Chapter 4: I Am Shrewd
The two carried on cleaning the battlefield. Of the two dead bodyguards, one man wore a set of leather armor, however, it was already in tatters. The other wore a helmet, gauntlets, sabatons, vambraces, and mail.
Zhen Jin first took the gauntlet and replaced what he was wearing—his leather gauntlet had been pierced by the snake’s centipede legs—with it. Subsequently, he took the helmet and mail and donned it on himself. A sense of security suddenly emerged.
Equipment could, to an extent, bridge the gap in life levels. For example, the blue-furred ferocious wolf was unwilling to have its fangs meet the iron helmet. As for the sabatons, because they did not fit the Zhen Jin’s feet, the youngster abandoned them.
Apart from the protective equipment, there were also weapons. One of the bodyguards used a longsword while the other used a scimitar. The longsword’s blade was damaged but the scimitar was in good condition. Zhen Jin first held the scimitar in his hands and after swinging it for a while, he slightly frowned. He put down the scimitar and picked up the longsword. Just when he was about to swing the blade, suddenly another memory fragment emerged in the youngster’s mind.
* * *
The sky was gloomy and rainy. In an empty, open training ground, a group of youths had formed a circle. Zhen Jin was on the ground in the center of these youths.
The youths looked down at him, laughing and mocking, heavy derision on their faces. The leading figure was a burly youth with a head of azure hair that stood erect like steel needles.
The azure-haired youth spoke while crossing his arms and stepping on Zhen Jin’s shoulder, “Zhen Jin! Always remember the fact that your Bai Zhen House only holds the rank of viscount and that you are the losers of the War.
“Did you really think someone like you could stand on equal footing with us?” The azure-haired youth suddenly raised his foot, stomped on Zhen Jin’s head, and smiled. “I’ll teach you a lesson today. From now on, when you see us, no matter where you are in the citadel, you must bow your head, cower to the side, and make way for us.
“A lesser noble must act like one. If I ever see you look at me, Qing Kui, I will cripple you. Do you understand?” Qing Kui growled as he slammed Zhen Jin’s head into the mud.
“I under...understand. Cough, cough, cough,” Zhen Jin said with difficulty.
“Hahaha.” Qing Kui threw his head back and laughed triumphantly as he lifted his foot and walked away. Before leaving, he spoke again, “Of course, Zhen Jin, if you are not convinced, you can come and challenge me. I, Qing Kui, will be ready anytime, anywhere.”
“Cough, cough, cough.” Zhen Jin struggled to sit up. He started coughing again because opening his mouth allowed muddy water to flow down his throat. Seeing his sorry state, the other youths lost their interest.
“Bah, what an idiot!”
“Did he really think he could challenge Young Master Qing Kui? With what?”
“With his embroidery needle, of course. Hahaha.”
With the rain falling hard, the youths grouped around Qing Kui and burst into laughter as they entered the citadel.
Zhen Jin sat in the mud and let the rain beat down on him. He was covered in wounds and extremely pale. After sitting for a while in a daze, he looked at the sword stuck in the mud.
It was his sword, a very thin rapier. It sat soaking in the muddy water, it seemed to have long lost the sharpness of its glory days.
* * *
The memory suddenly ended here.
Zhen Jin came back to reality and could not help but frown, I am from the House of Bai Zhen? Our territory seems to be located in the south, part of the Southern nobles who joined the Empire in Sheng Ming Continent. It seems we used to have held countship before? He found that although he had lost his memories, it was not a complete loss, and much of his knowledge and common sense had been well retained.
“My Lord, what’s the matter?” Zi Di’s concerned question came to his ears.
Zhen Jin shook his head. “I regained another piece of my memory.”
“That’s great!” Zi Di said joyously.
Zhen Jin smiled bitterly and did not elaborate to Zi Di as he raised his eyes to the sky. It was almost dusk.
The young boy and girl carefully chose a place and quickly arranged everything—they would spend the night here. Dry twigs, grass, and leaves were not difficult to collect. By the pile of firewood, Zi Di half-kneeled holding a star flint in each hand. Click, click. She clashed the two star flints against each other and soon the collisions produced bright blue sparks.
The sparks fell on the dry grass and glowed with a little bit of orange-red, which quickly expanded and started burning the grass. A puff of smoke rose up swirling.
Zi Di carefully, hastily put away the star flints, puffed up her cheeks, and breathed out. Under the beating breath, the fire swelled as faint smoke turned into thick smoke, and the fire soared and became a fist-sized flame. “It’s done.” Zi Di smiled and immediately stood up and backed away a few steps.
In a short while, the flames ballooned and burned, forming a campfire. In the past, she only needed to snap her fingers to make a small flame. It was one of a magician’s spells. But on this island, Iron magic was completely unusable and sealed. Instead, regular firestarters like this star flint had much more practical value. Without these star flints, starting a fire by hand would be quite troublesome.
The burning campfire created warmth and light, chasing away the darkness of the night. The two did not roast anything on the fire and instead sat by it eating rations and opening their water bags to drink. Regardless of whether it was the star flints, rations, or water, they all were obtained from the dead bodyguards. Although the dry rations were hard to swallow, in their case, they could not be picky.
The day’s trek was full of thrill and danger. They managed to stay alive even amongst all the Gold and Silver magic beasts. They also found a bit of equipment and plenty of food and water. All this made them feel so grateful, what more could they have asked for?
After eating and drinking, the two carefully organized and stored the remaining food and water. The youngster then began to do maintenance on his equipment. He took out the longsword and wiped it with an oiled cloth. Weapons needed to be maintained. Although the longsword was an ordinary weapon, it brought Zhen Jin a tangible sense of security. Too bad there isn’t a crossbow.
A few moments later, seeing Zhen Jin wiping the longsword, Zi Di came over and said, “My Lord, let me examine your injury.”
Zhen Jin nodded. After removing the bandages, he found most of the wound on his arm had healed. “Good medicine,” he praised.
Currently, he was sitting on a rock while Zi Di was half-kneeling on the ground. The girl first pulled out the medicinal powder from her leather bag at her waist and sprinkled it evenly over the wound then softly wrapped a new bandage on. Lastly, she put the vambrace on Zhen Jin.
Zi Di looked at the vambrace and sighed saying, “If only my Lord had this iron vambrace earlier then you wouldn’t have been injured by the blood-streaked centipede snake.”
The firelight shone on the vambrace and the ends of Zi Di’s hair with a blurred orange glow. She had black hair, which under the light of the fire shone with a halo. Her wheat-colored skin bore the characteristic delicateness of her adolescent years.
At this moment, Zhen Jin felt as if there were a pure bodily fragrance that passed through the firelight and entered his heart. He felt an unbidden tug at his heart and could not help but reach out and caress her hair. Zi Di slightly shivered. “M-my Lord,” she stammered out and bowed her head. His actions seemed to have startled her, causing her to breathe nervously.
Zhen Jin’s thoughts, however, were not on the affairs between man and woman. He quickly withdrew his hand and asked lightly, “Zi Di, tell me about myself.” Along their travel, the youngster had been forcing back his desire to sate his curiosity. It was only now that they had stabilized their position he had the chance to learn more about himself.
Zi Di sat down across from him, pondered for a moment, and said, “My Lord, you are a Templar Knight and the sole heir to the Bai Zhen House, and it is publicly recognized that you have Iron-rank strength.”
Zhen Jin could not help but raise his brows slightly. Zi Di’s answer was quite interesting. “Publicly recognized?” he asked again.
“That’s right,” Zi Di nodded. “My Lord, the strength you usually show is Iron but according to my speculations, it is higher than that because this time my Lord was crossing the ocean to compete for the position of the City Lord of White Sands and a city lord must have at least Silver cultivation to win the favor of the people.”
In the main world, humanity was the undisputed overlord. Emperor Sheng Ming of humanity not only unified the human continent but also formed an expeditionary army to cross the ocean and invade Wilderness Continent. White Sands was a citadel built by humanity on Wilderness Continent and a nail hammered on the continent by Emperor Sheng Ming. There were more than a dozen other bridgeheads like White Sands and the number was still rising.
I wanted to compete and become the City Lord of White Sands? Although there are city lords of Iron, there wouldn’t be such an inadequate city lord in White Sands on Wilderness Continent, Zhen Jin thought.
Whether it be the practice of battle qi or magic, it would bring about sublimation of the essence of life.
Bronze, Iron, Silver, and Gold,
Bronzes were the elites of humanity and often those who served as captains in the army were of this cultivation.
Irons were higher and their essence of life was greater than Bronzes and were usually the backbone of organizations small and large, as was the case with Zi Di.
Silvers were qualified to be city lords and could suppress a region.
Golds were even fewer and rarer in number and were usually the backbone of a major aristocratic force or a small kingdom.
Seeing the youngster’s thoughtful face, the young girl continued, “According to my guess, my Lord should possess Silver cultivation.”
The youngster could not help but nod slightly as he supported the girl’s speculation. If that’s the case, I should have Silver battle qi. It doesn’t make sense for the Empire to officially allow an Iron knight to compete for the position of city lord. “How old am I?” the youngster suddenly asked.
Zi Di replied, “My Lord, you are sixteen and I am fifteen.”
“Sixteen years old…Silver…” A word emerged in the youngster’s mind: genius. With such a cultivation at such an age, he was certainly a genius. However, the world publicly recognizes me as having Iron cultivation, was this something I was intentionally hiding? Does this mean I have a shrewd mind? Zhen Jin continued to deepen his understanding of himself. He thought of the second memory that surfaced, a scene of himself being bullied by other Templar Knights. Does that mean I was feigning weakness? “How’s the situation with the Bai Zhen House?” he asked again.
Zi Di made a strained face and said hesitantly, “Not so good.”
The youngster nodded again. He understood why.
About one hundred years ago, Emperor Sheng Ming took the initiative to recruit and subdue the last recalcitrant forces of humanity to end the last of the Wars of Conquest and unify the human continent as quickly as possible. These obstinate forces then became the new nobility of the Sheng Ming Empire, the House of Bai Zhen was one of them.
However, the brutal war that preceded it led to a long-standing hostility between the new nobles and the old nobles under Emperor Sheng Ming. A large number of friends and families of both sides died in battle, their hands were stained with the blood of the other side’s kin. So it was only natural Zhen Jin, who represented the new nobles joining the Temple by becoming a Templar Knight, was targeted and suppressed by the old nobles.
Frankly speaking, it was a memory of humiliation but when I recollected it, my heart was at peace, as if I were a bystander, he thought. If he were truly humiliated, there would have been some anger lingering in his heart, right?
Zi Di continued, “Lord Zhen Jin, I actually do not know much about you. But based on the rumors, my Lord was not close to women and kept to yourself. Even when you encountered any major incidents, you would not easily express your true emotions. You spent most of your time in the Temple as an ascetic, austere, and silent.
“Moreover, your clothing, food, dwelling, and every action were elegant and refined, rich in noble demeanor. Although you had few friends, you were willing to help others, especially in protecting the weak and helping the poor. As a result, my Lord, your reputation among the lower class has always been very good.
“And, when my Lord suddenly made a move and successfully entered the competition for the position of the City Lord of White Sands, it was a great surprise to the other Templar Knights.”
“Oh?” Upon hearing this, Zhen Jin could not help but raise his brows. Zi Di’s answer sketched the image of a shrewd-minded youngster and he was even more sure the him in his memory was deliberately displaying weakness. However, what surprised the youngster a little was that she did not actually know much about Zhen Jin. What’s going on? Is she not my fiancée? If it is not love then why did she stay with me? What is the relationship between us? He wanted to continue asking but suddenly a buzzing noise came.
The two immediately turned their heads to look at the jungle night which had suddenly lit up with a thousand wisps of flames. These “flames” converged into groups and swarmed toward Zhen Jin and Zi Di ferociously.
“What is that?” Zhen Jin got up quickly and protected Zi Di, his face grave.
A small part of these “flames” exuded Bronze life aura.
“This is‽” Zi Di saw the true identity of these “flames” and her face paled. “These are fire-venom bees! My Lord, we need to run! I’ll cover the back,” she said as she decisively stepped forward with a face full of resolve, protecting Zhen Jin behind her. “Hurry, my Lord!” she shouted urgently, showing an attitude of being resolved to fight to the death.