Chapter 26: A Terrifying Conjecture
“I served the Sha Ta House and have lived in a desert oasis for decades. Deserts lack water and have especially arid seasons. Most oases will dry up or even disappear completely. There was a red frog where we lived. It would drink as much water as it could, expanding its body by several folds as it stores all that water and would bury itself deep underground.
“When the drought came, it would become motionless, like a hibernating bear. During this time, they are exceptionally frail. Without mobility, and because their bodies were inflated from the amount of water, their skin became extremely thin and frail. However, it is because of this metamorphosis that allows these waterlogged red frogs to survive the dry season. Whereas a much tougher beast would be buried under the sands.
“This is precisely the flow of nature. The water pouch red frog has found its place in nature. It has a strong ability to survive, yet is simultaneously very vulnerable. It has spared no effort to survive in nature. It cannot grow claws, teeth, wings, or such. The more powerful the organ, the more nutrients it needs. The more complex the tissue, the longer it will take to evolve.
“Competition in nature is too brutal and the pressures are so immense it would not have evolved into an organism like the monkey bear or the white bone winged deer. If the environment was accommodative and survival was not a stressful concern, life forms would become lazy, fat, and carefree. There would be no powerful life forms like the monkey bear or the white bone winged deer. Such species can only be artificial.”
Zi Di sighed. “I have learned much and am in admiration of your erudition, Mr. Cang Xu.” Zhen Jin nodded in agreement.
Lan Zao had already heard Cang Xu’s analysis before and also voiced his agreement, “If it hadn’t been for Mr. Cang Xu, we would have died in the desert long ago.”
Cang Xu continued, “Of course, this is only my conjecture. I do not have evidence to back the claims. However, I am almost certain that these strange magic beasts are not natural organisms. Besides the possibility of them being artificial, perhaps it could be due to some kind of mineral or the aftermath of a spell that caused these species to mutate.”
Lan Zao asked with doubt, “In that case, who could have created so many magic beasts? One of the greats of the Empire? Could it be a god? Only gods have the power to create, right?“
Zi Di slightly shook her head. “It could also be a magician. As far as I know, a Legend mage can transform and operate a demiplane. Isn’t that an imitation of the gods’ power of creation?”
Cang Xu sighed bitterly. “Perhaps a Legend archmage or one of the gods in the upper echelons of the Empire set up an area here for experimenting with the powers of creation. This island is not small, yet no one discovered it before. Its location is awfully close to the sailing route of the Hog’s Kiss. We were only able to land here because of the accidental shipwreck.”
Hearing that, Lan Zao blanched a little. “This island is too terrifying. An existence that can hide this island and create so many monsters, how powerful must he be‽ Killing us would be easier than crushing an ant to him. Strange, why hasn't he eliminated us already? We discovered his secret!”
Cang Xu whispered, “Perhaps he is currently off the island? Perhaps he simply does not care and our every move is being monitored by him. He could be watching and taking pleasure in our struggles and only make a move when we are on the cusp of escaping from this island.”
Lan Zao lost his composure, shrieking, “Aren’t we doomed then‽”
For a while, the mood in the tent was quite heavy. In the face of such a grand existence, any escape plan, or ambition of the young knight was a joke.
After a long time, Zhen Jin let out a ragged breath. “Mr. Cang Xu’s conjecture is hair-raising. However, it does make sense. In light of this conjecture, we might as well continue to speculate that the terrain-changing should also be artificial. Mr. Cang Xu, do you think this phenomenon is caused by a divine spell shifting the land or a magic formation with powers of teleportation?”
Cang Xu said, “First of all, I think the shifting terrains are not aimed at us. It would be too easy for the great existence to target and destroy us. There is no need to make such a big move to do it. Secondly, I lean toward it being a teleportation magic formation rather than a divine spell. We experienced the terrain change firsthand. The entire process was very rapid. Absent-mindedly, we went from a rainforest into a desert. This is very much in line with the description of teleportation magic in books.
“I believe the terrain only changed because we were teleported, and the terrain itself was not moved. Otherwise, shifting a large piece of land often would be too draining. Of course, this is all still a conjecture on my part. It is like an ant guessing what the scenery from the high clouds looks like, laughable and out of its depth. Lastly, I think the teleportation mechanism is very possibly a measure used by the master of the island to maintain the island’s ecology.”
Zi Di blinked. “May I ask, how did you determine this?”
Cang Xu replied, “I have discovered that it is not just us, but many of the beasts are also being teleported to different regions.”
Realization suddenly dawned on Zhen Jin. The youngster recalled the scaled leopards. They should have been living in the rainforest but they ended up in the montane forest together with Zi Di and him. Here, they needed to set up their own new territory, so they first fought the monkey bear and later lost against the blade-legged spider swarm.
“If beasts were also being teleported by the island master, then perhaps the island master wants them to fight each other so he can choose the strongest monster. Perhaps like the Alchemical Puppet Competition held by the Alchemists Guild whose purpose is to cultivate the strongest living weapon?”
Cang Xu smiled. “Lady Zi Di, your analysis is very reasonable. That is indeed a possibility, too. But I believe it’s more likely that it’s being used to maintain the ecology. Don’t you feel that this island’s natural balance is in imminent danger? Don’t just look at the vastness of nature, for it also has a fragile side.
“Every year, the Sha Ta House would hire bishops from the Temple of Life to aid in increasing crop yields. I have interacted with them and have also had the pleasure of consulting with vagabond druids.
“Within nature exists various cycles. The simplest example is the food chain. Plants grow out of the soil and are eaten by herbivores. Herbivores become food for carnivores. The feces of these animals, in turn, become the nourishment for plants to grow and their carcasses decay and become fertilizer for the soil. Nature is full of these cycles. Even the most formidable predators will perish from battle, old age, or environmental changes.
“The Sha Ta House once had a locust plague that lasted several years. It took the help of a druid master to find the cause. As it turned out, the scope of the locust swarm had grown and was hard to control because the bread scorpions that ate the locust eggs had become fewer. Why were there fewer bread scorpions? It was because during those years the Sha Ta House was beginning to set up their own cavalry. They purchased a large number of land-traveling birds and these birds were fond of pecking the bread scorpions under the sands.
“The cycle of life is like a chain, one link interlocked with another. They influence each other. If an issue appears in one link, it is possible the issue would be amplified and result in a catastrophe. There are too many monsters on this island and they are not of natural origin. The burden on the island’s ecology is enormous. If not careful, the cycle can break, which can result in an irreversible disaster,” Cang Xu finished.
“Your words make sense.” Zhen Jin nodded. He thought of the monkey bear. The Silver beast’s food was ore. Looking at it now, it was clear it had no natural predators. If it was left to its own devices, sooner or later, it would eat up all the ore. The heat emitted from the ore veins was a major influence on that region.
Once eaten up, it would cause many drastic effects such as the temperature decreasing. In the end, however, because of the teleportation mechanism, the monkey bear fought the scaled leopards before finally dying at Zhen Jin’s hands. The island’s impending crisis was thus averted.
Zi Di extrapolated, “In that case, the reason why the island master built the rainforest, montane forest, desert, snow-capped mountains, and so on are to restrict these artificial beasts, stabilize the island’s ecology, and maintain the balance of nature? However, I still feel that he is trying to filter out a beast that can adapt to all environments and has the greatest strength.”
Cang Xu added, “I believe that teleportation is just one of the measures the island master took to preserve the island’s ecology. He also put effort into other things as well. Take the fire-venom bees for example. Don’t you think that this swarm was made by him to specifically prevent forest fires?
“There is also the restriction magic. Magic and battle qi are restricted here more harshly than the restriction magic ring in Sky City. This is very unlike a defense mechanism because defending against low-level enemies is unnecessary. On the contrary, it is like a shackle that prevents these magic beasts from displaying their full strength. Therefore, I speculate that this restriction magic is actually a protective measure for these magic beasts.”
“Please enlighten us,” Zi Di asked.
“These magic beasts are not naturally evolved. Although they have a stable structure, they are not in harmony with the natural world. Furthermore, the magic power in their bodies is in conflict, so they cannot absorb elements and form a magic crystal. Perhaps the island master wanted to improve this aspect.
“He has already achieved stability in the body, an astonishing achievement. But these patchwork bodies might have brought with them difficulty in absorbing elements and he could not perfectly solve it for the moment.
“Chaotic magic power is extremely unstable and can sometimes explode. Even if it is suppressed by force, it would cause magic corrosion in the host. If not dealt with, chaotic magic power will cause harm and the beasts would barely survive longer than a week.
“Therefore, he created this unusual environment that restricts the usage of low-level magic and battle qi to protect these magic beasts as it maintains their stability, and allows them to live indefinitely. Concerning the practice of magic, Lord Zhen Jin and Lady Zi Di should know more than I.” Zi Di slightly nodded and sunk into contemplation.
Zhen Jin, on the other hand, was grave. He analyzed the situation at hand, whispering, “On this island, we have found Bronze, Iron, Silver, and even Gold magic beasts. According to our current analysis, even Gold-rank chaotic magic power will be successfully suppressed here. So one would have to be at least a Saint to freely use battle qi?” No matter how talented he was, he could never become a Saint at his age.