Perhaps his reactions were simply too quick for us, but we were too enthralled by the scene to react to the command.
We merely stood there watching as if we were looking up at a God.
From the way the jungle grew off the giant rock above us, it was almost as if we were looking at a enormous float island. The giant rock hand loomed over us like a God overlooking his faithful.
In my eyes, it was the same as that giant tsunami that brought me to this world…
There’s no hope…this is just too…illogical.
Ethan: —everyone retreat!!! YOU HEAR ME!! RETREAT!
Ethan: Are you listening to your officer’s command!? Retreat!
Ethan: Get on your wilderness eagles now!!
The bellowing finally brought everyone back to their senses.
Amidst the rumblings of stone and wind, the soldiers scrambled to their feets and sprinted towards the location where the eagles were kept.
Even though each and every one of them were elite scouts, even though they’ve been through countless dangers that men couldn’t even dream of…
…at this very moment, all they could was run!!
As they mounted their wilderness eagles, it was more of a survival instinct that guided their actions rather than their technical knowledge of the wilderness eagles.
Soon, there were only four people left behind in the camp, Ethan, Breman, Mo Chuan and me.
Whiz whiz whiz—–
The whizzing sounds of the eagles taking off filled the air behind as their wide wings took to the air and unfurled with a crisp flap. Even without looking, I knew that the scouts had managed to mount their eagles successfully.
Ethan: —Sir Breman! Let’s go!!
Breman: It’s moving.
His calm proclamation of doom immediately brought our attention back onto the catastrophe in front of us.
It shifted his gargantuan hand to the left and with a slight twist of its body, swept across the area as if it was swatting aside a fly. It sounded almost like a reaper’s scythe as its mere movements cut across the air.
Ethan: It’s heading for us—
Mo Chuan: …no, its distance seems off!
As the giant disaster swept across the camp, the rock and plants on its hand barely missed us as it continued its destructive path.
I instinctively stepped backwards as it swept past my face, the crevices and the vines on its craggy exterior clearly visible to me as it did so.
That’s…the finger we blew off.
If it wasn’t for Operation Finger Severance working out, we might’ve been reduced to a pile of meat by now.
However, right as it passed us, the ensuing shockwave crashed right into us, knocking down the frail Breman.
Within the whirlwind of forces ravaging our camp, a rock about three to four meters wide sped towards us, heading right for the fallen Breman.
Ethan: —Sir Breman!
The adjutant immediately leaped out in front of Breman and held out his powerless looking arms as if he was trying to block the incoming rock.
Just as I thought they would be reduced to a pair meat pancakes, the giant rock suddenly broke apart into a pile of pebbles and sand.
The remnants of the giant rock pelted us, carried by the raging winds around us.
Was that his ability at work? The ability of an alchemist?
Ethan: Sir Breman!! Let’s go!!
Breman calmly got to his feet as if nothing had happened. Even in the face of such danger, he maintained his state of mind. No matter who it was, the commanders of the expeditionary forces of Faith were all exceptional pioneers and explorers. In the face of the unknown, Breman maintained his usual dignity and determination, not intending to retreat at all.
Breman: Ethan, I order you to retreat with your wilderness eagle. Right away.
Breman: As the commander, I have to stay here to witness our last moments.
Breman: The shame ends here today! The only thing that can be passed on is glory!!
Breman: Don’t tell me you wish to witness the sight of me getting beheaded by the next commander?!
Ethan hesitated, his eyebrows furrowed as he wrestled with thoughts I couldn’t even fathom.
Finally, he raised his hands in a salute.
Ethan: Yes Sir!
Di Qi Ju: ……
Ethan was now gone and the disaster in front of us moved once more.
The giant hand slowed its sweep, raising its rocky body instead.
Was this how Sun Wukong felt when he was trapped under the Five Finger Mountain?
This hand…Starfall…did it wish to squash us?
??: …Di Qi Ju…
Di Qi Ju: …???
Di Qi Ju: …Mo Chuan, why aren’t you running?
Mo Chuan: What about you? Why are you just standing there?
Di Qi Ju: …it’s calling out to me.
Mo Chuan: …??
Di Qi Ju: I think I just heard its voice…Starfall’s voice.
Mo Chuan: It’s probably your imagination.
Di Qi Ju: Hey Mo Chuan, can you do me a favor?
Mo Chuan: Sure. But if it requires a wish, I’m afraid we don’t have the time for that.
Di Qi Ju: It’s not that complicated…
Di Qi Ju: Take Breman away with you on the wilderness eagle. And—don’t come back no matter what.
Breman: What are you doing, Di Qi Ju?
Mo Chuan: Oh that’s it? That’s easy.
In a flash, his furry silhouette scooped up Breman by his waist with a mighty lift of his arm.
Mo Chuan: Di Qi Ju, what about you?
Di Qi Ju: I’ll be right behind you. Don’t tell me you don’t even trust me?
Mo Chuan: ……
Mo Chuan: I guess it is possible given all the mysteries surrounding your body.
Mo Chuan: —it’s settled then, Commander, it’s time for us to retreat.
I watched as he carried off the frail figure of Breman who laid in his arms, powerless to break free. With his remaining arm, he opened the black coffin-like chests. The wings of the wilderness eagle snapped open and formed a 45 degrees angle to the ground.
In a swift motion, he secured the straps and grabbed onto the handle bars, ready to take off at a moment’s notice.
Breman: Leave the ignition to me, Mr. Seasonal Wolf.
Mo Chuan: …??
Mo Chuan’s eyes widened in shock as a thin red line streaked across the arm that restrained Breman.
Breman stared at him expressionlessly as he threw away the dagger in his hand.
His injured arm began to tremble uncontrollably as it began loosening its grip on Breman.
Di Qi Ju: You…
Breman: Don’t worry, it’s a tranquilizer, it should run out in a few minutes.
Breman: Goodbye, Mr. Seasonal Wolf.
As he slipped past his burly restrains, Breman immediately launched the wilderness eagle.
Whoosh—the wilderness eagle rapidly shrunk into the horizon, extending its sails to the maximum just before it left my sight.
Mo Chuan had circled around us for a moment before finally taking off into the distance.
Di Qi Ju: Breman…why?
Breman ignored my question and continued staring coldly above him. Suddenly, he made a mad dash for the sides.
Breman: …it’s coming down!!
It was at this moment that I discovered that the shadow around me was significantly thicker and the sounds of grinding stone, louder.
It’s descending! The giant hand of Starfall was descending!
I ran like my life depended on it, which it literally did. As I turned around to take a peek—
—it’s too late.
The finger above was still several seconds away from landing but its vastness snuffed out any hope of us ever leaving its shadow.
It’s too late…
I stared at the slender back of Breman, unable to see the expression on his face from here.
What’s on your mind right now? Why are you so adamant about staying?
Is honor that important to you? Even more important than your own life? Even more important than the people who care about you?
Is it worth shouldering all these for that intangible sense of honor?
Exactly who can you save by doing so?
If Starfall was to continue its rampage, who would be there to stop it?
All it took was for it to cross the Grand Ravine, raze the city of Honor and it then had free path to the center of human civilization.
All that sacrifice and contribution, it would all be for naught…
You might be bound to your sense of values and duty…
—but those rules and principles don’t apply to me!!
Di Qi Ju: —Breman!!!
My arms collided with Breman’s shoulders as I dived on him.
In front of me was the stunned face of Breman and the darkening shadow of Starfall. My limbs landed on the floor with a crash. I braced my body and immediately raised what was in my opinion, my strongest arm, the right arm.
*crash, crash, crash, crash—-*
A thunderous booming resounded painfully in my eardrums as the giant finger smashed into the ground.
The front of the campsite was reduced to rubble in an instant.
It almost felt like the weight of the world had landed on my right arm. It was a sensation I had never experienced before ever since I made that wish.
It was like that stack of revision notes I had to carry for the whole of high school…it felt almost impossible to bear and yet I did.
With the protection of my wish abilities, physical forces such as these weren’t able to kill me. All I had to was persevere, as long as I did that, I wouldn’t get squashed…
…and Breman would be safe as well!
Di Qi Ju: …hey, what are you…doing?
Di Qi Ju: Leave quick…
It’s so heavy…I can’t take it…
The giant finger had almost forced its way onto the ground. As I stood there defiantly, a rain of mud pelted me. This were from the soil unearthed when Starfall lifted itself off the ground.
I bet if it wasn’t for that layer of soil, I would’ve lost the three wishes I had just made.
As a stream of light sneaked past the looming hand, I managed to catch a glimpse of Breman’s face up close. A couple of silvery droplets reflected a sliver of light as they rolled down his face.
Di Qi Ju: ……
The Breman before me wasn’t the elegant Breman during our selection test nor was he the dignified Breman standing before his troops…what was laid before me right now was a frail Breman that anyone would’ve protected, comforted.
This…was this what you truly looked like?
He was uninjured but all the strength had already left his body. As if…he was an empty husk devoid of any hope.
Di Qi Ju: Hngh…!
The immense weight bore down on me once more, crushing my arms with a foreboding sense of numbness. My body pressed against Breman’s as it caved slightly under the pressure. As my head laid on his chest, I felt an unusual softness that I wouldn’t expect from a soldier.
My nose was assailed with a strange scent that stirred my hormones in an inexplicable way…
Di Qi Ju: Breman, you…
Breman: It’s over.
He stared lifelessly in front of us as he smiled faintly.
Breman: …this is the fate of humanity’s expedition, Di Qi Ju.
Breman: When I was young I used to wonder, why would the most technologically advanced division of the army be sent to perform such a task?
Breman: After experiencing the wild unknown for myself, I finally understood. There’s no difference between this and the killings on the battlefield…
Breman: …it’s a gamble with one’s life as the stakes.
Breman: It’s the same whether you are a soldier or a commander.
Breman: Unfortunately for me, I made a wrong bet this time…
Di Qi Ju: ……
Di Qi Ju: Why do you…say that?
Breman: …at the very last moment, I decided to place all my bets on you.
Di Qi Ju: ……
Breman: I had a feeling from the moment I met you. It was a hint of sorts, originating from my wish ability to detect traps, however, this one wasn’t the same as the others…
Breman: It was probably the first time I felt the opposite reaction from my wish ability.
Breman: For me who had grown up accustomed to the danger, this was an extremely precious thing I had just experienced.
Breman: And you’ve shown me as well, that you had an ability that no ordinary man could compare to…
Breman: But this opponent…
Breman: …wasn’t one that I should’ve gambled with.
Di Qi Ju: ……
Breman: I’m sorry, Di Qi Ju…
Breman: The one who should leave is you.
Breman: With your abilities, you might still survive.
Breman: Tell Ethan, he’s now in charge of the expedition, tell him to preserve the lives of the expeditionary forces to the best of his abilities.
Breman: …promise me you will fulfill this last request of mine, Di Qi Ju.
Di Qi Ju: …
Di Qi Ju: ……
Di Qi Ju: Alright, I promise you, Commander.
Di Qi Ju: In that case, as a member of the expeditionary force, the first person I’m going to protect is you.
Breman: This isn’t the time for this…
Di Qi Ju: —if you go back on your words so easily, you’ll put me in a spot, Breman.
Di Qi Ju: The consequences of your bet, please bear it till the end!
Di Qi Ju: No matter what’s the outcome…please see it to the end!
With the last ounce of strength in my body, I pushed my upper body off Breman.
I gritted my teeth as I straightened my waist and desperately tried to lift my arms off the ground.
If I was still the Di Qi Ju on Earth, I would’ve never been able to fight against such a monstrous foe…
But if this was the body given to me by God, why should it lose to this monster?
As my thigh muscles tensed up, driving the energy from my waist to my feet, I slowly raised my knees into a kneeling position.
The rumbling sounds of rocks echoed in my ears as I forcefully stood up under the pressure of the giant finger.
Breman’s eyes were no longer glazed over, instead they had a look of confusion and disbelief in them.
I bit down on my teeth and forced out one last smile.
Di Qi Ju: —-OH WESTREALM!!
I howled at the top of my lungs, my voice joining in the fight against the overbearing pressure.
Di Qi Ju: Please release the disguise on my body. Let Starfall understand exactly what kind of existence it is dealing with!!
Di Qi Ju: —-50%!!
Special thanks to Steve Granger!!
Synopsis: Somewhere in the universe, there was an altar. On it, laid a bloody eye as big as the sun itself. It burst with light and bathed the entire star system in red.
"The aura of an ancestral artifact!" Someone's voice rose in surprise.
The Great Galactic Era had begun.