Chapter 65: Teetering and Suffering
There was a spell of silence in the cave.
It was obvious that his son’s betrayal was a massive blow to Cang Xu as a father.
However, when Cang Xu was facing death, he still thought of his son.
Cang Xu hoped his writings could help his son to some extent. Of course, he concurrently also hoped his writings would be passed on.
There was both love and hate, in addition to helplessness and vicissitudes.
There were many complex emotions.
Zhen Jin and Zi Di finally began to understand the old scholar before them.
It was no wonder he cherished his life before and was now willing to sacrifice himself.
“If I can escape, I will help you realize this final wish.” Zi Di vowed.
“Many thanks, Miss Zi Di.” Cang Xu verbalised sincerely.
“Then, Lord Zhen Jin…” Cang Xu once again gazed at Zhen Jin.
Although Zhen Jin did not speak and only shook his head, he still revealed his steadfast attitude.
In the deadlock, Zi Di took out some letters: “Actually, I think Bai Ya also gave us his final wishes.”
Zhen Jin glanced at it and recognized the letters.
These letters had been on Bai Ya’s body.
“For a short while, Bai Ya seemingly struggled out of his comatose state and used his finger to point towards his chest, as if he was indicating these letters to us.”
“Cang Xu and I have read the contents of the letters.”
“My Lord, you should read them too.”
Zi Di gave Zhen Jin the letters.
Zhen Jin curiously skimmed through them.
They were all love letters.
The lead male was Bai Ya and the lead female was named Xi Qiu.
Some of these letters were written by Xi Qiu to Bai Ya, these letters were treasured by Bai Ya and worn at his side. Some of the letters were Bai Ya writing to Xi Qiu that recorded Bai Yai’s experience and thoughts after boarding the ship, but they had not been sent yet.
Xi Qiu was a young noble miss and Bai Ya was a hunter’s son.
Xi Qiu’s clan had a summer resort in a mountain village, and hunting was a traditional recreational activity for nobles. Bai Ya had been selected as one of the guides.
Thus the two crossed paths, although their statuses were disparate, love still bloomed.
This was a rare situation, like the old stories of wandering minstrels.
Regarding this love, Bai Ya felt overwhelmed, as if he was in a dream. He treated Xi Qiu as his entire life and he wrote to her many times: He would give his life for his beloved.
However, the harsh chasm between them was the disparity of their statuses. Thus in order for their love to come to fruition, Bai Ya wanted to become a knight.
It was very difficult for a commoner to become a knight.
To be precise, it was extremely challenging.
A commoner ascending to be a knight was a thing from a bygone era hundreds of years ago. Even in the battle where Great Emperor Sheng Ming unified the entire human continent and had completely subjugated the Southern Noble Alliance, there were very few who were promoted to nobility.
For Bai Ya, his only hope lay on battlefields overseas.
At the order of the Great Emperor Sheng Ming, humanity’s ships sailed to the Wilderness Continent and waged a war of aggression against the beastmen.1
This was a once-in-a-lifetime golden opportunity.
Albeit being very dangerous, for commoners, the war against the beastmen was their opportunity at becoming a knight.
This was the reason why Bai Ya was traveling to White Sands City.
Zhen Jin sighed deeply: “If by misfortune I do not die, I will give these letters to Miss Xi Qiu. In addition, I guarantee by my knight’s honor that I will tell her: her sweetheart Bai Ya is a very courageous man. He is a skilled archer and aided me in the past. He cherished benevolence and did not hesitate in getting seriously injured to help his comrades. He had unyielding bravery until his last breath and never cowered in fear. Although he was not a knight, I am sure he possessed many knightly virtues.”
Truth be told, Zhen Jin did not want to be a bearer of bad news. When he uttered those words, he could already envision the weeping and heartbroken visage of Miss Xi Qiu.
However, Cang Xu shook his head.
The old scholar ridiculed the idea: “From what I understand, appearances can be deceiving, Lord Zhen Jin.”
“In recent years there has been a new trend spreading among the empire’s noblewomen. The source of this trend is Duke Ai Mei.”
“This Duchess chased after love and beauty, she had continuously proclaimed that she wanted to raise the power and status of women in the empire. She was formidable, as one of the living gods. Her lifestyle was extravagant and self-indulgent, and she was also an infamous great liar that toyed with men.”
“Taking Duke Ai Mei as an exemplar, many noblewomen followed suit. They used love as a lure to tease men so they groveled at their skirts, or watched them fight amongst themselves for their favour, or even manipulated them into their puppets.”
Zhen Jin frowned and pinched the letters: “So you believe this is also the case between Bai Ya and Xi Qiu?”
Cang Xu nodded: “I am not baselessly guessing because the letters have proof.”
“Firstly, love came too abruptly. The time spent between the two together is too short and there was no incident of the hero saving the damsel in distress.”
“Secondly, Xi Qiu actively encouraged Bai Ya to become a knight. Hence, that idea was not Bai Ya’s original intention.”
“Thirdly, it was also Xi Qiu who actively asked Bai Ya to write her letters.”
“From Xi Qiu’s point of view, it is very interesting to tease Bai Ya, changing this hunter’s son’s fate and manipulating him into becoming a knight.”
“If it was successful, she would gain a knight that would effectively serve her with incomparable loyalty. And she would invest very little to do so.”
“If it does not succeed, then Bai Ya’s letters about what he has heard and seen could greatly lessen her boredom and tedium in her boudoir. Even if Bai Ya ends up sacrificing his life, Xi Qiu can also turn that into capital she can flaunt. ‘You see, someone died for me—an idiot who wanted to become a knight’.”
“Fourthly, the reason why I am so clear or even certain about this is because my son was such a victim. It is very possible that even now, he still dreams of marrying the third young miss of the Sha Ta Clan. Perhaps it is my fault, I passed on my mediocre bloodline to him and he did not have the aptitude for cultivation. That pitiful and lamentable fellow, he was just like me when I was young—discontent with his status quo and eager to struggle free from his current life.”
“The third young miss’s love gave him hope for a bright future. However, he did not know that in order for his father to break away from his own original life and step over his lowly status, he had to pay a massive price and spend countless years.”
“Young people always think that they are blessed by destiny. Any good luck that comes, even if it is hard to believe at first, they will still believe in it deep down inside, that they are being favored and that they deserve it. Any good thing, any success that they have are all proper, and as it should be by right.”
“Only when they go through hardships and torment, through thick and thin, would they gradually realize: they are mediocre and the kindness of others is something that they should cherish and treasure. The reason that beautiful stories of romance are popular is because they are hardly ever seen in reality.”
“Don’t look at what is written in the history books. Those heroes seemed to have the destiniy of heaven, that they deserved to rule from birth or were born to bring about great change. Even if they met with disaster, they would always turn jeopardy into security. Upon being confronted by a quandary, they would always choose morality and honor.”
“That is because they are the winners.”
“When they have defeated all of their enemies, after the victory, they are the ones that decide how history should be written. They will magnify their virtues and even fabricate them, like a dazzling torch held heavenward for the world to gaze up to. Morality, virtuousness, innate talent, and the destiny of heaven are all conveniences that make their rule easier or something used to defend their grand achievement, or even used to reap external benefits. And so their vulgarity, cravings, filth, treachery, and other vices are all hidden in the shadows under the torch. When people behold the torch, their gazes are immediately attracted by the resplendent flame, and they do not descry upon the shadow cast on the ground.”
“My Lord, even if you eat me, no one will know. Bai Ya is in a coma and completely unconscious. Miss Zi Di is your fiancée and your interests are closely intertwined, she will never betray you.”
“And you can only escape if you have enough food.”
“You will be the winner and your experience will be recounted by you, no one can refute it. What happens here is something outsiders will never learn of.”
“And I am also truly willing because I believe you will do everything you can to accomplish my final wish!”
Zhen Jin shook his head: “You overestimate me too much, I am not a winner, I am only a knight.”
The young knight then bitterly laughed: “Truth be told, Zi Di brought her people to search and rescue me before I regained consciousness, allowing me to survive. However, I lost most of my memories. I only remember my name and my status. Sometimes, I will suddenly remember memories that warn me or let me grasp a skill once more.”
Cang Xu was immediately stunned.
After reacting, the old scholar continued to advise: “If your Lordship remembers that he is a knight, then that means you should eat some more food. Your stamina is deficient, how long do you think you can fight tomorrow? Perhaps you will suddenly go weak and be unable to dodge a fatal blow of a scorpion’s tail.”
“You need food now! A great amount of food.”
“Think of your status, your clan. As a defeated party, although the Bai Zhen Clan has joined the Great Emperor Sheng Ming’s faction, your circumstances are not good, correct? You are their sole heir and the entire territory needs you to lead and revitalize it in the times to come.”
“Apart from the responsibilities you inherently carry, you still have to protect your fiancée's life.”
“Eat food and you will gain stamina. Not only will it increase your chances of survival, it will also help you protect your fiancée. Perhaps she will luckily survive tomorrow’s breakout because you ate a piece of meat.”
“Are you forcing me?” Zhen Jin was furious.
Cang Xu smiled: “Yes, I am forcing you. But I ask you to forgive me, Lord Zhen Jin. I am at death’s door and a dead man does not fear worldly authority. I want to accomplish my final wish and in order to do so, my life is but a bargaining chip.
Zhen Jin unconsciously clenched his fists.
He glowered at Cang Xu with great anger.
He was angry that Cang Xu was coercing him.
He was indignant that he fell into such a situation, that fate had mistreated him.
He resented his weakness, that the scorpion group had forced him into desperate straits, that he was incapable of shouldering his responsibilities anymore, and that he could not protect his fiancée's life.
And the thing that enraged him the most was—he found himself teetering!
Zhen Jin was fully aware: Cang Xu was a wise man.
He also knew that Cang Xu’s words were reasonable. From a purely rational perspective, it was indeed advisable to follow Cang Xu’s proposal.
Then, what about his morals? What about his conscience?
Where should he place them?
What would happen if he treated people as food?
He would no longer be a human being, he would be a malefactor, he would drift and live life without purpose1, all honor and fame would forever escape him.
However, wasn’t thinking like this too selfish of him? Wasn’t this just him engrossing himself in his own honour and moral conduct but ignoring the lives of others?
By eating all the food himself, and sacrificing just one person, maybe it would be enough to save himself and others?2
Perhaps not, but Zhen Jin understood that doing this would indeed greatly increase the chances of everyone surviving!
If he obstinately persisted in his views, wouldn’t that also be a form of stupidity?
Just as Cang Xu had said, history was written by the winners. If he didn’t eat a human being, perhaps he would really die under the silver level scorpion, then what would his father think of him? Wouldn’t the previous generations of ancestors scold him for not knowing how to be flexible?
If he ate a human being, would he regret it in the future?
If he did not eat a human being, perhaps he would still survive, but the others would die. In future recollections, he would remember that he had a chance but refused to take it. Perhaps he could have saved his fiancée and the others, but he chose not to.
Zhen Jin struggled in his heart with all manners of conflicting thoughts that lingered in his mind.
Hesitation, doubt, and disorientation made his thoughts slowly descend into chaos.
Zhen Jin was not the only one suffering torment this night.
The cold winds in the dead of night were like scraping knives.
Huang Zao carried Lan Zao on his back as he braved through the headwind with difficulty.
He felt like a dilapidated scarecrow that would be blown away at any time in the wind.
The darkness in front of him was unseeable and impalpable, just like Huang Zao’s innermost emotions at this moment.
The reason he was able to keep moving forward was through his numbness and inertia.
His heart was icy cold and despair gradually enveloped him, the only warmth he had was from Lan Zao. Lan Zao’s body grew hotter and hotter and his wounds festered.
He was at death’s door.
“Don’t die older brother, don’t die!”
“I have gone to such great lengths and carried you this far, if you die now, you’re going to be too unjust on me.”
“You know, I wanted to disembark that ship long ago. But you wanted to eke out a living at sea.”
“If we had been on land, do you think I would be degenerating on this wretched island?”
“So, this is all on you, this is all your fault.”
Huang Zao cried out in his heart.
With the help of this holler, he encouraged himself.
However, compared to the encouraged spirit, hunger and thirst provoked his body and mind even more.