster. But how could he have the attention to spare to care about breathing right now‽ The battle between the two had reached its most crucial moments.
Zhen Jin began to choke with insufferable pain as his lungs were filled with the monkey bear’s blood. But surprisingly, the bear let out a whimpering roar, it was panicking! It could not see the youngster, but it could still feel the frailness of Zhen Jin’s body.
Zi Di stared blankly as she watched man and bear tear at each other, her eyes despondent, her body stilled like a statue in awe.
The bear tried to pull out its claws and tear the youngster to pieces, but its attempts were without success. After the great battle previously, it was already at the limits of its power. After suffering wounds at the hand of the youngster, its strength had quickly waned. And now, it did not even have enough strength to pull out its claws from the hard earth.
Thump. Finally, the bear fell to the ground motionless. It was several times larger than Zhen Jin, yet ultimately, it was the loser. Zhen Jin also fell to the ground and began to cough violently, vomiting chunks of flesh and clumps of blood repeatedly.
After spitting out the flesh and blood, the youngster could finally breathe properly. His chest heaved up and down. He was like a drowning man who had reached ashore, gasping greedily for each breath.
After several such breaths, he began to cough out blood again. He did not know if it was the bear’s blood or his own.
Strong vertigo struck the youngster.
He tried to get up but utterly failed even after several attempts. His abdomen was still stuck to the ground and bleeding by the bear’s claws. Moreover, during the violent battle, the wound had been violently stretched apart, completely tearing it open. His blackened intestines, charred by the claws, oozed out from the gaping wound. The youngster helplessly hit the ground with a thud.
“Hehehe…” he weakly laughed, looking at the large bear’s corpse. The laughter resembled that of the old grand master of the Fifth Order of the Temple. Soon after, Zhen Jin's open eyes gradually dulled and his laughter quickly faded. After a few breaths, his eyes completely lost their luster.
The effects of the berserk potion had worn off.
The youngster fell completely into unconsciousness.
For a moment, whether it was man or bear, all was still.