Wang Shu stood motionless, his heart seizing up with tension. At the moment, he was standing on a narrow branch atop a deep ravine. It seemed to be the only tangible thing in this place. How it came to be, he wasn't entirely sure, but figuring out where he was first is more pressing.
Everything was still. There was no sound. Thick fog encompassed his surroundings that beyond an extended hand, he could see nothing more. It was dark and ominous. The feeling of danger intensified as his instincts begged for him to run. But where to?
Wang Shu tried employing his divine sense to inspect the place, but as soon as it touched the fog he retracted it back hastily with a jolt. It felt as if it was gripped with an unexplainable force, latching securely at the net like energy and weaving itself around, heading towards him at lightning speed!
His divine sense is an extension of his spiritual powers, if he hadn't reacted in time, that force would've wound up at his Dantian, possibly shattering it or worse, killing him on the spot!
That was a close call! Wang Shu inspected his Dantian in fear and his heart almost stopped at discovering a trace of the fog squirming inside. His spiritual energy compressed it to a worm-like shadow, which kept trying to expand!
As a foreign energy, his body clamored to expel it, but its slippery nature made the task near impossible, so cornering it in his Dantian was the best next thing, and though it refused to be subdued at first, a sort of balance was created at last allowing Wang Shu to let out a shaky breath.
He was really careless.
After recovering from his fright, he started moving. Now, all he could do is walk blindly on the dead looking branch despite the threat that was sure to await him up ahead. His steps were nimble and careful. He walked forward despite his growing apprehension.
His unfaltering steps then slowed to a stop. With a bit of focus, he could hear faint whimpering sounds. In the dark, silent world they sounded especially haunting. He crept in slowly, his budding tension heightened his senses in alertness.
His silent steps halted at the sight that greeted him and he let an unconscious sigh of relief. It was the Priestess. She was laying on her belly, hugging the tree branch at his feet and shaking like a leaf. Streaks of tears fell down her face in succession, her once dignified appearance was now reduced to this pathetic, distressing state. Despite that, her observer wasn't the least bit moved.
His voice wasn't loud but the sudden jerk of the girl indicated that she heard him. Her body stilled for a moment and in a tentative whisper, she called: "…O-Oliver?"
"You're blocking my path, either get up and move on or I'll push you down." His annoyed voice sounded again.
"NO! no, please! I- I can't see." She sobbed harder, tightening her grasp on the branch in fear. Valdis knew his threat wasn't just meant to scare her. He would truly do it, just like he pushed her down the door. The little devil knows how to serve revenge cold.
"…What do you mean?" She is blind, why is it now an issue? She could get by just fine before.
"I-It's like I'm really blind. All there is is darkness. I used to be able to distinguish things by their magical energy, even if it's just a wall, I can perceive residues of magical energy on it… I wasn't really blind; it's just that I could see in a way others couldn't. But now… nothing. It's like…"
"There's no magical energy around," he finished.
"Yes," she confirmed, defeated.
Wang Shu wasn't surprised. They were in another realm, after all. One that is linked to the Nearynian kingdom, somehow. Through what, he wasn't entirely sure, but he had a gut feeling that his answer is at the end of the branch.
"Crawl ahead then."
"…W-what?" Valdis thought she heard wrong. Never had she met anyone with less compassion in her life!
Wang Shu rolled his eyes at her gobsmack appearance. It's already great mercy that he hadn't killed her by now.
"Would you rather I step on you?"
"W-what is wrong with you?! I'm a lady! How could you treat me like that?!" Though she asked unbelievably, she still conscientiously moved forward with the support of the rugged branch.
Wang Shu could care less. Even if she were a toddler, it wouldn't have mattered much. When she drugged him or forced him to this forsaken place, where were her lady manners then?
He followed after, on the alert.
Valdis' hands were rendered bloody by the sharp edges of the cracked branch and she could feel her inner thighs and knees weren't faring any better, but despite the stinging wounds, she kept on crawling with an agonized expression. She was hurt, tired and scared but the steady steps behind her reassured her somewhat. She would sometimes call out Oliver's name to make sure it was really him following behind, and only when hearing his annoyed grunt would her anxiousness subside a bit.
She wasn't even the least bit ashamed of deriving a sense of security from a kid five years her junior. Oliver never gave her the feeling of a weak chicken. Though he exhibited the innocence of a juvenile, he has the brutalness of a dominant individual, a sort of formidable prowess belonging to those at the top of the food chain.
She felt it from the moment she met him, but desperation led her to make foolish mistakes repeatedly. She could only wish for him to see how regretful she truly was and spare her life if worse comes to worst.
"Hold on tightly!" Her whirling thoughts vanished the instant she heard the loud command and she unconsciously clutched the branch tighter. As her focus returned, she felt the branch moving on its own! she yelped in fright and asked at the top of her lungs: "W-what is happening?! Aaaah! Where is it taking us?"
"We'll find out eventually, stop screaming!" Wang Shu's head hurt hearing her anguished wails. Had she not been in front of him, he would've thought someone stabbed her!
He too crouched down and held the branch securely while looking ahead in focus. A few moments later, the thick fog seemed to thin down gradually and he could clearly see the top of a cliff upfront.
As soon as they reached, he yanked the Priestess up and swiftly jumped to the solid ground, narrowly escaping being dragged alongside the slithering branch that disappeared amongst the thick foliage.
Wang Shu had a hunch as to where they might be.
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