Chapter 30: My Elegance as a Leader

Faced with Huang Zao's anger, Bai Ya was full of fear and confusion. He shook his head as he took steps backward until he stumbled and fell to the ground on his butt. “It wasn't me, it really wasn't me,” he shouted, desperately denying it.

Huang Zao approached him but collapsed midway. His face was ashen, and his ghastly countenance resembled that of a sick man who had fallen into a pit of icy water and was fished out only at the brink of death. “Why are you the only one not poisoned?” Huang Zao croaked out, glaring at Bai Ya grudgingly.

Lan Zao suddenly cried out, “Ah! Perhaps the island master has made his move! Not only poisoning us but also leaving one man alive so that he can spread the word. It’s like a great pirate who, after having plundered a ship, intentionally releases some of them to spread his notoriety.”

Huang Zao, still holding on to the vestiges of his consciousness, heard this and was very puzzled. Who? This island has a master? he thought.

Zhen Jin and the rest had kept their conjectures a secret because there was no proof and revealing it would be a blow to the exploration team’s morale, which could result in anxiety or even emotional breakdowns.

Both Huang Zao and Lan Zao had collapsed to the ground. Among them all, only Zhen Jin was still standing, though barely. Even so, Zhen Jin felt an ever-increasing chill in his body as if he was sinking into a bed of ice.

Lan Zao struggled to stand up and failed even after several attempts. His gaze suddenly paused on Bai Ya and he said, “I remember that he didn’t eat the chevon, not a single bite. The meat was poisoned!”

“Poison in the meat?” Zi Di froze at the words. Before the chevon was readied to be eaten, she had checked and confirmed that there was no poison.

“Is it the amount? Is it because we ate too much that we got poisoned?” frowning, Zhen Jin inquired.

Zi Di shook her head and smiled bitterly. “I tested for such a simple scenario long ago. But it is possible that there was some kind of poison I was unable to detect… Bai Ya, did you really not eat a single bite of the chevon?”

Bai Ya nodded, stammering out, “Ye-yes, my Lady. I don’t like eating chevon. I have been eating dry rations these days.”

If Bai Ya was the culprit, now would be the best time for him to act. Currently, Zhen Jin barely had the strength to put up resistance. Alternatively, even if Bai Ya was plotting something, his decision to poison them at this time was too stupid. In the wild, having companions at one’s side would increase one’s chances of survival. Running away alone was too risky.

Bai Ya’s behavior brushed away suspicion of him so Zhen Jin turned his gaze back to Zi Di. She had fallen to the ground but her eyes were still spirited and full of thoughts. “Lord Zhen Jin, could you come over and use my dagger to cut an incision on my arm?” she suddenly asked.

Zhen Jin nodded. Struggling, he moved to Zi Di’s side and pulled out the dagger strapped to her calf by its hilt. The dagger’s blade made a long, thin cut on Zi Di’s tense arm in one gentle slice. From the wound, Zi Di’s flesh could be seen.

Disturbingly, it had turned a greenish gray. Blood should have been flowing out in rivulets, however, only a little poured out. This blood had a relatively low temperature and a strange greenish gray also was mixed in with the red blood. Zhen Jin immediately associated this phenomenon with zombies. He felt a wave of cold air from the wound and murmured unconsciously, “Is it really a cold poison?”

Zi Di frowned. It seemed like a cold poison, but it also seemed unlike one. She thought of something, but the idea was vague, and she could not grasp what had flashed in her mind. I’m running out of time! thought Zi Di.

She felt that her body was stiffening and growing increasingly colder. If this continued, soon, her heart would freeze and stop beating. Zi Di knew she needed to make a decision as soon as possible. “My Lord, the red…white mushroom-capped vial…” Stiffly, Zi Di pointed toward the small bag at her waist.

Zhen Jin opened the small bag, revealing the interior of neatly and densely packed small potion bottles. There were three that matched Zi Di’s description. After a quick identification, he discovered that all three were the same. He also knew that Zi Di had a good habit—for each type of medicine, she would use a different size bottle, stopper, label, etc., to differentiate them all.

After he opened the white mushroom-like cap, he put the thumb-shaped vial to Zi Di’s lips. She opened her mouth, and he poured the thick red liquid into her mouth. Just after a small mouthful, her eyes suddenly rolled back, and she passed out.

The reaction stunned all those who were still conscious. Zhen Jin’s heart sank in an instant. Their only pharmacist had fallen unconscious. What were they meant to do now?

“Take off…the goatskins… Back, go back…” Suddenly, Cang Xu’s weak and hoarse voice came. After exhausting all of his strength to say this, he lost consciousness once again.

Both Huang Zao and Lan Zao had confidence in Cang Xu’s words. Huang Zao could not move but Lan Zao, to an extent, could. He immediately doffed his woolen clothes. Several breaths after taking them off, Lan Zao felt a noticeable difference. “It has an effect! I can feel my entire body warming up again,” he cried.

It was strange. The greatest purpose of woolen clothes is to keep the wearer warm. Previously, when they were near the snowy mountains, these newly made woolen clothes made the people feel happy. But now, after removing these clothes that were meant to keep them warm, their cold, stiff bodies regained vitality.

What was going on? Zhen Jin did not have the leisure to ponder on the mystery. Although he did not understand it, he still ordered Bai Ya to remove the woolen clothes off the fallen exploration team members and did the same himself.

After taking off the clothes, most of the team members who had fallen to the ground but had not fallen unconscious regained the strength to stand up. However, Zi Di, Cang Xu, Huang Zao, and a few others were still unconscious with their eyes shut tight.

“Carry them, and let’s go back immediately!” said Zhen Jin, his voice steady and his gaze unwavering.

Everyone who was awake knew the urgency of the matter. They used all of their strength to drag the unconscious members with them as they returned the way they came. Some, including Cang Xu, Zi Di, and Huang Zao were carried on the backs of the head goats. Most of the goats Zhen Jin had ordered captured were dead. Only the four strongest, the Bronze head goats, were left.

The further they retreated, the better everyone felt and the more of their strength returned. Despite the temperature dropping increasingly lower, they were no longer cold and stiff. On the contrary, they became warmer. Finally, when everyone returned to where they had hunted the sheep, many had completely recovered. Zi Di and Cang Xu also regained consciousness.

Zi Di untied the bandages on her arm and examined the recently made cut. She discovered that the greenish gray flesh had returned to its normal color. Her blood also flowed out normally. They were no longer a horror that resembled a zombie.

It was as if everything that had happened before was just a nightmare. But two dead bodies grimly reminded everyone that it had all, indeed, happened. The exploration team had lost two members. These two lost consciousness and did not awaken even as they were heading back. By the time they reached here, they had breathed their last.

“I understand now. I understand why there are so many goats here. It’s because they’re all poisonous, and whoever eats them will pay with their lives!” exclaimed Huang Zao, with a face full of horror.

“It’s a curse, a devil’s curse! We can only stay here. As soon as we go a little far from here, we will be poisoned again. It’ll only result in our deaths!” Everyone discussed this with fright. They looked at the goats in the distance grazing leisurely with fear.

Zhen Jin then stepped forward, looked around, and shouted, “All of you, shut up! Calm down.” His prestige among them had been established so upon his order, they meekly shut up, ending their chatter.

But Zhen Jin was aware that pressure alone would not be enough, he also had to alleviate the panic in their hearts. Thus he continued, “With me here, what must you fear? Things are far from getting out of hand and do not forget, we still have Miss Zi Di. Not only is she a mage, but she is also an extraordinarily skilled pharmacist.”

The fact of Zi Di losing consciousness upon drinking her potion was seemingly forgotten by Zhen Jin. However, a number of them had seen it and had spread this fact during the return journey.

Zhen Jin understood the hesitation in their hearts. He confidently smiled and said, “Back then, none of us knew the cause of the poisoning and it is normal to make mistakes during diagnosis and treatment. When using medicine, it is always important to administer the correct medicine for the illness. Now that we know the root cause, it is a different kettle of fish! How can these mere goats tie our hands and feet? Gentlemen, I must still lead you out of this island. It is far too early to give up now.”

Their confused, frightened faces started to change. Zhen Jin had blond hair, fair skin, a high nose bridge, and eyes that shone like the stars. His appearance alone was outstandingly handsome. He was also the heir to the House of Bai Zhen, a knight of humanity’s strongest force, the Order of the Temple, and one of the contenders for the position of the City Lord of White Sands.

Though he was wearing tattered mail, carrying a spear on his back, and had a long crude knife at his waist, these embarrassing traits only highlighted the youth’s resilient and indomitable mettle. He was like the rising sun at daybreak, the light was not blinding and instead brought hope. He was like a flag that fluttered atop a white castle under a serene blue sky, as long as one caught sight of it, they would be unavoidably attracted to it and would want to be commanded by it.

“My Lord! As long as we have you, there is nothing to fear! You are a knight, a Templar Knight! In our moment of crisis this time, you are the one that saved us,” hailed Bai Ya, full of emotion, breaking the silence.

“Master, we brothers have pledged with our lives to follow you, no matter when or where, no matter if the sky falls on us or the earth opens up under us,” professed Lan Zao.

The exploration team members began to shout animatedly.

“Lord Zhen Jin is right. By following Lord Zhen Jin, we will definitely escape from here.”

“That’s right. I will entrust my life to you, my Lord!”