Chapter 3: The Treacherous Island

After their emotions calmed down, Zhen Jin and Zi Di discussed what to do next. Their current situation was not very good. They had scarce food or water on them and tools for survival in the dense wilderness were also few. Moreover, they were barely armed and he could be described as empty-handed.

Zi Di then suggested they return to the other bank and look for the bodies of the deceased bodyguards who had supplies, survival tools, and equipment on them.

Zhen Jin immediately concurred with her suggestion.

The two did not choose to climb back over the tree, it was too dangerous. They walked alongside the river. The river waters babbled and flowed, the two banks lush with vegetation. There were obvious marks of the grass having been trampled beside the river, left by the Silver ferocious wolf rushing over from a while ago.

After the two walked for a while, the river gradually narrowed and the earth rose, forming two mounds that faced each other across the small river. The two mounds were not far apart, rooted on either side of the river bank but both extending over some part of the river. On the mounds, vegetation was sparse. And on it, the two once again found marks left by the wolf's claws. 

“It looks like this is where that vicious wolf jumped across the river,” said Zi Di.

The two climbed to the top of the mound. The space between the two mounds was so short it was completely possible to jump across. However, if one lost their footing and fell into the waters, one was bound to be hunted by the Gold python vines within and die leaving no traces.

“Look, what’s what?” Zi Di remarked and pointed her finger down.

Zhen Jin looked at where she pointed and his pupils constricted slightly. He found many broken shoots and fragments of that river vine scattered along the banks. The riverbank obviously had been the site of a fierce battle, leaving it roughed up. The ground was also covered with black earth like cooled lava which looked rather suspicious. Zhen Jin's heart was heavy. The river vine is a Gold lifeform, but it’s not the dominant creature here. There was once a battle here and it had lost. Meaning, whatever it had fought was at least Gold. This island is truly fraught with danger!

In this short period, Zhen Jin had seen the Silver ferocious wolf, the Gold river vine, and a mysterious powerful lifeform that was at least Gold. I can’t use my battle qi and with my strength alone, it’s very difficult to deal with a Silver beast and my chances of victory are slim. Defeating that ferocious wolf earlier was nothing but a fluke. At the time, the wolf was in the air and couldn’t use its strength. My sudden awakening and attack caught it off guard. It had no way to dodge and was thus kicked into the river. The terrifying green vines in the waters immediately killed the wolf. If it was a head-on battle, I wouldn’t have been so lucky. What should I do if I encounter another such a ferocious beast?

The two successfully jumped across the river and dived deeper into the rainforest. The blue skies were obscured once more and the air became extremely hot and humid. The earth felt soft under his feet as many decomposing leaves had accumulated over time. Zhen Jin had to look at the path from time to time as vines were tangled and roots were exposed so if he was not careful, he would trip and fall.

Zi Di took a small step forward and looked around. “It’s around here.” According to her account, the ferocious wolf was in pursuit, and to stall the beast, the last three guards stayed behind to buy a glimmer of hope for her and the then unconscious Zhen Jin.

After walking a dozen steps further, the two found a corpse around a large tree. In the undergrowth, two corpses lay separated by about a dozen steps, each reeking of blood. Their eyes were wide open with fear and anger still lingering on their faces. Zi Di was stifled and frozen while Zhen Jin took a few steps closer and leaned down to investigate.

Whoosh! Suddenly, like an arrow fired from a crossbow, came a thick black and red streak from beneath the corpse shooting straight toward Zhen Jin’s face. He broke out in a sweat and his pupils shrunk to the size of a needle tip as he reached out his hand. In one fell swoop, the black and red streak was grasped.

“Hiss!” The black and red streak was caught by its head by Zhen Jin and its appearance was immediately revealed—a very strange-looking snake. Its scales were black and its head was bright red. From its head, all the way to the end of its tail was a distinct crimson streak. On either side of the snake ran hundreds of black centipede-like legs.

A Bronze magic beast! Zhen Jin sensed the vital aura of the centipede snake and grimaced.

“Aah, be careful!” Everything had happened too quickly and Zi Di only just reacted. “That is a blood-streaked centipede snake and it is extremely venomous. Its venom is so severe that it would only take a few breaths to kill,” she hastily said, “moreover, with its centipede legs, it can penetrate leather armor!” Just as she finished, the blood-streaked centipede snake counterattacked.

Its body twisted and wrapped around Zhen Jin’s arm and most of its hundreds of centipede legs dug deeply into the youth’s arm. Blood trickled out and he was assailed by an intense pang. Simultaneously, he felt his arm being squeezed by a great contorting force, crushing his flesh into a paste and making his bones groan. 

His fingers moved quickly and attempted to strangle the blood-streaked centipede snake. However, the snake’s bones were too tough and its scales too slippery and hard. He grunted loudly and slammed the snake’s head on the ground. With his other hand, he quickly drew his dagger, raised it high, and stabbed hard. The dagger felt like it was stabbing through hard rock as it nailed the snake’s head on to the ground. 

In its death throes, the snake resisted by digging its centipede legs an inch deeper, causing his arm to bleed even more. After a few breaths, the snake’s body went completely limp. Despite the absence of the contorting force, the hard centipede legs were still wedged in the youth’s flesh. Zhen Jin gritted his teeth and retrieved his dagger. After retreating from the corpse, he began pulling out the centipede legs.

Zi Di quickly took out some medicinal powder from her pouch and sprinkled a layer on Zhen Jin’s arm injury. Then she drew a white bandage and quickly wrapped it around his arm. The wound was deep but Zhen Jin’s constitution was very strong and the medicine was quite effective. Soon, the bleeding stopped.

Then Zhen Jin felt a cool and somewhat sour sensation mixed with vague pain transmitted from the wound to his mind. “What kind of medicine is this? How is it so effective? Does this island not restrict the use of magic and battle qi?“ he asked, curious about the immediate effects of the medicine.

“This is a herbal medicine from Ice Continent’s barbarian tribes. It’s not a magic potion but simply uses the medicinal power of herbs,” explained Zi Di.

Magic potions were created by pharmacists by successfully blending ingredients with magic power and finding a certain equilibrium and stabilizing it. Because these potions had magic power, they often worked quickly and effectively.

Zi Di looked at Zhen Jin’s wound, her eyes red with shame and guilt. “Fortunately the centipede legs aren’t venomous. I am sorry, my Lord, I have caused you harm. I should have warned you sooner.”

Zhen Jin looked at the girl behaving like this with pity, shook his head, and said with relief, “This is not your fault.”

After crossing the river, they entered the jungle, staying alert to their surroundings. Even when communicating, it was very limited to avoid distractions. However, the blood-streaked centipede snake was extremely fast when it leaped out of the corpse and even Zhen Jin did not anticipate it.

Even a snake on this island is so weird and sinister. Zhen Jin returned to where he was before and used the tip of his dagger to cut open the snake’s head and he slid it across to slice the rest of its body apart. If only I could use battle qi, I would not have gotten injured, he sighed. 

Regardless of whether he had Silver or even only Iron battle qi, as long as he could activate his battle qi defense, the centipede legs would have had a hard time piercing his arm. He observed the snake’s innards and saw its stomach had a lot of undigested food. The young knight’s eyes flashed. It seems this centipede likes devouring its prey and lives a bloodthirsty life. No wonder it flew out of the corpse.

“Strange.” After searching twice, Zhen Jin was puzzled. “Where is its crystal core?”

Magic beasts were able to absorb the natural elements and produce their own magic power. This power would over time accumulate to form a crystalline manifestation of magic power—a magic beast’s crystal core. Newborn magic beasts lacked a crystal core, adolescents’ crystal core was very small, and all adults had a crystal core. This blood-streaked centipede snake was no newborn, it had a fully matured body yet it did not have a crystal core. This confused Zhen Jin.

Zi Di explained at the opportune time, “On this island, there are many strange magic beasts. Although their vital aura is very strong, they do not have a magic crystal. The search and rescue team killed some of these magic beasts before but did not find any magic crystals in their bodies. However, probably because they lack it, none of the magic beasts have shown any quasi-spells.”

“So it was like this.” Zhen Jin was edified. Although the value of a magic beast’s crystal core was not small, if the reason why these beasts could not use quasi-spells was that they lacked magic crystals, then the advantages greatly outweighed the disadvantages for Zhen Jin and Zi Di.

After settling the blood-streaked centipede snake, Zhen Jin went to examine the human corpses again. On the ground lay the corpses of the long-dead bodyguards. One had a fatal injury on his throat where his entire neck was almost bitten off, only the posterior portion of the neck remained connected. The other was even worse off—his entire head was violently crushed with cerebral fluids and blood blended together pouring out on the earth. These were fatal wounds. The two people’s stomachs were thinly skinned and decayed. No doubt these injuries were caused by the venomous snake.

Zhen Jin's expression became austere, he stood up and looked around. He carefully discovered that the surrounding bushes had been severely trampled. In the eyes of ordinary people, the scene was chaotic but Zhen Jin found himself able to effortlessly distinguish which tracks were caused by humans and which were by the ferocious wolf. 

Using these traces in front of him, he was even able to visualize a path. The youth’s eyes narrowed and his gaze followed the visualized path, gradually looking to the distance. But soon, the undergrowth and the dense trees blocked his vision. 

Zhen Jin started walking forward, taking a dozen steps out through the undergrowth, then turned to the large tree and paced past it. Then, a rare clearing was in front of his eyes. Zi Di followed him into the clearing. 

Zhen Jin looked down at his feet and found footprints in the clearing. This was because the rainforest floor was almost covered with many rotten leaves. Moreover, heavy rainfall resulted in these rotten leaves being very damp. Therefore, the heavier the person, the deeper the footprints formed. Some of which would often cause water to ooze out and form a small puddle. The space between footprints in the clearing was very far apart, which suggested the owners of the footprints, the bodyguards, were running.

Zhen Jin contemplated attentively and speculated using the various traces he found, these two guards saw that this clearing did not obstruct their line of sight and decided this was the best place to battle the ferocious wolf. His mind seemed to have replayed this scene. But when they stood guard here, they suddenly found that the ferocious wolf ran back into the undergrowth. It seemed to bypass the bodyguards to go after Zi Di. So the two bodyguards then hastily rushed back into the bushes and gave up this advantageous location to attempt to pursue and block the ferocious wolf. In the bushes, the two bodyguards ran with one in front of the other when the wolf suddenly turned around, jumped up, and directly bit through the skull of the one in front. Then, it rushed the guard at the rear and bit his throat.

An unbidden chill propagated from deep within his heart to his entire being. The blue-furred wolf had a ferocious temperament, yet it was still so cunning. It seemed to be able to understand the human heart, adopting a combination of lures and composite counterattacks. Its tactics were implemented neatly and precisely, allowing it to successfully, quickly kill the two bodyguards. During the whole process, it also took advantage of the terrain and the mindset of the bodyguards to protect their master. Even when it turned around to attack, it was still very strategic in delivering the fatal blows—

To the one without a helmet, it directly crushed his head with its fangs.

To the one that wore a helmet, it bit his throat.

The strength of the two bodyguards did not reach Iron, but they were both Bronze. Although not a rival of a Silver magic beast, they should have been able to at least inflict some injuries to the wolf. However, even when the bodyguards sacrificed their lives, they could not make the ferocious wolf pay the price for it.

Zhen Jin sighed to Zi Di behind him, “This blue-furred ferocious wolf is sure to have Silver strength!” The traces of the battle were the best proof that the wolf’s bite strength and jumping power were obviously Silver. “The most terrifying part is that the wolf has shocking intelligence utterly surpassing any ordinary magic beast. Especially in its ability to use tactics, it is almost comparable to humans! 

“Generally speaking, wolves are pack hunters and use group tactics. Lone wolves driven away from the pack are either old, weak, sick, or disabled. Fierce tigers will lurk, slowly approaching their prey then suddenly exert their full strength to kill them in one blow. Before, when the vicious wolf was chasing us, it was obviously unusual. The tactics it employed were more insidious and fiercer than of a tiger. It was a fluke that we were able to eliminate it earlier.”

Zi Di nodded in deep thought, her face uncontrollably paling by several magnitudes as she said, “I even suspected that the wolf had a human soul. The first time we encountered the wolf was when a member at the rear of the team was attacked by it. It could obviously kill him but only dragged the bodyguard away, such that we would rush to his rescue. 

“Our formation was in disarray, and it took advantage of that. In the first battle, although we injured it severely, it killed three bodyguards. Of course, we were very angry at the heavy losses. But in the end, the ferocious wolf was a Silver magic beast and it had long left without a trace. After discussing the matter, we decided to carry on looking for you, my Lord, and temporarily gave up our vengeance against the ferocious wolf.

“Many of us thought that the injured wolf would be eaten by the other beasts of the jungle. Even if it were still alive, it should have been too injured by our attacks such that it would not dare to provoke us again. But the truth later proved to us that we were wrong. So terribly wrong. 

“The second time the wolf appeared was six days later. Its injuries were mostly healed and it directly raided our bivouac that evening. It held a beehive in its mouth and threw it into our camp, then it immediately retreated. Subsequently, a swarm of fire-venom bees assaulted the camp. The bees were not afraid of fire and contained a strong fiery venom. 

“We eventually repelled the bees, but four bodyguards got stung and were severely injured, resulting in them falling into a coma. Their bodies were hot all over and I used every conceivable method, but I could not lower their body temperature. Later that night, they died. 

“After that, our team suffered repeated attacks by the evil wolf. It became our grim reaper, a nightmare that we could not escape from…” as she said this, she hugged herself with her arms and shivered, with obvious considerable fear still lingering in her heart.

Zhen Jin looked at his crying fiancée and thought, Ah, she is so helpless. The young knight could not help but take a few steps forward to reach out his arms and embrace Zi Di in his chest of his own accord. The girl’s delicate body shook like a frightened rabbit that had returned to its warm burrow. Soon, her emotions stabilized in his embrace. 

He lightly patted her back and lowered his head to see the girl’s face, who gradually shied. “I understand how you feel,” he softly said. “Right now, I am with you. Unless I fall, I will always protect you and stop any magic beast that wants to hurt you.”

“Lord Zhen Jin!” Zi Di exclaimed, her eyes full of tenderness.