Synopsis: A fast-paced story about a youngster who loses everything and everyone he holds dear. Through the only family that still remains with him, his uncle, he gets to choose to dedicate his focus and attention to blacksmithing rather than to fall into depression and street life...
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What is lifeforce? Exactly how did it manifest itself?
It was the kind of energy that burst forth in times of need, breaking through everything that stood in its way, all to get a glimpse of the next day’s dawn.
I think that’s the kind of energy that coursed through my body this very second.
My right arm began to rapidly expand, piercing through the rock barrier it encountered. The surrounding rocks began to quake as if it was about to be split in half. In my hand were the remnants of the rock layer, crumbled like the pieces of a dry cheese.
My hand continued its unstoppable push forward as it gradually dug a hole out of this rock prison.
In the pitch black darkness of the cavern, I was unable to see what my right arm had turned into. Likely it had already dwarfed my body by several fold in terms of strength and size.
The rock wrapped around my arms like a tight fitting shirt as I tunneled through it, expending the barest of effort. Soon, I reached my maximum extension.
Halfmoon Leak’age: Di Qi Ju…you’re…
Di Qi Ju: Ah, Mr. Leak’age, is your breathing still bothering you?
Halfmoon Leak’age: Compared to that…there’s something else that’s bothering me.
Di Qi Ju: Err…I’m still unable to see a thing. Exactly what do you see?
Halfmoon Leak’age: If I had to describe it…a miracle.
Di Qi Ju: Is it really that amazing…
However…this still isn’t enough.
My arm was still surrounded by the pressing sensation of rock; I still hadn’t made contact with the surface.
There’s no way to escape with just this much.
Di Qi Ju: Release—2%!
As if it had accepted my command, a rush of energy flowed through my arm once more as it began its ascent anew.
I opened up my palms and reached upwards, the rubble in my hand accruing once more. By now, I had already lost track of how many defiant rocks I had to crush in my pursuit of freedom.
Even so, their numbers and strength were nothing before my power of growth.
At last, the sweet sound of freedom echoed in the distance. It was as if a lid had been lifted on the pent-up water boiler known as my hand. The crushing pressure of rock was suddenly gone, replaced by the cool fresh air of the surface.
I did it…
As my fingers basked in cooling caress of the wind, the unending drizzle pelting them just as it did when we left the camp.
This straight as an arrow tunnel was our ticket to freedom.
Halfmoon Leak’age: …what’s that sound?
Di Qi Ju: It should be the sound of the rubble falling onto the ground.
Di Qi Ju: I’ve…cleared the way to the surface.
Halfmoon Leak’age: Di Qi Ju…
Di Qi Ju: I’ll bring you up to the surface. Just hold on tight.
Halfmoon Leak’age: ……
Halfmoon Leak’age: ………
Di Qi Ju: That…it must’ve scared you huh?
Di Qi Ju: While I don’t know what I look like right now…it must’ve been really terrifying.
Di Qi Ju: But, since I’ve decided to do so, I’ll definitely save you.
Halfmoon Leak’age: —I think you’re misunderstanding something here, Di Qi Ju.
Di Qi Ju: …?
Halfmoon Leak’age: I’m just not happy about the fact that you called me “Mr. Leak’age”.
Halfmoon Leak’age: If you add the ravine’s depth to our current depth, this “well” is at most 300 meters deep.
Halfmoon Leak’age: How did you come to the misunderstanding that this master can’t even climb such a distance himself?
You’re joking…300 meters isn’t some climb up your average rock climbing wall.
Di Qi Ju: Err…but isn’t your head injured?
Halfmoon Leak’age: —since you have such little faith in me, why don’t we have a race to see who can get up there faster.
Di Qi Ju: ……
Di Qi JuL Alright then. If there’s any problem, I’ll come down to pick you up.
Halfmoon Leak’age: Haha, you’re overthinking things.
In that case, I’ll just take my leave.
With my hand at the side of the tunnel entrance, I gripped down onto the ground and gave it a tug. Good, it’s secured…
Di Qi Ju: Recover—My “Disguise ability”.
The immense pulling force immediately dragged me off the ground as if I was on a taut bungee cord that was about to begin its ascent.
As my disguise ability returned to its initial state, my arm began to shrink and assume human proportions once more.
Looks like this is a viable method to move around in otherwise impossible situations.
Haha, to be able to find such a brilliant solution (escape), as expected of me, the examination machine.
Under half a minute, my eyes welcomed the light of the surface as I shot through the remainder of the tunnel.
—-It’s the surface world at last.
On my left was stretch of wilderness that had sparse vegetation. On my right was the edges of a jungle that had just been burned.
Right beside me was the escape tunnel I had just used, a circular hole several meters wide.
Several meters ahead of me on the right were the signal markers we had seen just yesterday.
This is…the borders of “Starfall”.
So we weren’t that far off from Starfall after all.
That rock that made me lose my wish abilities must’ve been a part of Starfall. I should report this to the higher-ups immediately.
Halfmoon Leak’age: Phew, so this is where we ended up at.
Di Qi Ju: —-Mr. Leak’age!
Halfmoon Leak’age: You sure flew pretty quickly. The match is this master’s loss.
Di Qi Ju: No no, this is definitely your win…
If it wasn’t for his dirt-covered apparel, I wouldn’t have believed that he was at the bottom of that tunnel just a minute ago.
This fellow…is just too overpowered.
However, this bit of serendipitous surprise was definitely a welcome one.
I laid down on the sparse field of grass and closed my eyes, enjoying the soothing pitter patter of the rain on my face.
After that fiasco, I needed this moment of peace.
Whether it was the ensuing terror after losing my wish ability, the elation of making it out alive or even the tension of having to release my disguise ability, I needed this moment of peace.
Breman: Even I don’t know how I should face the both of you right now.
After being rescued by the expedition, we encountered our commander, Breman.
Breman: How many times has it been already, Di Qi Ju? First was the beastial wrath, next was the sorcerous insect, I wonder what happened this time.
Di Qi Ju: Ah ha ha…somehow it feels like I’ve been pretty lucky up till now.
Halfmoon Leak’age: …(sorcerous insect?)
Breman: —so tell me, exactly what happened down there.
Seeing that my attempts at humor had failed, I had no choice but to give him a detailed recounting of the events below.
Naturally, there were some altered portions such as how we escaped. Instead of digging a tunnel out of the ground, the story turned into one that involved explosives.
The explosives were purchased during my two days of break in the city of Honor and I had brought these along with me as I went into the cavern. It was these explosives that allowed us to blast our way to freedom.
Breman: Is that so…
Breman: So you’re saying you lost your wish abilities and your wish points after touching that rock you encountered underground?
Di Qi Ju: ……
Di Qi Ju: That’s right.
There’s no skirting around this issue. If I lied about this, it could turn into a disaster for the expedition.
That cavern did in fact, connect to Starfall.
In light of that, I didn’t dare to withhold any information and end up being responsible for sending the expedition to their deaths.
Breman: A moving rock was what triggered the cave-in? Was it truly that simple?
Halfmoon Leak’age: I can attest to that as well. We didn’t lie about this matter.
Breman: With just two of you as the witness, it’s pretty hard to prove that you aren’t lying.
Breman: Forget it, even if it’s a lie, it doesn’t matter. After all, someone had already lied twice since we started.
Di Qi Ju: …!?
Breman: There’s no need for you to be so surprised, Di Qi Ju.
Breman: Isn’t it common knowledge that explosives leave behind a residue at the end. At the very least, you should know that my adjutant, Ethan, is an alchemist.
Breman: Did you truly think that he wouldn’t be able to notice the fact that that tunnel wasn’t created by explosives.
Di Qi Ju:…
Di Qi Ju:……
I have nothing to say…what was, in my opinion, a perfect lie ended up being such a let down. I’m such a terrible liar…
Breman: Even till today, I’m not sure if I should trust you or not, Di Qi Ju.
He stared at me with a calm judging look in his eyes.
Breman: You should know what I mean by that. I still don’t know if you’re leading me into a trap or the opposite.
Breman: Objectively speaking, you haven’t caused us any losses yet, in fact, you’ve brought us some valuable intelligence and results.
Breman: Whether it was that formidable beastial wrath or that previously unknown sorcerous insect. And now, you’ve even brought us intelligence about those unexplored caverns…
Breman: However…not one of these incidents had occurred within my expectations.
Breman: Can’t you just enlighten me about this, Di Qi Ju…
Hidden within his calm demeanor was a flash of concern.
Breman: Exactly…who are you?
Di Qi Ju: I…
…can’t say it.
Initially, I was concerned that I would be treated as some sort of rare specimen once they found out that I was a transmigrator. Now, I was even more afraid.
I had friends now; while Mo Chuan wouldn’t change his view of me, this might not be so for the others.
Furthermore, today’s incident had shown me that my true form had long exceeded my own expectations. If that ever gets revealed, I will definitely be treated as a monster.
I don’t want to lose all that I’ve gained so far; no matter what, I can’t say it.
Halfmoon Leak’age: —blaming others is really easy isn’t it, Commander.
I suddenly felt a hand grip on my shoulders tightly.
He leaned close to me, his eyes however, were focused squarely on Breman.
Halfmoon Leak’age: Regarding what you asked of him, is it borne out of a soldier and superior relationship or is it borne out of a relationship between friends?
Breman: What do you mean by that?
Halfmoon Leak’age: In my opinion, what you just said was extremely strange.
Halfmoon Leak’age: If you treated him merely as a soldier, as a subordinate, you could simply toss him aside to a position where you didn’t have to worry about him.
Breman: Knowing everything about one’s soldier is a part of a commander’s duties.
Halfmoon Leak’age: That reasoning doesn’t make much sense in the expedition. Everyone here is hungry for the opportunity to display their capabilities and garner credit. Who would willingly hide their own abilities?
Halfmoon Leak’age: Regarding the missions you’ve assigned us so far, you must’ve had a number of replacements who could’ve done the job just as well. In that case, why did you have to single him out and put him in a spot where you could watch over him?
Halfmoon Leak’age: To me, this seems more like the way you would treat a friend.
Halfmoon Leak’age: However, if that’s so then this whole matter is even more laughable.
Halfmoon Leak’age: Did you know that this kid has a seasonal wolf beside him? Initially, I had my doubts about their friendship.
Halfmoon Leak’age: “Do you know what a seasonal wolf is?” “You approached him without knowing that?” —-etc etc.
Halfmoon Leak’age: Guess how he responded to me.
Halfmoon Leak’age: He said: “Human don’t consider these matters when they make friends.”
Halfmoon Leak’age: “Isn’t the whole reason for the unity and strength of mankind because we valued the feelings we experience during our interactions?”
Halfmoon Leak’age: “Matters such as benefits and losses are only reasons why friendships are broken. They aren’t barriers to forming friendships.
Halfmoon Leak’age: “These barriers…we can deal with them once we are friends.”
Halfmoon Leak’age: If you see him as your friend, is questioning him your way of befriending him?
Halfmoon Leak’age: What happened to the celebrated unity of Faith?
Halfmoon Leak’age: I’m only older than you by two years and yet I’m able to understand these principles. Don’t tell me you don’t understand them as well, Commander.
Halfmoon Leak’age: Did your overreliance on your wish ability cause you to lose your basic ability to judge a person?
Halfmoon Leak’age: In my opinion, no matter what kind of earth-shattering secrets he had, they do not justify your current behavior.
Halfmoon Leak’age: At very least, my eyes aren’t wrong about his true nature.
Di Qi Ju:…
After that machinegun barrage of words, Breman had nothing to say to Halfmoon Leak’age. All he did was throw him several glances.
Halfmoon Leak’age: If you still aren’t clear about this, how about waiting till you’ve sorted it out before asking Di Qi Ju?
Halfmoon Leak’age: As for me, how about postponing that A-grade felon punishment till I get better?
Breman: You can all return to your tent first…if there’s any follow-up orders, I’ll inform you then.
Halfmoon Leak’age: Alright, then we’ll take our leave.
Di Qi Ju:……
And so, we left the giant tent of Officer Breman. It was then that Halfmoon Leak’age gradually loosened his grip on my shoulders.
Di Qi Ju: I didn’t expect you to say those words…
However, what greeted me as I turned towards him was a pair of stern and grave eyes.
Halfmoon Leak’age: Di Qi Ju, care to explain that “sorcerous insect”?
Di Qi Ju: Oh? Errr…that huh. Actually, we encountered it in the Grand Ravine.
Halfmoon Leak’age: Was it a giant worm that was several meters tall if reared its head?
Di Qi Ju: Hmm, you’ve seen it before?
Halfmoon Leak’age: While you and Mo Chuan were on leave, I managed to catch a glimpse of the expeditionary soldiers transporting a giant carcass away for research.
Halfmoon Leak’age: So that’s a sorcerous insect…
Di Qi Ju: Is there a problem with that?
Halfmoon Leak’age: Don’t you know…the term sorcerous insects also refer to “belly worms”.
Di Qi Ju: …belly worm?
Halfmoon Leak’age: In order to prevent the digestive and immune system from killing them, a variety of poison insects would engage in mutual consumption within a section of the host body they invaded as a way to guarantee their survival.
Halfmoon Leak’age: Whether it was the Grand Ravine or that cave, we’ve never encountered a single small or medium sized animal.
Halfmoon Leak’age: That sorcerous insect should already be at the top of food chain within the surroundings of Starfall.
Halfmoon Leak’age: In order to birthe this belly worm, the owner of that “belly” must, at the very least, be several hundred times stronger than the worm.
Di Qi Ju:…
Di Qi Ju:……
The belly worm of the Grand Ravine.
The finger-like formation on the map.
Those unnatural formations of silicon dioxide.
Those aggressive vines and that surface which quaked upon being attacked…
All these clues pointed at an extremely unlikely answer.
However…if there was only one answer to this question, there was no other explanation I could think of.
Di Qi Ju: Don’t tell me…
Di Qi Ju: It’s main body is—Starfall??
Special thanks to Steve Granger!!