Chapter 5: Regaining a Battle Art
In an instant, the jaws of death were upon them.
Zhen Jin’s face was grim. He instantly recalled Zi Di had mentioned the fire-venom bees during the day.
Based on the life aura, although most of the fire-venom bees were ordinary insects and only a small number were Bronze magic beasts, there were too many of the bees and they were filled with fire-venom.
“My Lord, you must escape. My potions can detoxify me,” Zi Di urged again.
Zhen Jin looked at the girl who stood before him and his heart moved with warmth. Zi Di never gave up facing the pursuit of the blue-furred wolf and never gave up on the unconscious him, and now she was willing to stay behind and fight for his chance to escape.
Regardless of if she was lying about the existence of the potion and it was something rare that could not be wasted on the previous members of the search and rescue team. He could find no reason to convince himself to escape alone and leave this delicate, feeble girl behind to protect him from trouble. “You should escape, I can deal with the fire-venom bees,” he said resolutely.
Zhen Jin took a great step forward and stood before Zi Di and quickly leaned over to lift a thick flaming log from the campfire. The top of the wood was burning and was a natural torch. He wanted to use the torch to ward off the oncoming fire-venom bee swarm. But when she saw what he intended to do, she quickly screamed, “Don’t use fire! Lord Zhen Jin, these bees aren’t afraid of fire. In fact, it was our campfire that attracted them.”
Zi Di’s words stunned Zhen Jin. He trusted her and with a whirl of his arm, he threw the torch forward with great height. The torch flew about fifty to sixty steps southeast and kept burning. The swarm reacted instantly. A small portion split off and pounced on the torch. This small swarm was about ten in number and threw themselves toward the torch like moths to a flame.
As Zhen Jin watched on in amazement. The fire on the torch quickly abated, and in a few breaths, extinguished completely. The fire-venom bees that had pounced on the fire flew up again, wobbling as if they had eaten a big meal and were holding on to their bellies.
What kind of bee is this, it can actually eat fire‽ Zhen Jin had no time to think about it because only a small part of the swarm had pounced on the torch. The rest of the large swarm of fire-venom bees were already closing in on the two. He gritted his teeth and backed away, dragging the girl with him.
“We can’t escape, Lord Zhen Jin! Someone has to lure them away.” Zi Di, however, had a face of despair. She said frantically, “These fire-venom bees hunt anything hotter than them, the higher the body temperature, the more they are attracted. I encountered a swarm of fire-venom bees before with the search and rescue team, and they caused four deaths and ten to be injured but I did not think they would be here as well.
“My Lord, you must run away. Now, as long as I lure away these fire-venom bees, I can buy you time.” After she said that, she raised her arms and tried to break free from his grasp but he held her firmly, making it difficult for her to succeed.
The two backed away from the campfire with the fire-venom bee swarm in hot pursuit.
Buzz! A large portion of the fire-venom bee swarm suddenly split off and rushed toward the blazing campfire. But there were still a few dozen approaching the two with bloodlust. Zhen Jin and Zi Di were forced to flee to the periphery of the camp’s firelight.
Before them was the dark jungle of the night.
Zhen Jin suddenly stopped. They could not keep running!
The jungle was far deadlier at night with many ferocious predators prowling about, moreover, human eyesight was very restricted in this environment. Under such conditions, if Zhen Jin and Zi Di were to venture into the jungle, they would only be digging their own graves. In comparison, there was a silver lining of survival to fighting the fire-venom bees because Zhen Jin cultivated battle qi and was a Templar Knight, and likely had Silver life essence. To the ordinary bodyguards, the fire-venom was extremely dangerous but to Silver lifeforms, it was a different story.
Although the situation was very critical, Zhen Jin had not panicked and stayed calm and collected. “Don’t panic, we still have a chance!” His words broke off as he turned around sharply to face the swarm. Simultaneously, he yanked Zi Di behind him.
Shiiiiing! With a soft chime, Zhen Jin unsheathed his sword. Although the fire was rapidly extinguishing, there was still enough light to see. He took a deep breath, stepped forward, wielded the one-handed sword, and slashed with cold light on the blade. Many of the fire-venom bees were struck by the sword. Some were cleaved into two, some fell to the ground still buzzing, and others were knocked away then came back, staggering as they did.
Possessing a weapon greatly improved Zhen Jin’s offensive power.
Every time his sword struck the fire-venom bees, the sensation was as if he were cleaving at fist-sized chunks of metal. The exoskeleton of the fire-venom bees was so tough the sword rarely cleaved through it. His heart sank, the fire-venom bees were more difficult to deal with than he had expected.
The small swarm of fire-venom bees were alarmed by him, they scattered and rushed toward him from all sides. He was just one person with a sword and not even a shield, and it would be difficult to defend himself against the attacks of multiple fire-venom bees. In fact, even with a shield, it would be difficult to block such an assault. Only plate armor was an effective defense. The only fortunate thing was almost all the fire-venom bees attacking were focused on him and not the girl behind him.
Suddenly, he felt numb in his lower back followed by a sharp pang.
“My Lord!” Zi Di exclaimed. Zhen Jin reached to his waist using his free left hand and pulled out a spastic fire-venom bee from his waist. The fire-venom bee weighed as much as a chicken egg. He tried to crush it with his full might but could not. However, the moment when he pulled out the bee, he saw the fire-venom bee’s stinger was still in his waist. After it and the stinger were separated, the bee in Zhen Jin’s hand became motionless and died soon after.
Zhen Jin threw away the corpse and continued fighting despite his injuries. Mail was just a wire mesh knotted into a net and was strong against slashes of axes or blades but in the face of these venomous stingers, its effect was small, almost negligible. Using his vambrace as a shield, he protected his face from many of the bees’ sting dives. As time passed, as he kept fighting, many fire-venom bees stung him one after another.
Am I to die here? The situation was so dire Zhen Jin’s heart sank to the abject abyss. Battle qi, I need battle qi! the youngster screamed in his heart. If he could release his battle qi, he would be able to shield his body. Silver battle qi would allow him to form a protective barrier around his body surface to block the stings of the fire-venom bees. It would be the best defense against the stingers, far more reliable and effective than the mail.
However, Zhen Jin had forgotten how to activate his Silver battle qi. Due to his amnesia, his memories were incomplete and he could not mobilize it.
Silver battle qi! Come to me, damn it!! the youngster almost screamed out amidst the battle. Despite the campfire being mostly extinguished, it was difficult to hide the grimace on the youngster’s face. At this moment of life and death, a new memory suddenly appeared in Zhen Jin’s mind.
* * *
It was an autumn evening, and Zhen Jin was in a study. It was dimly lit inside with only the narrow window in the stone wall providing light.
Therein was a maroon desk made of the finest wood. On the desk lay a pen holder and within it were three snow-white quills. Next to it was an inkwell. On the wall were hung three oil paintings. One depicted golden farmlands, another a dark-blue citadel in a forest, and the last a naked noblewoman by a lake. There was also an empty wall with only hooks and no paintings.
“Zhen Jin, my son, don’t keep your head bowed,” said a slightly hoarse voice.
Zhen Jin slowly raised his head. He saw a middle-aged man sitting at the desk, lean and pale with a long, thin, and straight mustache that split in the middle. His brows were slightly furrowed, exuding a stern and grave temperament. Zhen Jin soon found himself averting his gaze from the man as he looked out the only window, seemingly afraid to meet the man’s gaze. The sky outside was covered in the gorgeous and colorful light of the evening sun.
“Why is it? Half a month has passed, my son, and you have still made no progress on the Qi Restraining Technique, still at the initial level.”
Zhen Jin involuntarily shifted his gaze to the bottom part of the desk in front of him.
The man, however, spoke softly, “I understand how you feel. You’ve never been interested in the Qi Restraining Technique. You feel that our family’s battle arts are weak, don’t you? You feel that the bloodline of our Bai Zhen House does not give you a strong body, nor does it bring you strength or speed. That we’re only a lower-class nobility in the Empire today, isn’t that right?”
Zhen Jin was silent.
The middle-aged nobleman sighed deeply, stood up, and walked around the desk to Zhen Jin. “Come walk with me.”
The two walked out of the study, down the gloomy hallway, past the mottled stone walls, and into the middle of the garden inside the citadel.
The light of the setting sun poured down on the garden. The garden was in an obvious state of disrepair, full of the colors of withering and decay. The only thing that stood out was the large tree in the center. Its leafless branches were meandering toward the sky, and its roots were partly exposed in the dry earth. Its trunk, however, was covered in “leaves” resembling that of a wutong tree.
As the evening breeze blew, the ‘“leaves” seemed to rustle with it, giving them a vibrant appearance. Zhen Jin’s father led Zhen Jin to the tree.
“Watch carefully!” the middle-aged man bellowed softly and suddenly, Gold battle qi surged out from his body. The golden battle qi was far more overwhelming and majestic than Silver, and Iron was not even comparable. A gust of wind was raised as the Gold battle qi spilled out.
The young Zhen Jin was forced to take steps back by the wind and his eyes narrowed uncontrollably. As the fierce wind howled, the wutong-like leaves on the trunk were startled and began to fly with a whooshing sound, revealing their true forms—a large flight of leaf-winged butterflies.
“Battle Art—Hundred Needle Wind!” The man drew his sword, it was not a bladed sword but rather a slender rapier. In the man’s hand, the rapier kept striking incessantly, its extreme speed creating shadowy afterimages of the sword. In particular, the tip of the rapier was covered in battle qi. For a moment, it seemed like a stream of golden stars overflowing in all directions, brilliant and dazzling. The leaf-winged butterflies were swept away by the wind and struck by the golden stars, falling to the ground one after another.
After a few breaths, the ground was covered with the butterflies. Of the hundreds or thousands of them, none managed to escape.
“Wow, amazing!” exclaimed Zhen Jin, utterly dumbfounded and eyes wide. Upon closer inspection, he was shocked to find every leaf-winged butterfly had been pierced through the head. The man’s sword skills were so precise!
“Cough, cough, cough.” Coughing, the man put away his sword, his face turning pale. “Do you still think our Bai Zhen House is weak, now?” he asked.
Zhen Jin shook his head.
“Every noble family has their foundation, not to mention our Bai Zhen House that was once a great nobility of the South. Hundred Needle Wind is our family’s signature battle art and it is also part of our family’s foundation. Few outsiders know of this secret. Managing a family requires strategy.
“Sometimes we need to be high-profile, like a fierce beast with its fangs and claws bared. Other times, we need to be low-profile, lying low and biding our time. Such as right now. Our Bai Zhen House needs to show weakness and reduce our presence.” After a pause, the man continued, “Do you know what the basis to use Hundred Needle Wind is?” Not waiting for Zhen Jin to answer, the man immediately said, “It’s the Qi Restraining Technique.”
“Huh?” Zhen Jin was surprised.
“Only with patient restraint and accumulated power can you erupt suddenly and astonishingly. The Qi Restraining Technique can allow us to restrain our qi, making it hard for outsiders to detect it or cause them to underestimate our battle qi cultivation.
“Simultaneously, this technique can also accumulate power. Only when you are highly proficient in the Qi Restraining Technique can you use battle arts like Hundred Needle Wind. It can be said this technique is the cornerstone of our family’s battle arts. Zhen Jin, you are the heir to our Bai Zhen House. You must practice well,” his father explained.
“I understand, I will work harder, Lord Father!” Zhen Jin said as his eyes lit up with excitement.
* * *
The memory was fleeting and almost instantly, Zhen Jin was awoken back into reality. His eyes suddenly lit up as he stared at the swarm of fire-venom bees.
Battle Art—Hundred Needle Wind!
This time, his sword arts were completely different. The chopping, swinging, etc., from before vanished. Only one action remained—the piercing. His sword incessantly stabbed forward.
Ratatata… The tip of the sharp sword penetrated the air, and as if it were an arrow, it hit the airborne fire-venom bees with incredible precision. Zhen Jin’s rather peculiar way of exerting his technique created vague shadows in the air of his sword’s tip, like faint beams of light.
“This is‽” Zi Di looked up, her face ripe with shock and surprise. Zhen Jin’s counterattack gave her a glimmer of hope. “As expected of my Lord!” Zi Di blurted out, cheering and shouting for Zhen Jin. One by one, the fire-venom bees fell to the ground as the battle art, Hundred Needle Wind, eliminated them. “My Lord…” Zi Di whispered. As she was being protected, she looked at his back, her eyes reflecting the dying campfire that yet shone brightly.