"Ughh," Zhen Shi groaned as he tried to make sense of the darkness surrounding him.
With his mind working on figuring out the current situation, he realized that he was completely frozen in place and unable to move. The last thing he remembered was the sound of a rumbling engine and some strange images...
Like most other days, he had been walking back to his apartment after spending a day in the regional library. He had to get ready for the flight on the next day, so he was in a bit of a hurry.
Having almost reached the top of the mountain road, he could vaguely see some of the village farmland. However, that was also the moment he realized that his damned shoelaces had become untied.
As such, like any other normal person who had no desire to trip, he had bent down to tie them up. That was when he had heard the sound of a strange rumbling vehicle which he had simply proceeded to ignore.
After all, he had to tie his shoelaces! Not look at passing vehicles like a village nincompoop!
However, to Zhen Shi's great annoyance, the sound of the rumbling engine grew closer and louder, forcing him to raise his head and... that was the last thing he did.
All he saw was a rusting bright red machine with strangely mismatched tires dashing towards him. It was puffing out clouds of pitch-black smoke that would cause the environmental authorities to scream in despair.
He also saw a fat sweating uncle running in a hurry behind this evil machine while shouting, "Aiya! My tractor is rolling down the hill!"
Just like that Zhen Shi died, pushed down the mountain by a freaking tractor.
'SHIET! I died like that?! Because of a tractor and my shoelaces? Wait... could this be the true meaning behind the danger of untied shoelaces?'
Shaking his head to forget about this shameful matter, Zhen Shi began to think about the rest of his memories. He could remember his entire life, what he had done, what he hadn't, his hopes and dreams, all useless now...
Now, he had nothing besides those memories. He couldn't feel his body, and he couldn't sense anything else either. Just a vast, cold, unending darkness...
Even after hours of thinking and contemplating, he couldn't make sense of anything around him.
There was nothing but the dark void and his own thoughts to keep him company. To make things worse, as time passed, the darkness seemed to weigh mercilessly on to his very sense of self. Under that terrifying pressure despite his struggle not to, he almost gave up completely.
Time seemed to be frozen, as seconds felt like hours, hours like years, and days like decades. As time continued to pass, Zhen Shi was barely holding on, while on the verge of flickering out forever.
Suddenly, after a moment that seemed like an eternity, a vague spark of light appeared connecting him to something… somewhere out there.
Like a dying beast grasping for straws, Zhen Shi struggled against the darkness and tried to push himself towards the light; the only real change that had happened in this endless void since the day he had been stuck here.
To Zhen Shi’s horror, he realized that he was unable to get himself to move. Almost as if he had become a part of the terrifying darkness itself.
Fortunately, before he could fall into despair, the spark of light seemed to stretch out through an immeasurable distance and wrapped around him. As it did, the darkness surrounding him began to boil and squirm, as if in disagreement. Immediately, the light increased in intensity decisively pushing the darkness away.
As this light saved him from the clutches of the dark void, for the first time in a long while, Zhen Shi could feel again. He was slowly getting his senses back!
Whatever it was that had wrapped around him, it felt light and warm, like a mother's embrace.The exact opposite of the cold merciless darkness; a warm hopeful light.
The light seemed to be expressing its regret and remorse for his current situation, as he was slowly pulled away from the dreary dark to a growing light...
Zhen Shi opened his eyes with that vast unending darkness still fresh on his mind. He was unable to move or talk, but stared up at the full moon and the star-lit sky with relief.
'FUCK! That was close. I'm glad I was saved from that dark void!'
Gradually he began to feel his body as a sense of control was slowly returned to his limbs. But he was still unable to move as he wished, so he lied down and calmly observed the beauty of the night sky; a stark contrast from the dark empty void.
"Eh? Isn't the moon a bit too large?" he surprised himself by speaking out.
Putting that aside for a moment, with the ability of speech returned, he realized that he was now strong enough to move. As such, he slowly pushed himself off of the grass and stood up.
Or at least he tried to, as his entire body was suddenly wracked with horrendous pain.
Under the mind-numbing pain, he lost control of his barely working motor functions and fell back on to the ground face forwards...
With his body falling on to the rock hard ground, his right arm had somehow found its way into a small pond causing a loud splashing sound.
Zhen Shi growled as he bit his teeth trying to stop himself from screaming out. He heaved deep breaths for several moments until the pain receded to a certain degree.
Now with the pain lessened, he struggled as he slowly sat himself down on the grass. He surveyed the surroundings trying to get his bearings and muttered, "This has to be some sort of afterlife, right? Well, at least it's better than that empty darkness."
He was in a wide clearing, rather small in comparison to the large seemingly endless forest surrounding him. The trees were majestically reaching towards the sky and their aged trunks were wreathed in ivy, ever frozen in its embrace.
Excluding the small dots of light barely visible amidst the thickness of the forest, the only source of light was the moon and the stars in the night sky. Zhen Shi could only conclude those small dots of light were signs of some manner of civilization.
Now having calmed down, Zhen Shi could hear the sound of crickets chirping along with the usual sounds of nocturnal creatures. Granted there were some that he found unfamiliar and even down-right scary.
'But this goes against most known concepts of the afterlife. How could it be so similar to a night of ordinary life?'
Just after he said that, his eyes widened as a revelation hit him, 'Could it be... but it's impossible, that I reincarnated?'
Now with great interest, Zhen Shi stood up ignoring the lingering pain and observed the sky. He noted the overly large full moon along with the unfamiliar pattern of stars up in the sky. No matter how much he tried, he was unable to find a single constellation that he was familiar with.
As such, with increasing confidence, Zhen Shi looked at his reflection in the pond which was responsible for soaking his hand. He stared wordlessly with widened eyes at his reflection in the water.
The reflection was of a refined-looking young man with scruffy coal-black hair and dark brown eyes. His body was well-defined with hints of trained muscle, but what made Zhen Shi surprised and speechless were his clothes... this was because he was wearing nothing but a loincloth covering only his front!
Fortunately, the embarrassment of being almost naked was lost amidst his rising excitement, 'It's true! The constellations and this new body confirm the possibility that I have truly reincarnated!'
Once again observing his reflection, Zhen Shi fell into thought, 'This body is pretty suitable for me. In fact, I look pretty good looking, scholarly even. However, why do I not have any memories of this world? Was there no original owner of this body?
And most importantly, why the hell am I wearing this shameless piece of cloth?! Are the heavens making fun of me for dying due to untied shoes and a rolling tractor?! Is that why I've been dressed in this thing that some aboriginal farmers use?!'
He stared at his reflection while wallowing in embarrassment and confusion.
Suddenly a light shadow dashed past Zhen Shi, causing him to completely forget his embarrassment and take a step back in surprise.
The shadow slowly cleared to reveal a young girl.
Zhen Shi's face froze, as he stared at this sudden and unexpected arrival.
This girl had long luxurious silver hair tied up into a ponytail shimmering under the moonlight. Dressed up in dark golden robes that were tightly wrapped around her petite body, her face was scrunched up in worry as she stared back at the direction she had come from.
She wordlessly unsheathed a yellow-earthen sword from her back.
Several more shadows formed right in front of her, revealing a group of ten men dressed in dark black robes. The man who was in the very front of the group took a single step forward.
With a lecherous grin, he shouted, "Zou Rou, running away is pointless. It's obvious that we'll catch up with you once you run out of energy. So, obediently hand us the pill and come back with us to the sect, that is, if you know what's good for you..." The other men stared with shining eyes and began to laugh in agreement.
Zhen Shi was mind blown, 'People who can dash about like the wind? Pills? Sects? Could it be that this world is one of martial arts and cultivation?'
Zhen Shi didn't dare believe it completely, afraid of being face slapped back to reality. Still, he gripped on to a small hope that everything was true exactly as he had figured!
As such, perhaps because he was delirious after his reincarnation, Zhen Shi couldn't help but start imagining about flying in the sky, fighting evil, killing monsters, saving people and maidens in distress, and face slapping all those who dared to underestimate him!
However, his joy did not last long, because he suddenly paused in realization and fear. This was because he could feel that these people in front of him could kill him as easily as breathing, 'Fuck! Am I expected to handle mid-level bosses when I just started a new game?'
Conflicted about the current situation, Zhen Shi began to contemplate his next move.
He could either wait for some cheat power to be granted to him like in most fantasy stories and save this girl or... make a 'tactical retreat' if things ended up differently.
Zhen Shi was aware that events would more likely be biased towards the latter and so was slowly planning his escape. After all, he wasn't planning on dying immediately after reincarnating into a new world.
Fortunately, none of these 'martial artists' paid any attention to this scantily clad mortal who was frowning his brow in deep contemplation.
"Bastards of the Xue Yue clan, you'll have to take it back over my dead body. Let's fight!" shouted Zou Rou as she took the initiative to attack dashing forward with her sword.
"Well you asked for it," said that man still grinning lecherously. He waved his hand and the entire group of cultivators unsheathed identical dark black blades. They shifted into a strange formation and held their blades with calm eyes, causing a dark black miasma to appear over their bodies and blades.
At the same time, Zou Rou slashed her sword at the Xue Yue cultivators, launching a deadly streak of golden sunlight.
In response to that all of the black-robed Xue Yue cultivators swung their blades in retaliation, syncing with each other perfectly. These dark black slashes combined and strengthened each other, ultimately forming a terrifying shadow streak!
A vague image of a roaring monster appeared within this shadow slash, as it streaked towards the slash of golden sunlight, roaring in anger.
The energy slashes clashed generating a violent gust of wind and energy.
The streak of golden sunlight didn’t last long and dissipated almost immediately. It seemed that Zou Rou was unable to handle the combined attack of ten cultivators.
She was thrown back like a broken kite while coughing blood from her mouth and momentarily fainted.
The group of black-robed martial artists laughed in satisfaction while moving closer to grab this Zou Rou.
Despite the fact that Zhen Shi had been planning his escape, the moment he saw those terrifying sword slashes, he had been rooted to the spot out of fear. However, those humanely impossible sword slashes also caused a hint of excitement to grow within him, 'This is undeniable proof! I definitely reincarnated! And this world is not ordinary at all!'
Fuelled by this excitement, seeing the girl about to get hurt and suffer in the hands of these lecherous men, as fearful and terrorised as he was, Zhen Shi could not stop himself from instinctively jumping forwards to stop them.
Even as he did this, he couldn’t help but think, 'SHIT! Am I really going to die trying to be a hero of justice? At the very least it'll be more dignified than the last time! But why do I feel like a certain green-haired Deku unable to control himself from saving others?'
Pushing aside those thoughts, Zhen Shi steeled his mind and threw away the instinctual fear arising in the face of the powerful auras seething from these black-robed Xue Yue sect cultivators.
Having already jumped in front of the fainted girl it was too late to run away from this situation. And so Zhen Shi decided to face this hopeless situation with bravery and style!
He grinned and responded to the surprised black-robed men while shouting, "You shameless bunch of pigskins! Do you think you can gang up on an innocent girl when this handsome and scholarly self is here?"
The black-robed members of the Xue Yue clan immediately stared at him with growing anger and rage.
Despite his initial bravado, Zhen Shi gaped as he watched a terrifying dark black energy manifest around their bodies along with another energy targeted specifically at him.
Facing the ten cultivators, he felt like a prey in front of a predator; a grasshopper trying to stop a train. Zhen Shi could only conclude that this was the famous killing intent!
Nevertheless, he took a deep breath and controlled his fear. Even with prior knowledge of cultivators, being able to control his fear in the face of their unhidden killing intent was rather miraculous. This could only be attributed to the eternity he had spent within the void which had tempered his will, and his sudden reincarnation which was dulling his sense of logic.
"A non-cultivator dares to talk back to us of the Xue Yue clan with such a foul mouth. Dressed like a barbarian no less? If you crawl down and beg for mercy we might trouble ourselves to give you a clean death," shouted out one of the Xue Yue cultivators.
Surprisingly, despite their threat, they didn't attack. Probably because they were extremely confident in their combined power while in battle formation. They wouldn't be unnecessarily frantic to kill a mortal and capture a single foundation establishment girl. At the same time, the majority of them wanted to relish watching the helpless prey squirm under their power.
Noticing their reaction, despite his attempt to hide it, Zhen Shi's stomach clenched in fear.
He wasn't afraid of course! 'Preposterous! Who dares say that?' It was just that the lunch that the former owner of this body must’ve eaten wasn't agreeing with him.
Zhen Shi quickly pushed all these irrelevant thoughts out of his mind. With these cultivators locked on to him, he desperately tried to think of some way to survive. Remembering the rules of reincarnation, he focused all of his thoughts and efforts into discovering some sort of cheat or golden finger he could use to turn things around.
In the face of death, people tend to put their hopes in things that even they would find nonsensical in other instances. It was the same for Zhen Shi...
Honestly, he was only barely aware that he was seeking death by jumping in front of these men. Having just reincarnated into another world, after god knows how long in that dark void, everything seemed unrealistic and unbelievable no matter how familiar he was with the concept.
Since he had been unable to watch this Zou Rou be tortured by these men, he had instinctively stepped in. Now he was putting all his hopes of survival on the legendary 'gift pack' of reincarnation.
His eyes glowed as he figured that the only cheat that could save him instantly at this moment was one of those 'legendary' systems. As such, he immediately put his slight hopes of survival on this 'system'...
Almost a lifetime of an instance of failure later, Zhen Shi was sweating heavily. In fear? Of course not! He was simply angry that his system was too much of a coward to come and help him!
Honestly only a moment had passed, but the 'angry' Zhen Shi had felt that it was much longer.
'Shit, where's my system? Is it in my loincloth? But my loin-cloth is completely packed. And there is no space for a system, so probably not!' He felt like flipping a table... (╯°□°）╯︵ ┻━┻.
As time passed and the energy of the cultivators reached a crescendo, with no signs of a 'system' to save him, Zhen Shi realized that he just might die again on his very first attempt at being a suave hero.
He couldn't help but shiver at the memory of the desolate void, but, he wasn't a coward either. Now with his 'only hope of survival' disappearing, he could only accept his possible death. As he did, a sense of fearlessness he never knew he had, arose...
His mentality was more mature than most with the greater part of his former life spent neck-deep in academic pursuit and entertaining fiction. Most importantly, he had spent some time in the terrifying dark void. So despite only having lived until barely becoming an adult, his knowledge, experience, and strong will, greatly reduced his fear of death.
As such, he decided he would go out with a 'bang' if he truly had to die, or at the very least extend his now terrifyingly short lifespan, so that the fainted girl could wake up and hopefully give him the opportunity to survive a bit longer. Even then, Zhen Shi knew that his chances of survival were very low.
Now that things had come this far he decided to throw everything to fate. He grew even calmer as he accepted this fact. There was no way he was going to die on his knees begging.
He would only die after leaving his memory seared on to the minds of these damned cultivators!
However, it was true that he was only a simple mortal. If he wanted to make these cultivators sweat and shiver in fear, to truly make sure that they never forgot him, he was going to have to completely surprise them.
As an ordinary mortal fellow, there was only one way he could think of to achieve this… and that was to recount some of the most legendary stories and tales he had read back on earth!
With an emotionless and aloof expression as if the entire world was beneath him, he serenely spoke up, "I have witnessed countless legends being born and countless men reaching the heavens with their own effort! The heavens were sealed, eternal immortality was achieved, flames were conquered, otherworldly invaders were beaten, peace was established between warring nations, and countless gods were slaughtered..."
The black-robed cultivators of the Xue Yue clan were rather stunned by the mention of such unbelievable actions from a mere mortal.
Their aura and killing intent reduced slightly as they grinned in amusement and one even said "Shameless braggart, your words are truly amazing! Come along then, entertain us more!"
Alas, despite their disbelief, in a way Zhen Shi had truly witnessed these events.
He continued to reminisce about all the novels and stories where he had witnessed heaven-defying main characters who had always come out on top. Now that he was in a similar life-threatening situation, reminding himself of things that he was familiar with helped to reduce his fear. He knew that those stories were fiction, but somewhere deep in his heart, he held onto a belief that they were actually true!
Now having completely calmed down, along with his speech and thoughts, his own spirit was being stirred. He was slowly developing a strong will and intent to lead an awe-inspiring life!
Even while the cultivators of the Xue Yue clan were eyeing him as prey on the chopping block, Zhen Shi calmly changed topics.
There was one other thing he had truly loved to throw himself into. He was a bookworm who had loved to read books of any sort. Be it fiction, non-fiction, thesis, philosophy, physics, chemistry, history, business, and etc. Even then, a topic he truly loved was ancient mythology!
In his previous life, despite living an ordinary life, he had been all over the world with his parents who had to frequently travel due to work. However, they had mostly been busy with work. In fact, if he hadn't been killed, he was supposed to be on his way to another country the next day...
As such, despite having traveled worldwide, he had spent the majority of his life on his own. But frequent travel had caused a passion for various cultures to arise in him. This had ultimately led him into philosophy and mythology!
The tales of gods in different parts of the world, their struggles for power, their abilities and powers, and the possibility that they truly existed in the past excited him beyond measure!
Seeing that his life may truly end here, he figured he might as well die with the things he had been passionate about. Most importantly, seeing that recounting fiction had only had minor effects, Zhen Shi figured that this was the only way to make these damned cultivators truly feel fear and shock, and make sure that they never forgot him...
Thus with unwavering determination and a confident voice he spoke out, "Let me mention some truly almighty personas,
Zeus, the God of Lightning and Thunder, the leader of the pantheon originating from none-other than CHAOS!
The World Tree, Yggdrasil, rooted within the waters of the Norn, which bears the nine worlds of existence!
Odin, the all-father, who mastered the Runes and Seither magic disregarding the opinions of others, and originated from Ymir the father of all giants!
Atum-Ra, the Creator God, who was born of the empty waters of Nun and gave life to the world!
The lesser-known but undoubtedly powerful Heka, who viewed the creation of the universe itself, and was the personification of magic!
The Three Pure Ones, who created existence and as a whole completed the ephemeral and formless Dao!
The Jade Emperor of Eastern mythology, who rules the universe with all immortals including the Taoist and Buddhist factions beneath him!
Sakyamuni, the most recent Buddha who overcame worldly attachment, bringing peace to the masses!" finishing his words with heavy breath.
But the cultivators of the Xue Yue clan were staring in surprise and horror as this random mortal shouted out those all too familiar names. They were extremely surprised by the way he had talked and the words he had spouted at the moment of his death.
In fact, they had actually been frozen in place until he had finished speaking.
Just as Zhen Shi finished, the apparent leader of the group returned to his senses and shouted out hurriedly, "Attack! That was a chant to the gods! He might be a potential divine prophet! We can't let him complete his preparation!"
As if death was looming over them, the group of cultivators dashed towards Zhen Shi while brandishing their swords.
In an instant, all the cultivators had covered the distance between them. There swords were only mere inches from his body.
It was a single second, but to Zhen Shi, it was comparable to a lifetime...
He was extremely satisfied by this turn of events. Even though he was only a mortal, he had made those lofty cultivators feel genuine fear! He had made a herd of lions fear an ant!
But in the end, Zhen Shi was still unwilling to die so soon after his sudden reincarnation.
His passion for knowledge, all that which he had enjoyed in his past life, combined with the desire to grow stronger in this new world, resonated with his heart and soul.
Although he could see death arriving as the swords of the Xue Yue cultivators grew closer, he continued to shout out in his mind, 'The path to the heavens is difficult and riddled with countless obstacles. Now that things have come this far, the only thing that can grant me the chance to survive is a SYSTEM! Since I have reincarnated and been given a second chance, I refuse to die a useless death!
IF I DON'T GET A SYSTEM... WHO WILL??'