Before I understood the gravity of an everlasting promise,
The three people, who vowed they would never abandon me,
had already fulfilled theirs in different ways.
After I understood the weight behind everlasting promises,
I rather wish that they had never promised anything.
Gong Hua immediately opened his eyes, and as he turned around, he saw Mila rushing towards his bedside. She started to pull him up in a hurry.
He was shocked, since Mila had never treated him so roughly, nor shown him such an expression on her face. She looked extremely anxious.
“Mila, what happened?” He asked.
Mila grabbed up a dress nearby and speedily pulled it over Gong Hua’s head. She did it in an incredibly rushed and rugged manner. Before Mila was done zipping the dress, Gong Hua’s entire body was jerked from the bed. Mila then yelled, “Go!”
Gong Hua continued to be dragged out of the tent by Mila. He was speechless with shock. He even wondered if he was being abandoned. But Mila was gripping his hand tightly the entire time. This isn’t a sign they’re throwing me away, right? He felt.
The situation outside the tent was of apparent chaos. Everyone was hurrying to pack their things, and some soldiers were even waving weapons yelling things like, “Stop packing everyone! Hurry and leave!”
Something felt wrong to Gong Hua. The terror-struck faces of everyone around him, filled with absolute fear, felt strangely familiar to him. There were screams and distant gasps of surprise. All of this, all of this… was the same as that day!
Gong Hua stopped walking. He realized Mila was running towards the town. She wasn’t heading towards where the soldiers stationed, the camp, but rather moving unmistakably towards the town.
When he stopped, Mila also had to stop. Only when she turned around did she see something wrong with Gong Hua’s expression. She readily comforted him, “Don’t be scared. Everything will be fine. Owen will protect us.”
“Owen said I wouldn’t have to go to town.” Gong Hua replied fearfully.
“I know.” Mila continued, “But it’s an emergency right now, so it’s alright. We’ll head there first, and then I’ll explain everything to you, how’s that?”
Gong Hua shook his head. This shocked Mila. Ever since she started caring for Gong Hua in Owen’s place, no matter what she asked, Gong Hua would obediently follow and never refused. Even with this, she felt somewhat worried. Not resisting at all couldn’t be a good thing… but, refusing to listen now was far worse!
“Gong Hua, It’s far too dangerous here. Come with me!”
Gong Hua still shook his head with all his might. No matter how hard Mila pulled him, he wouldn’t move. The sheer impatience she felt at that moment almost made her cry. She just couldn’t understand how Gong Hua has such strength over her, when his body was so slender and those soft fingers didn’t appear they’ve suffered tough or even mild manual labor.
She yelled in a hurry, “Gong Hua, please hurry and come! The beasts are coming, tons and tons of them!”
But in Gong Hua’s head, he couldn’t understand what’s so scary about beasts. To him, the town was much much scarier.;;
Mila really didn’t know what to do then, until an accustomed voice saved her.
“Mila! What are you still doing here?”
Cedric ran over. He had originally planned to check on how far the beasts had advanced, but who’d think he would find Mila and Gong Hua still here.
Mila looked like she found her rescue team and hurriedly explained, “Gong Hua, she refuses to leave. I don’t know why…”
In the middle of the sentence, she saw a change in Cedric’s expression and halted her words, following the direction of his gaze. There was a rising mass of smoke and dust from afar.
Immediately Cedric carried Gong Hua in his arms, saying “Hurry”, to Mila before the two of them started sprinting towards the town.
“I don’t want to go!”
Gong Hua felt at his wits end. He didn’t want to go to town, but Mila and Cedric were ignoring all his pleas. He didn’t know what to do, wanting to get out of Cedric’s grasp using force, but also unwilling to leave Mila’s side…
While he struggled with the two choices, they had already reached town.
With a month’s worth of renovation, the town wasn’t actually that scary anymore. The scattered corpses were nowhere to be found, and the rubble from the demolished buildings was piled neatly on the side. Nonetheless, no matter how much they reorganized, the raw iron-like stench of blood still lurked across the area. Once you stepped in, almost immediately, it’d engulf you without warning.
Gong Hua gripped Cedric’s arm tightly. It was all he could hang onto.
As Cedric and Mila ran past the town roads, scenes from the other day seemed to reenact themselves. He wasn’t clearly conscious at that time; it was as if his senses had all been replaced by pain. He only felt really, really painful. He felt he had to do anything to lower that pain.
So, he used all his power, and screamed.
He screamed, and it was as though something had lunged out of his body, and then there was lots of noise around him, sounds of destruction, sounds of people screaming, many ear-stinging sounds. Crooked faces flashed again and again before him as well.
At that time, he didn’t understand what those things were or what was happening, but now, he grew to understand… By the time he was clearly awake, his eyes were filled with red, and the smell of blood, the smell of blood, the smell of blood…
After running across half the town, a hillock suddenly showed up in front of the three of them. That was one of the sights people found miraculous recently.
Why would there be a hillock in the middle of town for no reason? It had to be the work of the culprit who destroyed this town…. But just “what” can make a hillock like this?
Everyone was afraid of this hillock before, but not anymore. That hillock was the destination to which Cedric and Mila was running. Once they saw the hillock, Cedric felt really happy, but after running for a few seconds, he realized there was a huge problem… Climbing a mountain while holding a girl wasn’t a laughing matter.
But at this point, he could only act hero and use his life to run up there. But as he reached the top, his foot slipped and he almost ended up using Gong Hua as a landing mat, until Owen appeared and supported the both of them.
Cedric heaved a sigh of relief.
Owen helped them up, and then hollered at Mila and them, “Where did you guys run off to?”
Cedric didn’t have the breath to respond with anything. After all, he had just run for his life while carrying a girl.
Not to mention, he wasn’t a more than physically healthy Spiritmancers, but rather one of those Spirit Charmers that’d fall over with a breeze in the wind. It’s just that he followed the army around a lot, and Owen kept nagging him to train his body, so his stamina was better than the usual Spirit Charmer… But by “better”, he meant he could barely run one kilometer, without a girl in his arms.
Gasping for breath, he uttered, “Be… beas…”
“The pack of beasts is coming!” Mila helped him finish.
Hearing this, Owen furrowed his brows and said, “Mila, quickly take Gong Hua and hide in the back. Cedric, you… forget it, you catch your breath!”
Owen wanted to have Cedric report the situation, but seeing how he was dying from lack of air, he had to erase that idea from his mind.
“All soldiers come to the top of this hillock and lie down! Do not alert the beasts!”
With that order, Owen saw the mass of smoke and dust. Instantly, he grabbed Cedric and forced both of them down.
Mila rushed in, sliding Gong Hua behind the hillock. All the military personnel had hidden there, including Cas. Cas saw them straightaway and rushed over. For a ten year old child, hiding in a destroyed town was a truly terrifying experience. Afterwards though, he saw the awkward expression on Gong Hua’s face. He asked dubiously, “Gong Hua?”
Gong Hua raised his head to see him, his eyes tinted red and filled with terror. Seeing this, the fear Cas had in his own heart immediately left him, nowhere to be found. He hastily patted Gong Hua’s back, whispering softly, “Gong Hua, don’t be scared! My brother and Brother Owen will protect us.”
Mila saw that and simply pushed Gong Hua towards Cas, so that she could take care of other matters. She started counting the people one by one.
Cas, noticing how Gong Hua continued to feel scared, immediately clutched his hand. Through this action though, Cas himself felt more reassured.
At this time, Gong Hua suddenly asked quietly, “Cas, if one did something in the past, but now thinks he shouldn’t have done it… What is that called?”
Despite finding Gong Hua asking that question at such a time odd, Cas properly replied, “You made a mistake.”
“What happens… when you made a mistake?”
Cas replied matter-of-factly, “If you made a mistake, just say sorry!”
Although Cas’ tone sounded really assuring, Gong Hua still felt as though something was off. He asked again, “You just have to say sorry?”
Cas nodded forcefully, “Mhm! As long as I say sorry, even if Mom and Dad were really angry, they wouldn’t be the next day!”
Gong Hua looked at Cas, and solemnly replied, “I’m sorry.”
Cas was puzzled. He asked back in question, “Are you practicing how to say sorry with me?”
Gong Hua shook his head. Right when Cas was going to ask for details, a thunderous roar shocked him. He instinctively put his arms around Gong Hua and hugged him tight.
But, this roar was only a prelude of what was to come. Following it were various other types of roars as they were surrounded by many beasts.
Everyone’s faces instantly paled.
The horror of the people hiding behind the hillock, who couldn’t actually see anything, was yet far less than that of the soldiers up front. As soldiers, they should have been brave, but now distress showed on their faces.
However, one can’t blame them. No one who had seen such a sight would.
Not far from the hillock, atop the roof of a half-destroyed house, a beast whose fur was glowing a pale blue stood, the area around it crowded with many other beasts, their amount even more than the number of soldiers there.
Although he knew he was supposed to remain silent, Owen still couldn’t resist asking Cedric, “What is that beast? I’ve never seen such a… such…” He didn’t know where to start to describe that thing.
Actually, the pale blue beast wasn’t very big, probably about the same size as the one he often rode. There were plenty of larger beasts that around it as well, but it one emitted an impregnable presence, a presence not even the beasts bigger than it had.
Its shape was similar to a wolf, but the fur was pale blue and emitted a chilly glow. At first glance it would seem like an art piece sculpted from ice.
Yet, it was undoubtedly a living creature. Its six eyes moved to and fro agilely on its face as its two whip-like tails swung in the air. From time to time, it would use its front leg to scratch its neck… or, more accurately, the three winding black claws on its front leg.
Cedric let out a groan, “We’re doomed. It’s Nightclaw…”
“Nightclaw?” Owen asked in suspicion, “What is that?”
“A physicalized spirit… the physical spirit of a beast and one of the most blood-thirsty ones at that!” Cedric smiled in melancholy, “Stand up. It’s already seen us.”
Hearing this, Owen looked at the beast and almost jolted up in alarm. The six eyes of that “Nightclaw” were all facing their direction. Being glared at by those six black pearls, Owen felt a chill run up his spine, a chill cold as ice.
Cedric stood up first and dishearteningly muttered, “Was it Nightclaw that destroyed the town? If it was, then everything makes sense. Only a physical spirit can make an entire town like this…”
Owen stood up in exasperation, but still suppressed his emotions. He softly reminded, “Cedric! What are you doing? Hurry and stand behind me and get ready for battle! This isn’t your first time in battle. Do you need me to tell you?”
“Battle?” Cedric forced a smile, “Owen, that’s a physical spirit… Do you have a faith?”
Owen felt annoyed, “Faith? You mean the Spirit of War? What soldier doesn’t believe in it?”
Cedric looked in Nightclaw’s direction, saying calmly, “Then, that is the Spirit of War.”
Once he finished, a wave of gasps surrounded them.
Owen instantly grabbed Cedric by the collar, pulling him to his eyes, speaking furiously, “You bastard! Are you trying to destroy the troop’s morale? Have you forgotten that your brother’s right behind us? So you’re thinking of not doing anything and just let Cas be eaten by the beasts?”
Cedric turned ghostly pale with those words. Although completely in a daze, he muttered, “No, no matter what, Cas can’t die…”
“Good!” Owen directly gave out an order, “For Cas, release all of your “soul spheres”! There are too many beasts. I’m afraid we can’t block all their attacks.”
Cedric nodded, and at the same time, a pale blue, semi-transparent sphere appeared from his chest, which then flew to the top of his head.
If a Spiritmancer’s weapons were blades and swords, then a Spirit Charmer’s would be his soul spheres.
A Spirit Charmer’s main attack was linking scattered spirits together, and then controlling those links to attack his enemies. However, linking spirits required a certain amount of time. The Spirit Charmer was his weakest state during this time. Although Spirit Charmers often hide behind Spiritmancers, in actual battle, enemies could appear from any direction, and their first target would always be the Spirit Charmer!
To handle the situation, Spirit Charmers usually prepare already linked spirits and hide them in their body, in case of any unexpected situation. These linked spirits take the form of a sphere, so they were named as soul spheres.
“Are you kidding me?! That’s the Spirit of War! I’m not fighting that thing!”
One soldier yelled, then jumped down from the hillock and sprinted away. His leaving also bewildered the other soldiers.
Seeing that happen, Cedric wanted to slap himself in the face. This was all because of his foolishness!
“Settle down, all of you!” Owen bellowed, “If we could run, I would have already have taken all of you and left! This place is surrounded by the forest. If you think you can outrun the beasts, then leave!”
Not long after he spoke, a scream traveled their way. As there was no one else around, the scream could only have come from the soldier who had escaped. The scream proved Owen’s words to be true. Every soldier present swallowed their desire to flee.
Although Owen was right, it made him more distressed than happy. He had planned to let Mila and the children run away even if he had to die… But everything had turned to shambles now. If even a trained soldier couldn’t run away, how could women and children?
There was no place for them to back up anymore. Owen could only observe the crowds of beasts surrounding Nightclaw and prepare for battle. But the more he looked, the more his brows furrowed. Although it seemed there were “only” a few tens of beasts across from them, but from the screams of that soldier earlier, it appeared there were much more hiding in the forests!
Owen had to make measures for the worst, and soundlessly asked, “Cedric is there any way you can take the other military persons and leave? Even if we need to forfeit our lives!”
Cedric thought for a moment, and with a pale face, shook his head.
Honestly, even they had been the usual strong opponents, he would have found a way to escape. No matter what, he would have gotten Cas to safety.
But their opponent now was Nightclaw!
In front of a physical spirit, the power of a Spirit Charmer was that of a child!
Cedric had used up all his brainpower, but yet couldn’t think of anything.
What could he do? Could he not even save Cas?
As Owen and Cedric watched Nightclaw, Nightclawwatched them back.
Humans were not worthy opponents in Nightclaw’s eyes, but something felt odd about this village. He felt that he had to act with discretion.
His original destination wasn’t here but somewhere much farther away. However, the smell of blood surged from this place, and it seemed as though countless living creatures were dying incessantly. It was most likely a warzone.
Nightclaw craved battle, but he loved a free lunch all the more. That’s why he found wars perfect! He only had to watch the two sides slaughter each another with weapons, and corpses would start piling up one by one on the ground. By nightfall, he’d have a mountain’s worth to feast on.
But halfway through his journey to the East, Nightclaw had been lured here by the smell of blood.
He could tell countless things had died here as soon as he stepped into this place. However, he was also confused. This was not a place the war should have reached yet, not by far.
There’s also a thick stench of blood flowing from the direction of those humans… Were they the ones who caused the entire area to smell of blood?
Nightclaw remained still, but the beasts around him were becoming restless. Seeing this, he simply lay down and had them scout the situation.
With his authorization, the beast mob rushed out, all charging towards the little hillock.
Some armed humans were on the hillock, and they were not about to just sit around waiting to die. Naturally, they too raised their weapons and retaliated. Nightclaw expected this. He didn’t mind losing a few beasts. Rather, he saw it as an opportunity to eliminate the weaker ones.
Although the two humans had teamed up quite well, how could their level of skill block most of the beasts? Nightclaw was a bit skeptical, but he couldn’t see anything special about those humans no matter how hard he looked.
He became slightly impatient some minutes later. He didn’t want to go out into battle himself, but the smell of blood rushing at him from the Far East had been constantly fueling his hunger.
If not for the failure of the beasts to contain their hunger, forcing them to stop for a snack, there was no way he would’ve stopped for a few tens of men.
Nightclaw stood up and, taking one large leap, arrived directly at the bottom of the hillock. He followed with another few leaps, each shocking in length. He then hopped onto the hillock and roared.
Along with the resounding tone of his roar came sequences of spirits bound in a massive swirl, like a hurricane blasting straight towards the hillock’s apex.
Atop the hillock, Cedric hurriedly patterned his soul spheres into a net in an attempt to withstand Nightclaw, but his spirit net was vanquished immediately after the hurricane came into contact.
Without the spirit net’s protection, he and Owen were knocked away mercilessly, assaulted by a searing pain that prevented them from rising from the ground. When Cedric forced himself to crawl back up and raise his head, he found he was surrounded by the beasts…
Cas shrieked, dashing towards the hilltop right away. Even Mila couldn’t stop him. She immediately lifted her skirt, chasing after Cas with all her might, but she still couldn’t catch up.
Cas was immediately marked by a beast wholly coated in black fur, its tiny blood-colored eyes fixated on him. After confirming that Cas was harmless, the creature raced at him without hesitation.
Cas didn’t notice at all. He only looked his brother’s way and desperately ran to save his older brother. The fact that he was a mere ten year-old child didn’t seem to matter.
Mila noticed when the beast had come within a leap’s reach, but there wasn’t enough time. She could only hopelessly scream, “Cas!”
Mila’s abnormal yell finally caught Cas’ attention. He turned his head, but it was all too late. The enormous beast loomed over him as he futilely widened his eyes, watching the black-furred creature’s mouth bearing down…
A large shadow suddenly shot from the ground, striking the beast and tossing it in the air.
Cas remained stunned for a while before identifying the shadows as vines… or rather, extremely big vines!
Subsequently, swarms of vine incessantly escaped the earth, spooling every monster into the air and then unforgivingly flinging them away. The humans who were on the mound didn’t receive the same treatment, however.
Soldiers gaped in horror at the vines everywhere, some so shocked that they starting chopping at the vines. Sooner or later, though, they realized that the vines wouldn’t harm them and even pushed the beasts away to protect them. Everyone’s faces rapidly changed from terrified to doubtful.
Cas rushed to Cedric’s side, the latter covered in blood and dirt. Although more than half of that belonged to Owen and the beasts, he was undoubtedly injured quite heavily as well.
Cas quickly propped up his brother so that he could sit.
“Just what is happening?” Owen shouted while eyeing the vines around him. He felt that he was close to insanity. First there’s some random beast spirit, now there are suddenly tons of vines popping out?
But he didn’t have the time to clarify this, for Nightclaw had arrived.
He wasn’t sure if it was any use at all, but Owen still raised his sword in preparation. Yet, Nightclaw didn’t care about him. His six black eyes all gazed in one direction.
Noticing the unusual situation, everyone followed the beast’s line of view… Gong Hua slowly walked over, vines dancing all about him but none harming him.
Nightclaw felt his hairs instantly stand up upon seeing this, those six eyes entirely fixated on Gong Hua. He was incredibly surprised. How could he not have noticed such a dangerous being at all?
“Gong Hua?” Owen felt rather confused, but was, for the most part, worried. It seemed Nightclaw was now onto Gong Hua.
Cedric abruptly yelled as he saw a single beast leap onto the hillock, watching Owen and waiting for a chance to sneak attack.
Owen was stunned for a second, but when he turned his head, the creature’s jaws were already right before his eyes. He cried out, retreating as he envisioned his own death… but the beast suddenly fell to the ground, struggling and whimpering.
Taken aback, Owen then noticed the vines strangling the bottom half of the beast’s body, yanking it downwards until it completely disappeared beneath the ground.
The situation enraged Nightclaw. He roared at Gong Hua, shooting out hurricane-like spirits that stormed towards him in a powerful gust.
Gong Hua didn’t move or scream, but a gigantic vine came in to block the hurricane when it reached him. However, Nightclaw soon leapt onto the vine and started ripping at it maniacally with his black claws, practically shredding the vine to tatters.
Once the enormous vine was destroyed, the surrounding little vines started attacking Nightclaw correspondingly. These swift and agile little vines gave Nightclaw more of a headache than the big one, which made an easy target. No matter how fast he tore at the vines, he still couldn’t overcome the rate at which they regenerated.
Nightclaw understood that to defeat a country one must first defeat its king, but he couldn’t bring himself to attack that “king”. Though these small vines looked so thin that they’d break with one jerk, once one vine entangled him, the others would interweave with it to create a tough chain.
These things gave him a headache, but they couldn’t exactly harm Nightclaw. On the other hand, Gong Hua made no move other than controlling the vines. The situation seemed to be at a stalemate.
The other people became pretty much goggle-eyed as they watched the battle between Nightclaw and Gong Hua. They had only backed away hurriedly to continue watching this unbelievable scene with blank expressions.
Only Cas continued to scream, “Go Gong Hua.”
Cedric muttered with great incredulity, “How is this possible? Nightclaw is a physical spirit! Even the greatest Spirit Charmers can’t battle a physical spirit alone… much less one girl?”
Saying this, he carefully looked at Gong Hua. No matter what, Gong Hua still looked no different from a girl…
The blue glow on Nightclaw burst at this point, obliterating more than half of the vines with a flash as Nightclaw gained the upper hand.
But at the same time, the tie on Gong Hua’s evenly braided hair came off and his hair began to dance madly, looking no different than the vines around him. Masses of vines and tree branches exploded from the ground with the movements of his hair. Even when Nightclaw tried to use his blue light, he couldn’t get rid of those threatening plants.
“Unless she’s not just some girl!” Cedric finally understood and exclaimed, “Gong Hua is a physical spirit too!”
Suddenly, Nightclaw jumped up, carefully observing Gong Hua with his dancing hair, and cautiously asked, “What spirit are you?”
Gong Hua stopped as well upon seeing Nightclaw halt his attacks, but his hair still floated naturally. He replied honestly, “I’m a Flower.”
“Flower?” Nightclaw didn’t really understand.
Gong Hua elaborated, “Child of Tree, Flower of Leaves.”
A species of the forest himself, he had heard about Flowers and knew they were guardians of the Leaf Tribe. Logically speaking, Flowers shouldn’t deal with matters unrelated to Leaves. With this consideration in mind, Nightclaw spoke accordingly: “This is no more than our regular hunt. Our targets are the humans. We won’t eat the Leaves. Take them and go.”
He assumed that the reason a Flower would appear here was that there were Leaves amongst his prey.
Gong Hua shook his head. “There are no Leaves here.”
Nightclaw felt somewhat confused. “If so, why are you here? Flowers exist as the Leaves’ guardians. They have no connection with humans.”
What Nightclaw said was the truth. Gong Hua knew it as well, but he couldn’t leave. Cas and Owen were behind him, and Mila a little farther back.
There were no Leaves here. He couldn’t voice the reason he had to protect these humans either and so remained quiet. Gong Hua simply explained the situation. “If you want to eat them, you must eat me first.”
This faintly infuriated Nightclaw. He wasn’t a spirit with a good temper, but he didn’t want to fight with another physical spirit. That was why he had put up with this for so long.
“Are you… the female Flower of Life?”
Although enraged, Nightclaw still wanted to make sure who his opponent was before attacking. He wasn’t going to bother attacking and eating a weak spirit.
Gong Hua shook his head. “Gong Hua.”
The male Guardian Flower!
Nightclaw narrowed his six eyes, making calculations. Was it worth it to fight a Guardian Flower for a mere forty humans… Actually, forget it! A much larger pool of blood drafted from the East. He’d have an endless supply to feed on there. Why should he fight a Flower now?
If that was a Flower of Life, it didn’t matter… but Guardian Flowers were the Leaf Tribe’s strongest protectors!
A gentle tribe, the Leaves never developed attack abilities. Even the physical spirit of their faith, Tree, and the Life Flowers born from it possessed no offensive power.
However, Guardian Flowers were exceptions.
To protect the powerless Leaf Tribe, almost all their powers were attack-oriented. They were not spirits to mess with! Not to mention, they were in a forest now, which was basically the Flower’s territory.
Here, no more than a few physical spirits could say that they’d be able to defeat a Guardian Flower.
Even though Nightclaw was a physical spirit of the forest as well, he couldn’t be sure whether he’d be able to win against a Guardian Flower. At the same time, he found this strange. A Guardian Flower protecting humans?
“To us, this is only a detour.” After considering, Nightclaw decided to forfeit the food here. He voiced a negotiation: “There is no need for us to clash. I will leave immediately, but you must not attack. Do you accept?”
Gong Hua nodded. “I accept.”
Nightclaw was reassured. He knew Flowers were the physical forms of plants. Plants did not lie.
Nightclaw left the hillock with a few leaps and gathered his horde with a roar. They then proceeded towards the East, where a much thicker smell of blood lay.
After Nightclaw had put some distance between himself and the humans, the vines began to coil back into the ground. Gong Hua’s dancing hair slowly calmed… The next second, someone tackled him. Gong Hua waved his hand, about to throw the other person away, but noticed the one who tackled him was Cedric.
Gong Hua didn’t know what to do, but Cedric had already raised his fist. Before punching him, Cedric saw Gong Hua’s face – that of a girl, which made him pause for a moment… Then he hit without hesitation, so hard Gong Hua fell over.
Before he punched a second time, Owen had already caught him from behind, yelling, “Cedric! Are you crazy? Why are you hitting Gong Hua?”
Mila ran over to help Gong Hua to his feet, her heart aching from the red print on Gong Hua’s face. As she comforted Gong Hua with gentle words, Mila glared angrily at Cedric a few times, but she didn’t reprove him. She knew Owen cared for Gong Hua more than she did. If Cedric was unable to give them a proper explanation… No! Even if he could, wouldn’t Owen would still beat him up?
“You guys still don’t understand?”
Cedric couldn’t free himself from Owen’s grasp, so he simply turned to face everyone, pointing at the town underneath. Angrily, he roared, “Look at those vines! Look at the marks that left the town in shambles! She destroyed the town. She’s the culprit!”
The people instinctively looked in Cedric’s direction, where there was an elongated pit. They all recognized it. They had been here for two months, after all –they had all been studying those pits.
Originally, they had guessed fearfully that it might have been a giant snake monster, but now they understood. Those marks were trails left by the vines crawling through.
Even though they had finally discovered the truth, they didn’t feel happy, not at all.
“She is the culprit!”
Everyone’s faces dulled after hearing Cedric’s hoarse cry. They didn’t really want to believe it, but they couldn’t say anything that’d disprove his words.
Cedric brushed off Owen’s hand, inching closer to Gong Hua with every step. Expression crooked and voice rasping, Cedric thundered, “It was you… the one who killed my parents, the one who killed my sister and her newborn child!”
No one knew how to react, not even Owen or Mila.
Seeing Cedric approach, Mila immediately stood in front of Gong Hua in an attempt to stop him. But the most she could do was retreat as Cedric came towards them, his face distorted… She honestly didn’t know how to block someone who was set on avenging his family.
Owen quickly called out, “Cedric, don’t harm them…”
Cedric turned around, his eyes bloodshot, and interrupted with a fierce roar.
“Why didn’t you say this for my parents? Why didn’t you say this for my sister? Why didn’t you say this for my sister’s child? That child was a baby that couldn’t even talk! Why didn’t you speak up for them?”
Owen was rendered speechless.
Cedric grabbed Mila’s arm and yanked her to the side, leaving only Gong Hua in front of him. He then released a soul sphere.
Although it was to the point that Cedric was letting even soul spheres out, Gong Hua still stood without trying to dodge or counteract.
More than the soul spheres, it was the look in Cedric’s eyes that made him uncomfortable and even… scared.
But he didn’t know why he should be afraid. There was no way Cedric could harm him. Gong Hua knew that fact, but it still didn’t comfort him. He was still really afraid.
The soul sphere’s glow lit half of Cedric’s face, but left the other half in shadow. He didn’t attack immediately but instead repressed his contorted expression, striving to withhold his screams. He spoke in a calm but wavering tone, “Tell me. Why did you kill my family?”
Gong Hua was unable to tell him why. By the time he had come to… everyone was already dead.
“Hurry! Give me a reason!” Cedric suddenly shouted; the controlled manner he held earlier was completely gone. He savagely screeched, “Don’t you have a fucking reason for murdering my whole family? Did you just, oh, accidentally wave your hand and they died? Tell me…”
Cas ran to Gong Hua, wrapping his arms around his elder brother, and yelled in determination, “The one who killed everyone wasn’t Gong Hua. It definitely wasn’t her! Gong Hua just got rid of the monster. She was the one who protected us!”
Once Cas said this, even Cedric who was certain started doubting himself.
Hearing his name, Cas turned to see Gong Hua’s swollen cheek. He apologized, “Sorry, my brother misunderstood. It wasn’t you, right? You weren’t the one who killed my older sister and her baby, the one who killed my Dad, the one who killed all those people… it was someone else who did it, right?! It had to be some other horrible person with similar powers to yours! My brother’s just too dumb. He can’t even think of this…”
Near the end, Cas even smiled because of his brother’s stupidity.
Gong Hua only looked at him and said, sincerely, “I’m sorry.”
Cas’s smile froze on his face. He couldn’t stop himself from questioning frantically, “Why, why are you saying sorry?”
Yet Gong Hua remained silent. He could feel it. If he said it, it would disappear… He couldn’t pinpoint what it was that’d disappear, but he knew it would–the present, everything would…
While Gong Hua was quiet, the smile on Cas’ face gradually left, fading until it was gone. It was then that Gong Hua opened his mouth, “Because I’ve done something wrong. Cas, you were the one who told me that one should apologize if he did something wrong.”
This time, it was Cas’ turn to go quiet, but it wasn’t for long before he asked again, “You really killed my older sister and her baby?”
Gong Hua genuinely replied, “I don’t know if there was a baby or not, but everyone in this town was killed by me. If the baby was here, then it was most likely me who killed it. I’m sorry. I was in a great amount of pain back then… Cas, I said sorry. Would you forgive me?”
But Cas kept shaking his head and slowly stepped away. Taking his place, Cedric moved towards Gong Hua in hatred, “My enemy was right by my side, and I didn’t know… This time, I must avenge my family!”
Cedric pounced forward, throwing his fists without hesitation. Gong Hua didn’t dodge or hide. After being hit, he only shielded his hair, allowing Cedric to punch him again and again.
“Ah…” Cas was shocked to the core. Although he knew Gong Hua was the culprit, he still didn’t want to see him hurt at all.
“Stop! Don’t hit her anymore!”
Mila rushed to Gong Hua. Cedric didn’t have time to stop and had no intention to either; so even after punching her a few times, he showed no sign of stopping. He did so until Owen held him back and dragged him away.
Cedric screamed rabidly, “Let go of me! Let go! She’s the culprit. Didn’t you hear?!”
“Don’t be crazy! Culprit or not, are you going to force Gong Hua to fight back?” Owen spoke into Cedric’s ear as quietly and quickly as he could, “Even if we all went up against her, we’d have no chance! Do you want to die? Do you want Cas to die with you?”
If he was alone, Cedric probably would have charged ahead without a care for whether he’d win or lose. But right now he wasn’t alone. He still had Cas… No matter what, he must protect Cas!
Putting this into consideration, he barely managed to suppress his anger. He turned around and brought Cas into his arms. Only if he was hugging his most important person, the one thing he couldn’t lose, only then could he stop his hands from doing something else… like taking revenge.
Owen walked over to help Mila up, and asked worriedly, “Are you alright?”
Mila shook her head and pulled Gong Hua up as well, patting the dust off his body.
Gong Hua just kept repeating “Sorry.” Other than that, he didn’t know what else he could do.
“Sorry?” Cedric immediately erupted, “Can one sorry replace the lives of my whole family?”
“Enough! Don’t say anymore!” Owen yelled loudly, “Mila, get your people to care for the injured soldiers. We’ll leave in a bit.”
Mila nodded. Seeing everyone looking at Gong Hua with fright, she simply took Gong Hua and left.
While Gong Hua was being dragged away, he kept turning his head to look at Cas. However, Cas cried in his brother’s shoulders, not lifting his head once.
It seems saying sorry wasn’t enough after all…
Gong Hua lowered his head. He sort of knew since the beginning, but he still hoped Cas would act like he’d said he would… As long as he apologized, Cas would forgive him for killing the baby.
To help everyone from feeling anxious, Mila led Gong Hua inside the tent. After wiping his face, she went out to heal the others.
This was a terrible battle. Even though Gong Hua came to help in the end, they had lost ten people, and many were badly injured.
Mila carefully bandaged one patient, and, while searching for the next, she caught a glimpse of Owen sitting idly by a tree, his arm had been mutilated.
Owen remained in a daze for a couple of seconds before lifting his head to Mila, that latter looking at him with a worried gaze. He was silent, then spoke, “I’m fine. Go tend to the others first.”
Mila looked at his arm. A piece of flesh was missing, but the blood had stopped so it truly wasn’t that serious. She nodded and turned to leave.
“Mila!” Owen yelled. But when Mila looked back, he stayed silent for a while more until he asked, “Gong Hua, what is she doing?”
“Nothing. I got her to wait in the tent.”
“Is that so?” Owen wiped the sweat off his face, but could do nothing to relieve his fatigue or erase the hopelessness from his voice, “Just what should we do? Mila, what should we do? Why must it be her?”
Mila couldn’t muster up any ideas either. Gong Hua had massacred a whole town. This fact remains unchanged.
Why would a kind, innocent child like Gong Hua be the culprit?
Mila pondered with a heavy heart but could only suppress the pain, “Owen, I’ll continue to bandage everyone. We shouldn’t stay here for long. The earlier we can leave the better.”
Mila walked away for a bit, but suddenly found Cedric moving towards Owen to discuss something. She couldn’t help but feel uneasy about this, but there was nothing she could do. Upon seeing Cedric, though, she thought of Cas.
Where was Cas? She looked for him left and right, until she found Cas sitting blankly by another tree, looking in some direction… which was where Gong Hua’s tent was.
She couldn’t help but feel sad upon seeing this. Regardless, Cedric probably wouldn’t let him see Gong Hua anymore. It was a pity, since they got along so well.
Mila paused and looked up to find Owen and Cedric, the two of them very grim.
“What is it?”
Owen handed her a small bottle saying, “Mila, go make some soup. Add some more meat in there, then pour what’s in this bottle into it and… feed the soup to Gong Hua.”
Mila’s mind went blank for a moment but didn’t take the bottle. She asked warily, “What is this?”
Cedric calmly replied, “A sedative. She’ll just go to sleep after eating it.”
Mila’s face immediately sunk. She cried in discontent, “You two actually want to drug Gong Hua?”
Cedric reciprocated immediately with anger, “She’s killed so many people. Does she not… not have to receive judgment?”
Mila didn’t want to believe Cedric. Granted, it was just a sedative, but who’d know what Cedric would do to Gong Hua after she falls asleep? From his face, it seems he’d just kill her with one slice!
“Mila, just do as Cedric says.” Owen spoke wearily, “We can’t have Gong Hua awake and running about. The others refuse to follow us with her around, so this is our only choice.”
Mila thought for a moment. It sounded like the right thing to do. If they didn’t have something to settle the others’ hearts, their only alternative was probably to abandon Gong Hua. They couldn’t do that! She grudgingly agreed, “Alright! But you must promise me. Before Gong Hua receives her judgment, you can’t lay a hand on her!”
She emphasized her last words by giving Cedric a menacing glare.
Still uneasy, Mila said again, “Owen, you’ll protect Gong Hua, won’t you?”
Owen fell silent, then nodded in agreement.
With Owen’s pledge, Mila took the small bottle and went to make soup. Most likely because no one wanted to see Gong Hua walking around, many generously contributed valuable ingredients for the soup.
The ingredients were abundant, but Mila couldn’t bring herself to be happy. At least being able to make a good soup for Gong Hua was a small comfort.
In the end, when Mila saw a pot of aromatic meat stew in front of her, she truly didn’t want to put the drug inside. But Cedric stood by her the whole time, clearly monitoring her work. She felt a bit frustrated, but asked, “How much do I put in?”
“Everything.” Cedric replied promptly.
“Are you sure?” Mila questioned suspiciously. She was honestly afraid Cedric was secretly trying to poison Gong Hua.
Cedric nodded, asserting impatiently, “She’s not human! I still doubt whether the amount here will be enough for her to sleep a day!”
Mila was skeptical hearing this. Be that as it may, she poured the contents from the bottle into the pot, quietly hoping the flavor of the sedative wouldn’t be strong and thus ruin the soup.
Just as she was going to bring the soup into the tent, Cedric called out, “Take her here to drink it.”
Mila glowered, about to lose her temper… But Cedric growled before that happened, “This is for your own good! If she doesn’t immediately fall down and realizes that something is off, she might kill you.”
Mila shouted back, “Gong Hua definitely won’t kill me!”
Cedric articulated, “She killed an entire town, including the infants!” enunciating each word.
Mila still wanted to defend Gong Hua, but when she heard the word “infant,” she couldn’t say anything.
She only turned around, walked over to the tent, and lightly called, “Gong Hua! Come here for a bit.”
The tent flap opened and Gong Hua walked up to Mila. He had no expression on his face and simply looked around to see the various faces he recognized: Mila, Cedric, Owen a bit further away, and Cas even further.
Mila passed over the soup. Pushing down her inner guilt, she forced herself to smile and said, “Here, Gong Hua. Drink the soup and then we have to leave.”
Gong Hua took the soup, obediently took a sip, and then stopped drinking.
Is it possible that the sleeping medicine is really bitter? Mila was uneasy and even turned to glance at Cedric. His face was resolute, not allowing her to back out. At this point, everyone started to pay attention to the situation with uneasy expressions.
Seeing this, Mila only continued to persuade him, “Gong Hua, be good. Finish the soup.”
Gong Hua looked at Mila, then turned his head to look at Owen, who stood in the distance but looked away when Gong Hua did so. Gong Hua also looked in Cas’ direction. Cas looked back, his expression blank.
“Gong Hua, what is it?” Mila felt uneasy, but because she didn’t want to be forced to leave Gong Hua, she tried to persuade him saying, “Listen to me; please drink the soup.”
Gong Hua’s attention returned to Mila’s face. He apologized again, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to kill the baby. I felt so much pain then…… Mila, are you going to abandon me?”
Mila didn’t understand why Gong Hua would be in pain, but she felt an ache in her heart when Gong Hua asked if she was going to abandon her once again.
I absolutely can’t abandon this child! Mila affirmed her belief again. She smiled and said, “Good girl. It’s fine as long as you know your mistakes. Don’t worry, I won’t abandon you. Quickly finish the soup and then we will leave ‘together.’” She placed emphasis on the word “together.”
Gong Hua was silent for a moment but then nodded slightly. Then he ate every mouthful of broth with grave seriousness, not leaving a single piece of meat or a drop of soup behind, and thoroughly finishing everything.
After he finished eating, Gong Hua lifted his head to look at Mila. She took the bowl from his hands but didn’t leave. She was worried that it would be bad if no one was there to catch Gong Hua when she fainted.
Mila waited for Gong Hua to say that she wanted to sleep or for her to simply fall down, but neither of those happened. What actually happened was blood started oozing from Gong Hua’s mouth. Though it was blood, it was obviously different from that of a human’s with a scarlet color. Gong Hua’s blood was a dark red color, the same color as his eyes.
Though the trail of the dark red blood was thin, it flowed down his chin and past his neck, leaving a shocking trace on Gong Hua’s exceptionally white skin.
Mila’s eyes widened, not understanding what was happening at all.
Gong Hua suddenly coughed twice. It wasn’t just traces of blood in his mouth any longer. He coughed up blood, one mouthful after another; so much that it caused him to choke and cough even more severely.
With the sound of Gong Hua’s coughing and the rivers of blood gradually dying his jacket red…. It suddenly dawned on Mila.
She’d been tricked! It wasn’t sleeping medicine hidden in the soup. It was poison!
Gong Hua looked around. It looked like the person who shouted was Cas. Cas ran towards him, his expression filled with panic and sadness. Right afterwards, though, he was caught. He struggled a bit before realizing it was Cedric that was trapping him. He stopped struggling right away, not daring to run over.
He only looked at Gong Hua and continued to sob.
Then, Gong Hua looked towards Owen. Owen was the first person to pick him up and treat him well. But Owen turned his head away, avoiding his gaze……..
Dazed, Gong Hua turned towards the source of the sound, but his eyes had already become unable to focus on objects in front of him. Within his blurry vision, Mila’s face suddenly grew and became increasingly clear.
She held him closely.
Next: Chapter 5: The wrong choices before, the correct choices now… are they correct?
Previous: Chapter 3: Spirits, Sisha, Humans, Flower… All creations
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Translator: Namaejanai, Nuddle
Proofreaders: Bga9, sae, Sherry, Snowstorm, Pumpkin_So77