Chapter 10: Survival

The wall that Zhang had erected was about to fail, he did not have enough power to sustain it.
In front of the trio was a cliff to which they could not see the bottom and behind them was a pack of One Eyed Hellhounds.

While being cornered a sudden thought entered Zhang’s mind. The black fire that practically allowed him to escape hell. Although he did not have his pendant anymore, Zhang would still be able to barely conjure a bit of black fire. But since he was no longer in the underworld, Zhang could not summon thousands of black flames anymore.

“Let’s see how much of it I can conjure on my own.” Zhang murmured as he channeled his essence and tried to conjure a black flame. Soon a tiny black fire appear on his finger tip.

“Well fuck….” Zhang cursed. The flame was tiny and looked like it could go out any second.

But this tiny black flame was still capable of claiming the life of the unlucky soul that went against him. Well only if they were not much stronger than him. And of course, if he was able sustain the flame long enough to hit them.

As the wall began to flicker and fade away, Zhang decided to take a gamble. He ran back towards Yuying and Ai and put an arm around each of their waists and hopped off the ledge of the cliff. The three of them fell into the darkness.

A loud splash was heard moments later.

There was a large underground lake at the bottom of the cliff. The water in the lake was crystal clear and many fish could be seen swimming below.

Yuying was the first one to make it to the shore because Zhang had to help Ai. She sadly did not know how to swim.

The particular shore they swam to was sort of cut off and was only a small piece of land sticking out the side of a wall. One end of it was higher than the other and was unreachable from the water. This made for an ideal resting place because there was only one way up or down making it easy to guard.

Zhang dug a small hole and used his essence to form a regular fire in the hole. This fire would be sustained by his essence because there was nothing to use to fuel it.

Then he walked knee deep into the water and did something miraculous. Zhang was able to catch fish with his bare hands. While in the Underworld, Xin Tao had taught him how to clear his mind and heighten his senses which he was making full use of it right now.

He can anticipate where the fish were going to swim to, he then quickly grab them and toss them ashore. After catching three big fish he began grilling them.

All three of them were extremely hungry due to exploring the caves all day and then being chased by demonic beasts. So the fish quickly disappeared and Zhang had to go catch more.

After a few trips into the water and everyone’s stomachs was full, it was time to rest.

“Ah that was pretty good.” Yuying said.

“Anything is good when one has an empty stomach.” Zhang chuckled as he thought how as a princess in the underworld Yuying probably has eaten many of the delicacies the world had to offer.

It was decided that the girls would sleep first and Zhang would keep watch for a while to see if any danger was present. After a few hours Zhang began to doze off and eventually fell asleep also.

Although he fell asleep, Zhang was only able to rest for a few hours before he woke up. Sleeping on the ground in an underground cave was not a very ideal place to sleep.

So he decided to try meditating and try the idea that he had came up with earlier. He sat cross-legged with the Underworld Heart placed in front of him. Zhang closed his eyes and sent a bit of energy into the Underworld Heart and it floated up in the air.

Zhang was going to use the Underworld Heart to channel natural essence into his body and increase his cultivation.

Normally, this could not be done but thanks to the Underworld Heart’s ability to control essence he was able to accomplish it.

Usually, cultivators would overtime generate their own essence within their bodies or took pills or used various means to induce more essence into themselves.

Some consumed plants that possessed high concentrations of essence in the form of pills. Some people even absorbed the soul of others. Being a soul of a person or animal, it would be much easier to absorb into one’s body. This was due to the essence having been originally from a person or animal.

But now Zhang was doing something that had never been done before. He would channel the natural essence in the air to the Underworld Heart the into his body and used it to strengthen his own production of essence.

He sat there as the Underworld Heart absorbed the essence in the air around it and sent strands of green energy to him. After an hour, he felt that his cultivation had increased one level.

Had Zhang not acquired a newly formed body, this would have taken much longer. Naturally, a newly formed body or a baby’s body that had not been aged was able to retain more energy and thus develop much quicker.

Zhang continued to mediate for another two hours however he did not breakthrough again. What he didn’t know was the Underworld Heart made the essence, in the area around Zhang, too sparse. This was due to it having absorbed a large portion of the essence in the area earlier and it would take some time for essence to once more fill the air again.

Yuying and Ai had woken up as Zhang was meditating but they decided not to bother him, so they sat and quietly chatted with each other. Yuying was telling Ai various stories of this and that. Because Ai cannot remember anything before meeting Yuying and Zhang, Yuying had to take the initiative.

As she told the stories she had come to realized that Ai was lacking a lot of common sense and had little knowledge of everyday things. But this might have had been due to memory loss as well

After eating their fill of fish, the trio began exploring once more. They had swam from one shore to the other. The shore nearest to them had a single large tunnel entrance.  This tunnel was also lined with glowing stones and provided a lot of light.

The tunnel began to broaden as they walked into it and eventually opened up into a large room. The first thing that caught Zhang’s attention were many shiny things scattered all over the ground. Upon closer inspection these were gold coins.

However, Zhang was not able to tell which kingdom they were from. Being the son of the clan who controlled all the trade in the eastern border of the Heilong Kingdom Zhang was very well versed in many types of currency available in the continent. But he had never seen coins minted like these before.

Perhaps they were coins from some long forgotten kingdom that had long been forgotten in history. Nonetheless these coins were still made of gold and could prove to be useful later on after leaving this place. So Zhang and the girls collected them and put them into an old rag Zhang had found laying around.

After picking up all the gold coins in the room they entered into another tunnel. As they walked, they continued picking up gold coins that were littered on the ground.

Soon, they entered another opening. This one had a lot of coins also but alongside the coins were many skeletons.

In the center of the room was a small mound of gold coins and on top of these a flag was sticking out.

The flag had a skull and crossbones on it. Clearly it was a pirate flag and from the clothing of the skeletons.

“Pirates…” Zhang thought.

Some of the skeletons had swords sticking out of them. The pirates he most likely fought amongst themselves for the treasure and ended up all perishing.

“Well a man’s misfortune was another man’s lucky day”, Zhang thought. He picked up a rusty sword sticking out of the skeleton and handed it to Yuying and then took one for himself.

They decided not to disturb the skeletons anymore, beside from plundering the gold coins and swords they could have salvaged some of the clothing on the skeletons but decided against it.

After leaving the room, they walked into another tunnel, they saw another skeleton, this one was hugging a large leather sack. Zhang picked up the sack and opened it to found out that it’s full of gold coins and a piece of really old looking paper.

He plucked the piece of paper out of the sack and unrolled it. Turned out this piece of paper was an unfinished map of the cave system. Although it was unfinished, it showed a way out from the place where they currently were to the outside world.

From the map, they could tell that the cave system was massive and if they did not find this map and kept wandering around, they could easily spend months on end roaming the caves.

The map even had the territory of various demonic beasts that lived in the caves marked and labelled. Besides the One Eyed Hellhound there were 3 other groups that called these caves home. There were Gigantic Iron Furred Rats. Which had fur as tough as iron and lived in huge groups. Then there were Silverback Bears, that grew to be twice the size of a regular bear and had thick silver fur that covered its entire body. Lastly there were the Acid Spitters that were giant roaches that spit acid.

Luckily, they were able to avoid all these groups of demonic beasts thanks to the map. However, they almost had a few close encounters with these beasts, luckily, nothing happened.

The map had a chamber label that intrigued Zhang. It was a chamber filled with many types of crystals. Some of these crystals were made up of naturally condensed essence. The crystals would take centuries to naturally form and looked extremely beautiful. Taking so long to form also meant that they were very rare and valuable.

But Zhang had something else in mind. He would use the Underworld Heart to draw out the pure essence from the crystals to himself.

When the trio entered the chamber of crystals, they stared in awe. The crystals naturally emitted light which would reflect off another crystal and then back and forth until a beautiful scene was displayed in front of them.

“So beautiful.” Ai and Yuying said at the same time.

“Not as beautiful as you two.” Zhang thought to himself.

Zhang was currently using the leather sack he had found on the skeleton with the map. The crystal he wanted was indeed rare. But luckily Zhang was able to locate a few small pieces and couple large chunk in the chamber.

He decided use a few large chunks and then do the same for the girls, while saving the smaller pieces to use as gifts or for trade later on. He had channeled the essence in the air to them earlier and the outcome had been just like his. So if the crystals worked for him, it would also work for the two girls.

Zhang sat crossed leg as the two girls kept watch. The Underworld Heart had once more flew mid air and hovered on top of Zhang’s head. It then emitted a green strand of light into a crystal and then soon after, it hit him.

Having built up this the crystal Zhang’s cultivation had once more increased and was now at the 3rd level. And soon, Yuying and Ai were also both at the 3rd level. They would only be able to advance so quickly for a certain period of time. After this period of time, their bodies could not retain as much essence as they could now. So they would not be able to increase their cultivation as quickly as this using this method and as their levels got higher it  would require them more essence.

Following the map for nearly four hours, they almost reached the mouth of the cave. Zhang decided that it would be best to rest for the night in a small chamber that would be roughly an hour or two from the exit.

They did not know what was outside and staying inside the caves would be safer since they knew what areas to avoid.

Charging outside without rest after walking for many hours and being exhausted was not wise. What if the outside of the cave was crawling with many demonic beasts. Then they would be in over their heads.

Being at level three meant that Zhang did not have to rely on the Underworld Heart as much as before. As he channeled the essence within his body, Zhang lifted some stones and used them to partially cover the entrance of the chamber that they were going to sleep in.

Yuying and Ai were the first to fall asleep as Zhang sat in a corner of the chamber contemplating.
He was wondering how long had it been in the world of the living since was sent in the Underworld. There was no way of knowing for sure how much time had passed. Although the time in the Underworld flowed roughly ten times slower than in the world of the living he could not be sure.

Zhang wondered how his family was doing, and most of all, how Ling was doing. He wanted to know if they were safe or not because the last time he saw them, everyone was fleeing from the armies of Siwang Empire.

Many things filled and occupied his thoughts, however, the sight of the two girls sleeping peacefully without a care in the world had helped him calm his mind. Other things could wait but the priority now was for him and these two to safely return to human civilization.

Zhang closed his eyes and a short while after, fell asleep.

After sleeping for around 6 hours Zhang woke up to see that Yuying and Ai were intently staring at him. They had woken up early but did not wish to disturb him so they sat down and waited for him to wake up.

Zhang removed the rocks he placed in the entrance, then the three of them set out for the exit.

After a mere two hours of hiking, the exit was in sight. The entrance to the cave was hidden behind a waterfall. No one would have been able to realize that there was a massive cave behind the waterfall if they did not come directly in front of it.

On the other side of the waterfall was a thick forest with trees that stretched into the sky. To figure out what direction to go in, Zhang had climbed up a tall tree. He wanted to see which way had the signs of civilization but to his amazement, there were no signs of people. The only thing he was able to see was the vast sea.

In all four directions some further than the others were all bodies of water.

The best course of action now was to walk to the nearest water front and establish a shelter and to build a raft or some kind of beacon for help.

“Let’s go toward the water.” Zhang suggested.

The beacon however would not be a priority because they had no idea where they were and if people frequently passed by.

So the priorities were making a shelter, finding a food source, and building a sturdy raft that was seaworthy.

Zhang, Yuying and Ai traveled toward the western side of the island because it was the only one  in walking distance.

The western side of the island opened up into a beautiful beach. There was an entire beach made up of sea glass. The sea glass ranged from many colors such as red, white, blue, green, and even purple. It was truly a sight to behold.

Yuying and Ai charged onto the beach and despite being stranded, played on the beach. This of course would be their first time at a beach. Being a princess in the Underworld there were no beaches to begin with. As for Ai she had no memories of the past so this in a way was her first time.

“Brother come join us.” Yuying yelled as she splashed water on Ai.

Zhang had also never been to the beach but after the Book of Fate gave him some of his memories from his past life, it was as if he had gone to the beach before. The book had restored his vast knowledge to him but as far as memories went, he only remembered a few. While the rest were bits and pieces.

Seeing the girls having so much fun Zhang decided to join in and the three had the time of their lives.After a few hours of merrymaking it was time to get to business.

They had to make a shelter for the night. Thankfully, Zhang had some knowledge in architecture and basic construction.

Zhang skillfully used the rusty sword to chop down huge leaves, vines, branches and some long bamboo. Then he found some fallen over trees and gathered all the materials on the edge of the jungle and the beach.

It was not wise to build a shelter on the beach because of the possibility of the rising tide. Nor was it smart to build inside the dense forest because god knows what is lurking in those bushes.

Zhang used the sword to dig four deep holes. Then he stuck four mid sized logs he had found into them, these logs would be used as the pillars of the shelter.  He then used the sword to make four notches on the sides of the logs and then crisscrossed the bamboo into the notches.

Slowly he built a sturdy shelter. He had showed Yuying and Ai how to weave the leaves together to make a roof for the shelter. Soon, they had a sturdy hut that was built off the ground. This would make do for today and tomorrow, Zhang would start building a long term shelter.

Then he would get started to build the raft they would use.

With the shelter completed, Zhang dived into the ocean to look for food. The ocean housed a variety of fish and was a treasure trove for the hungry.

He was able to pry two huge oysters off a reef under the water. And catch a small shark (yes a shark). That night the three castaways held a small feast. The two oysters each had a large pearl inside of them, to which Yuying and Ai claimed.

“To think I would end up on a beach with a full belly after escaping hell.” Zhang thought to himself

After the feast, the three laid on the beach and stared into the starry night.

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