Chapter 174: Someone else is not myself, while I’m not that someone else

While caressing his cheek, she then closed her eyes and continued saying her story.

“After I was registered as an inefficient pion, the ones working there wished to discard me by using some kind of small cards.” → Sylvia

“?!”

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Shen’s heart skipped a beat after thinking of those cards, but then he quickly calmed down, trying not to alarm Sylvia.

“Even so, with two days before I could be placed in such a card, more priests visited the place to do things like purifying, such laboratories being a farm of negativity.” → Sylvia
“…”

So they were aware… yet… purify? Like hell, you can purify that with just some superficial prayers! F****** defective religion… Only with real incantations and mantras which summon the divine light and chanted by pure souls can one purify such infested and damned places. But who the hell would go to such troubles when you can just burn the place to the ground? Such works of mad-men shouldn’t even exist. → Shen

The existence of such infested places like the laboratories would fill Sario with even more miasma, the wild thoughts and emotions created by the ones who experience such forms of torture, will create humongous bombs of dark energy to be created underground of which deadly waves will only further contaminate the pure mana that’s supposed to be used for keeping the prosperity of life on Sario. In easier terms: the collective negative energy emanated from such places will further contaminate the planet itself, as Sario tries to absorb the miasma and turn it back into neutral mana, something that’s harder and harder to do, the amount of miasma being already over the top.

 Shen shook his head as he tried to calm his mind then Sylvia continued.

“At that time when the head-priest came into the room I was in, with my blind eyes I was able to see someone with an incredibly strong and blinding aura, making me stare at him with wide-open eyes in amazement. It sounds ridiculous, I know. But it seems that I was using [Soul Eyes] without knowing. The head priest saw my shocked expression while I was blind, staring at him intently, and he immediately understood that I had [Soul Eyes], later to also learn that I was able to communicate with the goddess he was a believer of.” → Sylvia

She then covered her eyes with her arm, continuing to lay down on my lap and narrate her story.

“Afterwards it went just as I told you. The head-priest took me under his wing. He would make me study by reading books that had the words imbued with mana to be visible for me as well, he would make me tell him every vision I had with Goddess Hamata and make me write down all I was hearing or seeing that had anything to do with Goddess Hamata. Besides that, he offered me a room with a bed and a table where I could read, he would make me go and eat with the other priests and priestess, take a shower with the sisters, and continue to live my life inside the isolated temple atop a mountain… In the rare moments when I had free time, I would train my cooking skills or have someone else read for me the books that weren’t enchanted. One could say that I was living a calm and happy life there, but I never really had any love showed towards me… Maybe with some rare exceptions of some sisters which would help me with reading the books or teach me how to cook, but other than that… nothing. The foster-father talked to me before only when I had another vision, but after making me write down what I was experiencing, he would simply read the reports and ignore me completely. Everyone else would either evade me because of unjustified jealousy or because of fear of me being the head priest’s daughter. Many rumors went around because I would rarely go outside, but I had no choice but to remain inside my room, meditating, studying, and training with all my foster-father gave me, together with some extremely valuable tips that goddess Hamata told me about meditation, such growing stronger faster. However, she told me not to tell them to my foster-father, so everyone took my sudden growth in power as me being a rare genius or something. But this only made the jealous individuals raise in numbers around me, making me even more lonely…” → Sylvia

Hm… The typical sheltered princess of a strong and rich daddy… I heard this story before and is quite tragic mainly because the victim is the child, both at home and in society’s eyes. At home, they would be interdicted to do many things, while in society’s eyes they would seem like spoiled brats that have all the money and power they wish while nobody would be able to go against them. But nobody truly thinks if they can even use that power if they truly are spoiled brats that live on their parents’ backs or are just forced to become daddy’s doll and do as they’re dictated… → Shen

Shen thought with a frown then Sylvia smiled weakly and turned aside.

“Shen… When you pushed Lucy away, why have you done that and what did you wish to tell her…?” → Sylvia
“Huh?” → Shen

Shen was somewhat surprised by the sudden question but still answered accordingly.

“She doesn’t know how this world works. From what I understood from her, most of them were inside those laboratories since young so they have no idea how to survive in this world alone. I ordered them all to stay inside and wait for future orders. The fact that she disobeyed orders shows that this might prove to be another element that could bring her own demise in the future. Especially for those who are hunted or discriminated, a disciplined mind and body shall prove to be the best tool and weapon they can possess to survive. Showing signs of an undisciplined mind also proves that she might do something foolish in the future with might put in danger her own life. At worst, she might endanger even those around her, and I didn’t save them all to have them die on my watch. Also, adding the fact that she suddenly seems to show some kind of blind trust to the first person that’s kind to her also shows a severe lack of awareness. I’m not saying she should be distrustful, but she should at least be more wary, especially of someone of my caliber with such a weird mana-fluctuation.” → Shen

Shen’s voice was firm and severe, not letting room for any against. He then continued with a calmer voice, talking with a matter of fact voice.

“As for what I wished to say, I just wanted to remind her that as long as she’s under our wings she must follow orders accordingly. Till she’ll regain her freedom she must first learn the way of this world, something that even I am not yet fully aware of how this world works, but I’m confident to say that I know more than them.” → Shen
“Didn’t you wish to throw any insults as well?” → Sylvia
“What?” → Shen

Shen looked downwards at Sylvia with confusion in his eyes, while Sylvia also looked at him with a sad expression on her face. Seeing her so serious Shen just shook his head and answered with a frown.

“I have no reason to insult someone that did me nothing wrong. I might have been too aggressive by pushing her like that, but I only scolded her for not listening to orders… If you wish, I can apologize.” → Shen
“Eh?” → Sylvia

This time it was Sylvia’s turn to be surprised. She turned to face Shen and saw an apologetic look in his eyes while avoiding eye contact. She never expected the prideful Shen to propose such a thing as apologizing.

Sylvia then got up and while Shen wasn’t aware of it, she quickly stole a kiss on his cheek and got up from his lap then from her chair.

“Just this time, please listen to my plea and apologize to Lucy for being too aggressive with her. If what you said is true, then Lucy didn’t experience anything else in her life but pain and suffering. Having someone save her might be the first act of kindness she saw in her life. She grew all this time inside the laboratories and her mind might as well still be that of a child. You can’t just ask a child to suddenly grow like that, Shen.” → Sylvia
“… If she truly is a child inside, then this might prove to be more difficult as there are more like her. But either way, I accept your wish. I will go and apologise… As for you, I still say to go back to William’s house. This place will only bring you more pain.” → Lucy

Shen said with a neutral voice while also getting up from his chair and going toward the cave on his own, but Sylvia simply smiled amused then rushed toward him, holding onto his arm affectionately.

“I’m glad that you worry for me, Shen. But I can hold my ground without a problem if you’re by my side.” → Sylvia
“… Stubborn woman.” → Shen
“Just your type, aren’t I?” → Sylvia
“And modest as well.” → Shen
“Another bonus. You should be thankful.” → Sylvia

After a little while, the two of them returned back inside the cave and just as promised, Shen apologized to Lucy for being too aggressive there and then, right in front of everyone present. The bandits froze in place while even the other saved prisoners stared in shock. Lucy herself was now trembling and quickly shook her hands desperately.

“I-I do not deserve such treatment, lord Johan! P-please, don’t apologize! It was my fault for grabbing onto you like that! P-please, forgive me!” → Lucy

Feeling like this would turn out to be a bigger pain than anticipated, Shen simply nodded and asked Lucy to calm down. After everyone calmed down, Sylvia gathered everyone and because she was also an experiment, she was able to teach the ones labeled as pariah a way of cultivation and meditation to recover their strengths, learned from Goddess Hamata. The stronger ones were also taught by her forms of meditation which helped their bodies to adapt without the need for the drugs that were forced on them. She also taught them how to control their own minds which were filled with animalistic urges to destroy, devour, and kill; backlashes that appeared after having their bodies forced to absorb chi and mana to the limits, such affecting their mental state, almost turning them mad.

Two whole days it took for everyone to finally learn the forms of meditation and cultivation, such being able to calm down their wild minds and control their powers. Because this knowledge seemed extremely useful for Antara’s future, Shen thought of also learning it and write it down in two books: one entitled as Tranquil Mind, while the other one as Subdued Evil. To be sure the information was accurate, Sylvia reviewed it two more times, adding some details here and there to have the techniques as complete as possible.

Not long after, Sylvia gets contacted by Ryu to bring him there. Thinking that he might only want to first see what the future residents of Antara will be like, Sylvia didn’t suspect anything as she immediately used the entrance of the cave as a portal and teleported Ryu to us.

After Ryu arrived, she filled him in with the news and was momentarily stunned after he learned that Sylvia already knows about the experiments. He immediately contacted Shen through telepathy, not before sealing his and Shen’s minds so Sylvia wouldn’t be able to hear their thoughts by mistake.

Shen! Didn’t you say that Sylvia must not know of them? What is the meaning of this? → Ryu
It wasn’t in the plan. I can only blame destiny for things going against my wish… → Shen

Both of them sighed helplessly then Ryu went toward the group of former prisoners.

While explaining to the future residents the conditions and life-style in Antara, Ryu continued to chat with Shen inside his mind, doing something like multitasking. Shen was somewhat surprised by his quick mind but just stood by his side with Sylvia while their minds were in contact.

Sigh~… Anyway that. Does she know about the cards as well? → Ryu
No. Those are strictly confidential. I banned everyone here to talk about them. → Shen
Good. So how and when shall we free the captive ones? → Ryu
First, we make Sylvia teleport everyone into Antara and make her help them accommodate and find their own place there. You said she created a whole city from a mountain-chain? That means she knows that place the best. We’ll let the job of organizing them to her, Bernard, and Bonny. The three of them must be the ablest of this job. → Shen
I agree. But what will we do if she refuses? → Ryu
She won’t. Rather, she might actually wish to do this job herself. Her sympathetic eyes tell me that she won’t be able to leave them alone without being sure that every single one of them has been reassured with a place, food, and training facilities, being such completely integrated with Antara… Alright. Afterward, we’ll need to find a place to release the white-heads. → Shen
Heh. Is that how you call them? → Ryu
It’s the only nickname I could come up with, and the bandits call them like that as well. Calling them prisoners is worse than that nickname, don’t you think? → Shen
I agree. → Ryu

After getting to an agreement, both Ryu and Shen proposed to Sylvia what they came up with. Just as Shen expected, Sylvia agreed almost immediately while Ryu remained with Shen, using the excuse as wanting to have a man’s-talk with his brother, making even Shen roll his eyes in his head. Sylvia didn’t think too much about it as she simply shook her head amused then walked the white-heads toward the exit of the cave where she already formed the portal.

“Alright, Shen. It might take a while until I finish everything. So I will see you in about one week. King Ryu, when you wish to return please contact me. I will get you back in a moment.” → Sylvia
“For sure, Sylvia. I will do so when the time comes. Just focus on your job while us two brothers take our time to chat and brag to each other.” → Ryu
“Speak for yourself. I’d give anything for another bath in warm underground water. But for now, I still need to clean the beasts around William’s village.” → Shen
“Yes, yes. You poor hard worker.” → Ryu

While Ryu and Shen crewed around with one another, Sylvia laughed amused then, after every white-head went through the portal, Sylvia also stepped through the cave’s exit, but with a saddened expression on her face.

“?!”

This little detail was immediately caught by Shen’s eyes making him have a complicated expression with a deep frown on his face.

“Hm? What’s wrong?” → Ryu

Ryu asked confused after seeing Shen with such a serious look on his face, but Shen simply walked outside the cave, the portal was no longer there. He hastily walked toward the back of the mountain where he chatted with Sylvia, Ryu going right after him.

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“It’s nothing. Let’s go.” → Sylvia

She damn knows… → Shen

Shen’s head started to throb as he started thinking of what gave him away when he suddenly remembered the conversation they had together and how his heart jumped when she talked about the cards. The fact that Sylvia was a seer able to use [Soul Eyes] and them being so close to one another at that time, Shen feared the worst as, intentionally or by mistake, Sylvia might have read his aura and understood something out of his reaction.

And adding the fact that she’s also a former experiment, she already knows about the cards and how the underground facilities use them. Seeing how I said nothing about the cards, Sylvia brought them into discussion mainly to test my reaction… I see… So she closed her eyes to not make me feel too suspicious of her reaction while staring at me… Damn. → Shen

Shen knew better than anyone how crafty Sylvia can be. She might be sometimes too nice and naïve, but idiocy was never a trait of hers, being more aware of the things around her than Shen could ever be.

No… she’s not an idiot… I am the idiot for actually underestimating her and thinking that I’m able to hide something from her… Sigh~. → Shen

Shen massaged his nose-bridge while trying to calm down his frustrations. He understood that now he couldn’t do anything about it so he should simply do what he decided to do.

The fact that she didn’t bring this conversation further means that she either already knows what I want to do and trusts my judgment, either she’s unable to talk about such a painful subject. Although crafty and knows what true pain is, her heart is still too pure for this. → Shen

Shen then straightened his head and together with Ryu, he continued toward the ravine from before. After arriving, Shen simply jumped from the edge and Ryu followed right after, dropping in between the humongous trees, both of them shaking the ground at their landing and forming spider-web-like cracks everywhere around as the snow was completely evaporated from our ridiculous auras. After continuing onwards through the leafless trees and dry bushes, they found a little place shadowed by a kind of tree that never dried from Sario, they also made for the grass and vegetation at the base to reach at their knees. With one slow low-kick, Shen formed a wind-blade and cut the grass so it would barely reach the ankles. After cleaning like this a space of around 10m2, Shen took out around a dozen thousands of cards, all of them marked with a big black I. Ryu’s face paled at this sight, but Shen’s words only made him choose between hardening his heart or give up assisting and leave that place.

“We won’t have time to listen to every single one of their last wishes. I will free them, their bodies will collapse, and after they had their painless death, I will burn their bodies to ashes. We will release as many as possible at a time. If we can’t release at least two thousand in one day then we won’t make it until Sylvia comes back. Let’s not forget that we also have around a few thousands of the ones ranked with F and above.” → Shen
“A-are you telling me that for one week straight we’ll have to watch thousands of people die right in front of our eyes, without being able to do anything to save them?” → Ryu
“The fact that we’re releasing them from that nightmarish space is already a great help for them.” → Shen
“Y-yeah, but-“ → Ryu
“Ryu.” → Shen

Shen turned around and watched Ryu right in his confused eyes, making him freeze in place. With a firm gaze and a calm tone, Shen said.

“I won’t blame you if you wish to retreat now. But you must understand that, if not us, then nobody will take them out. I also refuse to let anyone do this. Just how many brave souls will turn weak after staring death in the eyes one whole week straight? I’m confident to say that after dying 2 times already and now being immortal, Death has close to no effect on me, but I’m not so sure about you. So In a case, you’ll feel like getting away, I won’t blame you so just retreat.” → Shen

Ryu’s face darkened as he thought for a moment. With a frown, he sighed out and somewhat conflicted he answered Shen seriously.

“It’s true that I don’t have confidence in my mental resistance when it comes to watching innocents die, but I will still keep you company for as much as I can. I won’t let you take this burden alone.” → Ryu
“… Understood. Then let’s start.” → Shen

After gazing at Ryu with a complicated glint in his eyes, Shen simply shook his head and took the first 25 cards. He placed each card on one square meter inside the 5m2 and connected with each of them with one mental string. Afterward, he focused on them and felt the chaotic energies inside it.

[Open]

With a mental command, the cards released the chaotic energies inside and together with it, the person sealed inside.

“Ugh~…”
“M-mother…?”
Huff, huff…”
Please… stop…”
“Let me… out…”
“…”

Twenty-seven individuals of various ages, genders, and races suddenly appeared inside the freed space, some of them barely awake, some still dreaming nightmares, some unable to even talk as their lungs were slowly collapsing, while others were already on their dying breath, simply moaning or barely even talking. All of them were now looking as if melting snowmen but alive and in pain.

“S-Shen… These people are…” → Ryu
“I told you. Their bodies have been under the influence of those weird substances for way too long, making for their molecules to separate in a rather mild manner. Now because of the chaotic space inside the cards, this process has been accelerated and now they look like they’re melting…” → Shen
“Wait. What do you mean the molecules are separating in a mild manner? I don’t see this as being gentle or something similar at all.” → Ryu
“In comparison with dying from an accelerated molecular separation like how happens from deadly excessive radiations, I think this is mild enough. If I’d have to choose a form of death between that of molecular instability and excessive radiation which makes the molecules even explode at some points, I’d rather choose the first one. There is not that much pain and you feel like turning into water because of the slow molecular movements.” → Shen
“Cough!”

Suddenly a little mice-girl from right in front of them coughed out a mouthful of blood. She raised one of her hands toward the sky with a glint of surprise in her eyes, then she suddenly let it fall, having more bones break from the sudden impact with the ground.

Ryu’s fists clenched turning white, while Shen sighed out helplessly.

“Even so, I won’t say it’s not a violent death as well.” → Shen
“…”

Ryu then stepped toward the young girl and gently patted her head. The girl slowly opened her almost blind eyes and a relaxed feeling enveloped her as she felt the gentle touch. Right after, she breathed out her last breath, dying with a calm heart.

“Although we can’t help them, we can still make their death gentler. Shen, please help me make these souls depart with an easy heart.” → Ryu


“I thought you only care about the residents of Antara and Antara itself? Why mind these people who have nothing to do with your kingdom?” → Shen
“… I might be a king. But foremost I’m a human, Shen. When needed I’ll always make a decision as a king, a dragon, a tyrant, or a guardian. But first and foremost, I’ll always take into consideration the most humane decision, cause this is my very first nature.” → Ryu

The serious light inside Ryu’s eyes almost made Shen forget about his dragonic features, his golden diadem atop his head, and his black royal cloak made by the pigs-men for a true ruler. At that moment Ryu truly seemed like a normal human, with sincere eyes and love for the living.

Unable to say anything against such true eyes, Shen simply sighed, got up and activated his [Shadow Clones]. However, unlike the dark and terrifying ones, these shadows actually radiated warmth and a healing aura, each one of them going beside a collapsed person and lightly patting their heads, backs, or shoulders. Their red eyes were now green, while the normal dark aura was now no longer; just 25 dark silhouettes with mild and calm green eyes, gently taking care of the collapsed ones, emanating warmth and a calming aura.

“Y-you can do this as well?” → Ryu

Ryu stared baffled at the silhouettes then at Shen who stood into a meditation posture.

“Hardly… I thought that maybe I could use the clones for something else besides spying and fighting, but controlling their aggressive nature is harder than I thought. I first need to be sure they’re at their weakest while the devil’s essence is completely purified from the mana used to create the shadows. All in all, a lot of work which makes me need to focus almost completely only on this technique.” → Shen
“I see… thank you for listening to my selfish request, man… I owe you one.” → Ryu
“No, you don’t…” → Shen

I would have done it eventually anyway. → Shen

After less than 5 minutes, every one of them died and Shen activated a small spell: [Fiery Wave], which created a controlled wave of flames that burned only the corpses to ashes, letting the remains to be scattered in the wind.

I almost forgot. → Shen

He then took out a normal [Energy Stone] and placed it in the middle of the free space, making it to suddenly absorb the energy from around.

“What is that for?” → Ryu

Ryu asked confused then Shen answered while taking out another 25 cards.

“I made that [Energy Stone] to absorb the death chi emanated around. From all the deaths that will happen here, this place will turn into a polluted area with miasma and death chi, and in the worst-case scenario, we will be the cause of creating a dungeon in here with evil spirits.” → Shen
Sigh~… So many things to worry about.” → Ryu
“That only proves the complexity of life… At birth, growth, or death, a life will always leave a deep imprint in this world. And at this moment we’ll take part at the end of many such lives, so we better understand something from this.” → Shen
“Understand what? How people die?” → Ryu
“Exactly.” → Shen

Ryu looked at Shen completely baffled while he activated another 25 cards and such summoning another 25 people on their deathbeds. The shadows then walked beside the collapsed ones and tried to relax their tense expressions, helping them to have a peaceful death. With a frown then Shen explained.

“Death is not such a tragedy as many make it out to be. It’s a moment of transition between a world to another as a soul. Even though I went through this two times already, I still can’t say confidently how it works or what this moment of crossing over actually means. Now by watching so many people die, we might be able to reach another level of understanding of the spiritual world.” → Shen
“… I understand what you say, Shen…. But I’m unable to follow your words. I can’t watch this strictly under an informative light. I-… I simply can’t… It’s just too… painful…” → Ryu

Every time he saw a child spit blood, an old man break his bones from sudden moves, a man lay down with a helpless look or a woman with a grieving expression on her face; Ryu’s heart would suddenly tighten up as his teeth and fists would clench and bleed from the inability of helping these suffering people, completely unaware of the injuries he was inducing to himself.

Seeing him like this, Shen shook his head and answered composed.

“I don’t blame you, Ryu. That compassion, that wish to help, that’s what makes you human.” → Shen
“…What about yourself…?” → Ryu
“Me? I’m half-devil, half… demi-god maybe…? Or something else that I don’t get either. But what still remains true is that… my cold rationality is almost like madness… Watching into the Dead without flinching; analyzing everything to enrichen my mental library; taking everything in the same way, not discriminating between good or evil, while trying to understand it all for my own use… This is who I am and I don’t intend to change as I feel the best way under this form. But sometimes I simply stop, take a break, and think to myself: Am I a madman? Am I still human up here in the head? What’s a normal human-being like? Am I still me from before? Or have I lost my humanity inside this vortex of life? Is it okay to go on this path when I’m not even sure anymore if bad is bad and good is good? Then I simply answer with: This is who I am. And move on, only to understand once again how different I can be, and how I can’t take anyone’s example to go after, because someone else is not myself, while I’m not that someone else.” → Shen

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