Chapter 11: Entangled in Life and Death
Darkness. In this darkness, a youngster gradually recovered his consciousness.
Where? What is this place? Where am I? No one answered him, and silence reigned over the darkness. Who am I? Why…why am I trapped here? What should I do?
The youngster started impatiently and felt like he had forgotten something important. He racked his mind to remember but it was in vain. He began to struggle, wanting to free himself from the cage of darkness.
Suddenly, an illusory light appeared before his eyes. It was distinct in the darkness.
Light and shadow flickered as the youngster suddenly started to remember. It was as if he had returned to the tavern. Where he celebrated a victory as one of the Templar Knights. Where he listened to the old grand master’s teachings. The light amidst darkness resembled the dim tavern candlelight, and the youngster felt warmth and drowsy and was about to fall into slumber.
Then suddenly, he heard a beast’s roar, and along with it, the light and shadow clarified. The youngster was disappointed to find himself not in the tavern but inside a scorching cave.
Then relentless pain washed against him like ocean waves. Zhen Jin felt he was like a small boat that could capsize at any moment from the raging winds and surging waves. Besides the pain, he also felt insufferably feverish and had intense vertigo.
None of this was unfamiliar to Zhen Jin. The fire-venom flared up again! he thought.
He still had the bear’s sharp claws pierced in his abdomen, making it hard to get up. The youngster struggled with all his strength, only then did he manage to slightly raise his head.
Then, he saw the bear corpse and the familiar figure leaning over it busily working. It was Zi Di extracting the bear’s blood. She wiped her eyes from time to time, her face filled with anxiety.
Zhen Jin immediately lowered his guard. He had heard a beast’s roar in the darkness and thought a new beast was attacking. Seeing Zi Di safe and sound, he relaxed, causing his head to fall and hit the ground with a thump.
Zi Di was startled by the sound and upon seeing him reawakened, she cried out with pleasant surprise, “My lord‽ Lord Zhen Jin, you’re awake!” She immediately hurried over to his side. As she moved close, Zhen Jin found the young girl's eyes red and swollen with obvious tear streaks on her cheeks.
Zhen Jin attempted to speak but could not. His tongue and throat were swollen, making it difficult to pronounce words, and so he could only force a smile. Suddenly, the youngster realized that if another beast attacked, the current him did not have the strength to protect his fiancée.
“My lord,” said Zi Di, “the fire-venom has flared up again. The previous potion will not be effective this time. I was in the middle of making a new potion that will surely succeed! Believe me, my Lord, you mustn’t give up! I can definitely save you!” Zi Di comforted Zhen Jin but it felt more like she was deceiving herself to raise her own self-confidence.
Zhen Jin nodded, but this slight movement caused him to fall unconscious again. He did not know how long he was in the darkness when he heard a beast’s roar again, allowing him to awaken. After finding no beasts attacking, he grasped, Is it only a hallucination? How long was I unconscious for this time? He looked around and found Zi Di beside him.
This time, the girl was not extracting bear blood, rather, she had sliced open Zhen Jin’s arm and was extracting his blood. A glass vial was already more than halfway filled with his blood. The youngster’s blood which was being drawn appeared to be dark red and boiling hot.
Upon seeing the youngster awakening once more, Zi Di immediately said, “My lord, I am treating you! I am drawing out your contaminated blood to weaken the fire-venom in your body.”
The youngster had nothing to say. Strangely enough, this time, he did not feel any pain, and it was definitely not a good thing. Sensing pain was part of a normal human body’s senses, it was its warning mechanism to remind the body to protect itself in time.
Zhen Jin knew he was in terrible shape currently, not only had the fire-venom flared, but he also had grave injuries from fighting the bear, and the absence of pain implied all of his nerves had been destroyed. He could not feel anything aside from his vertigo and could neither hear anything.
The youngster dared not to move even slightly. From his earlier experience, even a little movement would cause his vertigo to knock him unconscious again, so he could only look up at the ceiling of the cave.
The youngster felt strangely tranquil. Then this tranquility gradually faded, replaced by an encroaching fog of fear.
He felt afraid. He understood death was coming for him and this was his fear of it. In fact, when he had confronted the bear, he had faced death head-on, however, at the time, he did not have the leisure to contemplate it. This feeling of death creeping closer was not a pleasant feeling in any manner.
The youngster felt his life slipping away without a sound and from the depths of the youngster’s heart, he desired to hold on to it. However, life was like water held in his hands, no matter how hard he clasped, it would seep down his fingers and his hands would be inexorably emptied. He found himself like a lamb to the slaughter, only able to wait quietly for his life to be reaped by the Reaper’s scythe.
Zhen Jin originally thought himself sufficiently courageous, but now he perceived his own fear, his own impotence. This fear was so real and intense that Zhen Jin realized—even if one had suffered many trials and tribulations, it was impossible to be completely calm in the face of it. He now comprehended one truth—this fear was the most intrinsic fear of all life, it was the most basic survival instinct of all life. This fear, like a fog, had shrouded his whole heart. At the same time, helplessness, despair, panic, anger, and other emotions also sprung forth from fear.
Zhen Jin began to pray, O mighty god, Emperor Most High…
He was a Templar Knight, and the deity he believed in was humanity’s contemporary Emperor Sheng Ming, who was humanity’s leader, had a cultivation that surpassed Legend, and was a god who walked the world.
Zhen Jin went on to confess to Emperor Sheng Ming. He attempted to confess his past sins, but awkwardly discovered because he had lost his memories, he did not remember any. Therefore, he could only implore the Emperor to pity, to bless, and to protect Zi Di after his death so she could successfully escape from this treacherous island.
However, the youngster’s prayers to the god he had served all his life received no response. Not even the slightest response.
Every Templar Knight is subject to the watchful eye of the Emperor. Could it be that this island can isolate believers from their god? With such doubts, Zhen Jin sank into darkness once more.
As with previous experiences, with a beastly roar that shook heaven and earth, he awoke. This time upon awakening, Zhen Jin furrowed his brows.
He felt intense pain.
Unlike the pain from before, this time, his whole body felt like it was pierced by innumerable needles. Every inch of skin, muscle, and bone, internally and externally, all felt like it had been tortured countless times, riddled with a thousand gaping wounds. Not only that but the fire-venom flaring up from before felt even more scalding hot. The youngster felt like he was thrown into a bonfire and had combusted into flames.
“It worked, it worked!” Zi Di’s shout sounded in his ears. The young girl seemed incomparably excited.
Zhen Jin shifted his gaze, saw what she was doing, and was shocked. She was not extracting bear blood nor drawing his blood but, surprisingly, was pouring blood on Zhen Jin’s wounds. And he was definite that it was the bear’s blood.
Zhen Jin originally had many wounds, the worst being the wound at his abdomen. Yet now, the bear’s claws that had pierced through his abdomen were gone. Zi Di seemed to have poured many potions on the wounds, the liquids mixing into a colorful blend like of a painter’s dyes.
An unending stream of the bear’s blood was poured onto this dense pigment, and Zhen Jin’s body was like drought-stricken soil, regardless of how much bear blood Zi Di poured in, it was all rapidly absorbed.
What kind of treatment is this? Will it really work? Zhen Jin looked at himself and he felt a chill in his heart. The more bear blood he absorbed, the more intense the pain grew but at the same time, his heart felt more and more powerful.
Thump, thump, thump, his heart beat, pulsing faster and faster.
The youngster felt as if his heart would burst if it were beating any faster. His concerns did not last long as he fell unconscious again. It was because the pain had intensified to a point far beyond the limits of what a normal human body could endure.