An old gray-haired man, wearing a dark hood adorned with a scarlet dragon insignia, was quickly and quietly scurrying through the thickets of the forest. This forest was no ordinary one. It was surrounded by a thick veil of dark purple mist. There were no sounds of animals. Surprisingly, vegetation that would never grow, but rather die in this harsh and lightless environment, seemed to prosper in it. Eternal darkness ruled this region. All its grounds were covered by it. Unfortunately, darkness is also where all evil things thrived.
Suddenly, the old man stopped and looked at his surroundings as if he was trying to find something or someone. In the darkness, nothing could escape his eyes. He could see all the trees and ruined buildings surrounding him with unrivaled precision.
“It seemed that the beings have yet to notice my presence…I hope that the wolf-like being that was chasing me earlier did not catch my scent…It will be a sign of my misfortune if it did!” laughed the old man, his voice seemed to have regained its youthful vigor. His stark expression was replaced by a brittle smile that made his wrinkles more noticeable than before. As he continued to look around, he found a clearing. His cold blue eyes reflecting arrogance and dominance were now focused on something that was lying near an eerily dead tree. As he squinted his eyes, his previous stern and cold expression were replaced with that of astonishment.
Not wasting a single breath, he rushed to it. His excitement made it seem as if he had found something priceless that was not yet seen in this world. When he arrived at the tree, he bent down and touched the ground, his hand making a sweeping gesture as he tried to unearth and clean an object from the mud that covered it. A leather-bound book was lying there, buried beside the dark yet majestic-looking dead tree. Its jewel-encrusted cover was the only thing that had stayed in relatively good condition. He could still depict from it some parts of its long-forgotten title.
“Umm…I see…This book seemed to have been written by one of the merchants traveling through this land…Umm…I can only see two words from its blurry title… Jiyan Dynasty” whispered the old man as he picked up the book with his muddy hands. He gently opened it and flipped through its shabby pages with astonishing speed.
According to what he could read from the first page of the book, this forest was, long ago, the capital of the Great Jiyan Empire, whose lands stretched from sea to sea as it had conquered the whole continent, before its downfall. The rest of the book was too worn out. He could not decipher the rest of the writing found in it. Even if he could, it would take too much time. He sighed. His mind was bent on deciphering this book. He decided to keep it. With a mirthless smile, he flung his cloak and put the book inside a blacken sack that was strapped to his crimson wolfskin belt.
Without a second thought, he began to run, once again. Each step that he took made him seem as if he was flying in the air. As his speed increased, his long white furry beard swung freely as if it was being blown by a gentle gust of wind. While trying to find traces of footsteps in the ground below, he remembered his encounter with the great shadowy wolf. From its white blood-stained fangs, he had noticed that it had recently killed a human and not one of its fellow beings, as their blood was different. He knew that their acidic blood was dark blue as he had, a little while back, killed one of them, albeit, much smaller than the imposing shadowy wolf that he encountered. He smiled thinly. He was glad that he brought this cloak with him.
Although it looked old and worn, this cloak was one of his most prized possessions as he had to endure many soul-stirring circumstances to get his hands on it. When he took it from its previous master, he had discovered that within this item laid a spiritual essence gathering formation. With it, depending on how much spiritual essence he transferred to it, he could stay invisible to others for long durations of time. Even remaining invisible forever, if he imbued it with enough essence. He groaned weakly as his body began to sweat and tremble as if it were reliving a traumatizing experience. The amount of essence needed to keep this item working was staggering. He could only use it for short periods of time. Thankfully, he had just enough essence to activate it, which enabled him to escape from the clutches of the wolf.
Without warning, from afar, he heard a faint scream. The scream he heard was familiar to him. It reminded him of someone that he truly cherished with all his life. This, someone, was the one that brought him here.
“I can no longer delay…She is waiting for me somewhere…But where did this scream come from?” whispered the old man in a husky yet gentle voice. Traces of sadness and desperation could be heard coming from his words. As his thought began racing, he heard it again. The same faint scream that he heard from before. Carefully listening to it allowed him to pinpoint the exact location of the screams. His eyes widen almost as if they were going to fall out of their sockets.
“I cannot believe it came from there…Not that damn temple…I don’t want to go there… But I cannot let her die here even if it means that I have to die!” murmured the old man, his fearful voice became, once again, filled with determination. Although his voice changed, his chiseled face still carried a dark expression. An expression of panic and hate.
As he heard the distant howls of a familiar beast, he understood that the wolf had, once again, tracked his scent. His eyes filled with fury and indignation at the thought of running away, once again from a battle with that hateful beast, had softened after thinking of his love for her. He could not let his personal feelings into this matter. Increasing his speed, he, unexpectedly, noticed footprints on the ground. As he followed these footprints, he noticed that they were going in the direction of the temple, which confirmed his previous deduction.
Without looking at his surrounding, he leaped into the air and scurried towards the temple. His blurry afterimage was all that was left behind him as he hurried along to find her. As he quickened his steps, the screams grew louder and louder. He began to panic, his sweat profusely dripping down into the darkened grounds of the temple. Stepping into the entrance of the temple, he saw her, his daughter.
“No!!!!!” screamed the old man, his voice filled fear and hate as he reached out his arms to catch his falling daughter, “Cui’er…I…am sorry… I am sorry…Please wake up!!! Please!!! Heavens don’t do this to me!!! You did this to my wife and now my daughter, do you want to kill my family one by one as I watch them die?!?!”.
His panic and tearful expression could be seen in his seamed face. His wrinkles became more noticeable as his sweat and tears fell unto the brightly blood-stained floorboards. He began pouring his lifeforce into his daughter. A bright streak of green essence flowed out of his hands as it entered his daughter’s body.
“…Dad? Why are you here? I thought you hated me for marrying him…” cried the newly awaken woman, whose voice was filled with desperation and love. Her once dead and empty eyes had regained some of its colors. She could now see. No longer feeling any dizziness, she tried to stand up, but she noticed that she could not feel her legs. It felt as if she was cut into two, only being able to use the upper half of her body.
“Shh…Shh…It's okay… I don’t care about that silly stuff anymore…You can marry him if you want to…Please just return with me back to the clan…I have missed you…Please…Wait…Cui’er is your husband here? Why did he leave you like this?” asked the old man in a hushed yet hurried voice. He did not want to remain here, any longer, as he knew that the wolf had followed him to the temple’s grounds. Strangely, it had not entered the grounds, allowing him to gently breathe a sigh of relief. He caressed his daughter hair as began to think of all the events that could have befallen her before his untimely arrival. As he looked at his daughter’s charming face, the old man saw him. A newborn child that his daughter was holding tightly to her chest.
“Dad…My husband is dead…He died saving me from those creatures outside the temple’s ground…Dad…I miss him…It hurts so much…I don’t want to live in a world without him…” grieved the woman, her voice filled with longing and melancholy.
“Don’t worry Cui’er…Maybe he did not die…Umm…Umm…Cui’er, is this your son?” asked the old man, while pointing at the child that she held on her chest.
“Yes, it is…I have just given birth to him, not too long ago, in this very temple…” whispered the woman as her voice became weaker and weaker. The effects of the supplemental lifeforce given to her by her father were starting to fade.
“No!!! Please, stay awake Cui’er!! Here quickly swallow this life-restoring pill!” screamed the old man, his voice filled with dread. Sweat started dripping from his face, as he put the pill, his only life-saving treasure, into his daughter’s mouth.
As his daughter swallowed the pill, her body had returned to its peak state. Her wounds were all healed, not even a scar was left in her jade-like body. Her blood volume had fully recovered, allowing her face to repossess some of its colors. Her hazel eyes were now glimmering. She smiled broadly as she looked at her father. He had given up his most beloved treasure for her. The same treasure that he had once said to be more valuable than her life. This action left an imprint on her soul. For once in her life, she now firmly knew that her father truly cared for her.
“Cui’er, we must leave now! It is coming…I can hear it…We must leave, hurry!” urgently whispered the old man, his wrinkled face filled with anxiety. He did not want to remain here to find out if that beast could enter these accursed grounds. Seeing that his daughter was unable to stand up, even after taking his precious pill, he bent down and carried her seeminly fragile yet sturdy body on his arms.
“Cui’er please hold on tightly unto me…Hold your child tightly also…I will be traveling at my fastest speed to leave this accursed land as fast as possible!” said the old man in a raspy voice. His powerful voice had now considerably weakened in strength. After making sure he was holding his daughter and grandchild as tightly as he could unto his chest, he kicked the floor and took off. This time, he was visibly walking on the air, propelling himself forward, at an increasing speed, with his strong kicks.
After a while of dashing through the air, the temple’s outline gradually vanished from his sight. Seeing this, he sighed heavily. He knew that after safely bringing his daughter and grandchild back to the clan, he had to go back to this uncanny forest to look for his son-in-law. Pictures of the blood-stained fangs of the shadowy wolf slowly began to surface in his mind. The old man started to understand that his daughter’s husband could have been eaten by that beast, as that would explain the blood on the fangs of that wolf. Unless of course, it had killed someone else, but, who in their right mind, would enter this forest.
As his rambling thoughts continued, he suddenly stopped. Chills ran up and down his entire body, and he felt his stomach knotting fearfully. He realized that something was behind him. Turning around, he noticed a great shadowy figure. Menacingly growling at the old man, the figure let out from its mouth a jet stream of violet fumes that smelled of decaying flesh. The old man began to panic. He knew what this figure, hidden in the shadows, was. Without a second thought, he turned around and flew, at an even faster speed than before, towards the edge of the forest, hoping to reach its exit before the figure could catch up to them…