Chapter 17: Someone Is Crying for Help
The two had tried their best in picking the direction they had chosen but they were not good at finding their direction via the stars. Zi Di was firstly an expert in trade, with medicine and magic coming in second. Zhen Jin only had general knowledge as his memory was impaired and found himself excelling only in combat.
Who would have thought that they would end up shipwrecked while pursuing the position of the City Lord of White Sands? Or that they would have ended up on such a dangerous island?
The two traveled in a straight line the entire journey, stopping occasionally to check their direction. Unlike yesterday, the exploration method was different and they quickly surpassed the range of yesterday’s range and reached a completely new area.
“Be careful,” Zhen Jin alerted. Beside them was an immense cliff with a large tree growing on the edge. Some of its roots were exposed and ran down the cliff face. There were also trees growing at the base of the cliff, their crowns looming several meters above the cliff edge.
Zi Di nodded and followed him, carefully avoiding the cliff. In this forest, lives were more vulnerable than one would think. Even a sprained ankle could cost them their lives as it could lead to a string of consequences such as reduced mobility which would lead to an inability to escape if a beast were to attack. If one of them lost their footing and fell, even Zhen Jin, as strong as he was, would suffer greatly. After all, he still could not use his battle qi.
As Zi Di walked away from the cliff, she glanced back with fear. During the daytime, the cliff could be easily avoided, but at night, their vision would be limited. Just as one thought they were on safe, flat ground and swept aside the thickets obstructing their path and took a step forward, they would plunge down the cliff.
“Fortunately, we didn’t encounter this kind of terrain when we were fleeing that night,” Zi Di celebrated.
“Indeed.” Zhen Jin was also fearful and her words resonated with him. If they were chased off a cliff by the fire-venom bees that night, then, most likely, they would have become corpses at the bottom of the cliff now.
As they went farther from the cave, precipices appeared more and more frequently and the terrain became noticeably more hilly but this change was not a bad thing because sometimes, the two would stand on the edge of cliffs—a place with an open view, allowing them to make observations of distant lands.
Of course, this was only the case occasionally. Most of the time, even if they were on top of a cliff, there would be the canopies of tall trees blocking their line of sight. There were trees everywhere and a person could easily get lost walking in this forest.
Zhen Jin constantly made marks on the map to record their route—he drew a straight line. However, were they really walking in a straight line? The two could not be sure. In fact, they had no confidence because they understood that in the absence of a point of reference, they could not guarantee their route was straight. In such a situation, they cherished the opportunity the cliffs offered them.
While exploring a forest, an ordinary view into the distance could bring great joy and confidence to those trapped in the forest’s depths. This was also because Zhen Jin was not good at climbing trees as a knight’s training regime did not include teaching them to climb trees. This was not strange because a knight who has mastered battle qi was fully capable of jumping up onto the branches of a tree and had no need for special tree-climbing training.
Moreover, when knights fight, they are never alone. They would have mounts and retainers, and when the order went to war, there would be soldiers scouting the path ahead.
Zhen Jin had tried climbing a tree. After climbing up three meters, he gave up.
Firstly, he would have to climb up to the canopy to see far ahead and this meant he needed to climb at least ten meters off the ground. It was risky at that height. He was a knight, an elite Templar Knight under the Emperor but without battle qi, it would be hard-fought for him to withstand a fall from that height. Furthermore, he and Zi Di would be most vulnerable if an attack came while he was climbing up a tree.
Secondly, it was harder to climb these straight and tall trees compared to the trees in the rainforest with slanted branches and twisting vines.
Lastly, he had to consider his own physical strength. Climbing trees was too physically demanding. If he exerted himself, he would sweat and get hungry and would need to eat food and drink water. In particular, the two did not have much of the latter.
Zhen Jin stood tall and looked far. “Look there, there is a low depression over there,” he said. They needed to get to the lowest ground possible, such an area was most likely to have water. Replenishing water would greatly assist the two, and it might even be possible to find a river and follow it out of the forest. An ideal river would lead them to a beach or a reef at its estuary.
After sprinkling some of the marking powder on top of the cliff, the two slightly altered their direction. Not long after, they arrived at the lower region. Rather disappointingly, they did not find water, much less a river. This terrain resembled a large basin with trees filling it. Just as they were about to change directions and continue, they stopped.
A leopard had unexpectedly appeared before their eyes. It was covered in black fish scales and had a horn in the middle of its forehead. As they spotted the black leopard, it had also spotted them. For a while, both sides froze in place, seemingly caught off guard by their encounter.
Zhen Jin quietly gripped his spear as he involuntarily tensed. He was not afraid of a single black leopard as it was easy for him to kill it, but what about a leap? More frighteningly, what if this leopard leap were not the same one that attacked the monkey bear, but instead a completely intact leap?
Although most of the scaled leopards were only Bronze, when there were many of them, they could hunt in groups and even dare to besiege a Silver magic beast like the monkey bear. If Zhen Jin were attacked by the black leopards, he would be helpless to protect himself and Zi Di. However, there was nothing he could do right now but play it by ear.
Zi Di held her breath, and as the pressure increased, her face began to turn pale. After the brief stalemate, the scaled leopard suddenly turned around and slipped away. “Chase it, it might be trying to alert the entire leap,” Zi Di whispered a moment later.
Zhen Jin nodded, remembering distinctly that when the fire-venom bees had forced a black leopard to flee, it had resulted in the entire leap coming for vengeance and eventually leading to their fight with the monkey bear.
“Follow closely, If you can’t—”
“Don’t worry, we still have the marking powder and can use it to rendezvous somewhere else,” Zi Di interrupted before he could finish. This was the method the two had agreed on to prevent them from getting separated and lost.
Zhen Jin started running, chasing furiously. A tree nearly hit him in the face, but he quickly avoided it as he continued. The wind whistled in his ears as he focused his attention on the figure of the black leopard while also keeping an eye on his surroundings for surprise attacks.
He took a deep breath. His heart was bursting and his blood was churning. Muscles all over his body contracted, exerting their full strength to propel him onward. Zhen Jin was able to close the distance between him and the leopard very quickly. He realized the scaled leopard was not very fast.
As he got closer, he also found out, to his surprise, that the scaled pather was injured. It’s injured, does that mean it was involved in the assault on the monkey bear? Zhen Jin was somewhat relieved because the monkey bear had inflicted heavy losses to that leopard leap and killed its leader, leaving only a few leopards remaining.
I still need to be cautious! What if this is just a trick the leopards use to lure in their prey? Zhen Jin had heard Zi Di’s telling of how the sinister and vicious blue wolf had repeatedly attacked and killed members of her team. The beasts of this island could not be judged by common sense. He would not be surprised if the black leopards used such tactics.
Once more to his surprise, the running scaled leopard suddenly stopped in its tracks. It made a whimpering sound, swiveled in place, hesitated going forward, and looked impatient and restless. Even as Zhen Jin gradually approached the leopard, its odd behavior remained the same, as if something hiding in the forest ahead frightened it more than Zhen Jin.
The youngster’s face became grave. He did not rush to attack the leopard but observed his surroundings. He quickly discovered the surrounding forest was darker than before. Although the trees still towered above, their bark showed signs of rot and their leaves had become a sickly green. The ground was covered in a thick layer of withered twigs and foliage and the air concealed a gloomy chill.
When he did not find other beasts, he refocused his attention on the scaled leopard. He slowly walked forward, and as the distance between them closed to a certain point, the leopard did not hesitate any longer and continued onward and he followed closely behind.
“Growl!” Not far ahead, the leopard suddenly gave a blood-curdling wail. A net made of spiderwebs abruptly rose from the ground and wrapped the entire leopard inside then hauled it upward. With its excellent adhesiveness, the more the leopard struggled, the more it became stuck in the web. Soon the leopard’s entire body was almost fully covered in spiderwebs.
A pale blue spider slowly descended from the canopy and onto the web. The spider’s body was as large as a stone mill and its eight legs were long and thin, each about two meters long. The spider landed on the web as if it were walking on ice and moved very smoothly. It quickly began its work. Its eight legs were like a maestro playing the strings of a lute, fast but not disorderly. There was even a hint of elegance in its movements.
The web trapping the leopard was originally a bit damaged, but as the spider weaved, it was restored to a complete state. As a result, the leopard was able to struggle less and less as the spider silk bound it firmly between the trees, six or seven meters above the ground.
Upon watching the scene of this spider’s successful hunt, Zhen Jin was chilled to the bone. He slowly retreated, his nerves tense. The youngster not only kept his eyes on the spider that was still weaving threads, but also on what was under his feet. Perhaps there was another spiderweb hidden nearby.
Luckily, the spider was done hunting and did not attack him. It quickly followed the spider silk and disappeared into the canopy. Zhen Jin did not dare to drop his guard. His heart only tensed further because, within the canopy, he discovered other hunted prey.
White spider silk wrapped around them, revealing a variety of silhouettes. Most of them resembled a scaled leopard. Zhen Jin speculated, were all the scaled leopards chased away by the monkey bear trapped here?
He had already realized that the scaled leopard must have been afraid of this spider. Perhaps the leopard leap was ambushed here and was nearly wiped out with only the one leopard luckily escaping but ended up running into him. The leopard was not intelligent enough and in its panic, it had fled to where it had fled from, resulting in it being hunted. Besides the leopard-shaped prey, there were also shapes of deers, foxes, and hares, and there were even tigers and rhinos.
Only the gods would know why there were rhinos here.
Zhen Jin looked cautiously at them and his heart beat faster and faster. Although he had only seen one spider, the canopy was sure to hide many more. If not, how could the black leopards be annihilated by a single spider? Moreover, large prey like rhinos and tigers could not be captured by a lone spider. Ordinary spiders were solitary predators, but this type of spider seemed to live in clusters. Zhen Jin was not surprised about this variation in behavior.
He was about to leave when a faint sound called out, “Wait! Don’t go. Plea-please…save me, save me.”