Wang Que was crying so hard that her hands and feet went numb. In her impression, she hadn’t cried this much even on the day when Tan Qiuyu ruined her Central Academy of Fine Arts school exam.
Allen’s desperate and tearful eyes lingered in her mind. She’d completely lost her perception of the parasite once Allen fell off the cliff, but the disgusting feeling it left behind still lingered in her heart.
She would never forget it.
“It was all my fault. It was because I am so useless…” Wang Que whimpered. “If I could master my ability earlier, I would have known that there was an insect on him before it could parasitize him. Then, this wouldn’t have happened. This wouldn’t…”
She couldn’t say it anymore. The monstrous guilt and grief turned into self-disgust. She loathed her useless self. They’d entered this box for her to exercise her ability, which should have reduced a lot of troubles for everyone. But how…how could she lose Allen?
Dong Linhai had already reigned back his tears. He said in a low voice, “No one will blame you. You’ve done a good job.”
“No! It wasn’t good at all!” Wang Que suddenly raised her voice. You did a good job. So many people had said this to her. When she was a genius student, she could comfortably accept these praises. But now?
She wasn’t worthy at all!
The snowfall grew heavier. Dong Linhai still had Allen’s blood on his body, but he shook his head and gave Wang Que a hug.
This had nothing to do with his sprouting feelings toward her but out of comfort from one teammate to another.
Wang Que wrapped her arms around his broad back, her fingers practically digging into his suit. Tears streamed down her face, and she was so choked with emotions that she couldn’t manage to dreg out another word.
The white cat appeared next to her. Victor had witnessed everything from Dong Linhai’s summoning beast space. But, at that time, he was completely powerless and could only watch helplessly as the tragedy happened.
“Don’t cry anymore. It’s not good for your eyes to cry so much,” Victor whispered soothingly. “He might become an NPC. We should look forward to seeing him again in other boxes one day.”
Wang Que saw that Victor’s eyes were moist and surging with sadness, but she couldn’t help but asked, “Uncle, don’t you…aren’t you sad?”
“I’ve already seen countless deaths, and every one of us will eventually die, won’t we?” Victor replied softly. “We’ll see many more.”
He paused and asked, “When you died in the real world and came here, did you experience this kind of crushing grief?”
Wang Que was silent for a moment and shook her head. At that time, she hadn’t even recovered from her terror at being pushed off the roof before the clown was suddenly leading her to participate in a novice box.
Later, she found a place to live alone, and she began to plan on how she could live in the Pure White Realm.
Only in the dead of night would she think of her parents and friends. She left them so abruptly that she didn’t even have the chance to say goodbye.
What lingered in her heart was unwillingness, longing, and loneliness.
The grief that came with death was only for the people still living.
“Don’t cry. Let’s get ready to go.” Victor touched Wang Que’s cheek lightly with his forehead. “Allen wants us to live, and we mustn’t let him down.”
Wang Que nodded and slowly stopped her tears since she couldn’t completely force herself to stop right away. With Dong Linhai’s help, she stood up. They went around the curve, and she saw Cui Zuojing, Dong Zheng, and Lin Hangzhi standing by the cliff where Allen had fallen.
She opened her mouth, realized that no one was blaming her, and bit down hard on her bottom lip.
“Let’s go.” Cui Zuojing took a deep breath. He glanced at Dong Zheng, whose eyes were flushed red, and couldn’t bring himself to ask for more details about what had happened.
Silence hung over them as they travelled. The only sounds that could be heard from the communicator was the sound of breathing and Wang Que’s occasional whimper. Allen’s protective suit was opened so there was only a deep silence on his end.
There was no way to know how he was.
Cui Zuojing was at the forefront. Aside from him, everyone else was in poor condition, and so he took the initiative to lead the way.
He’d thrown Allen’s right arm down the cliff after getting everyone’s consent. They couldn’t take it with them and, instead of letting it become food for insects, it was better to return it. At least…Allen would be accompanied by a complete body.
Step by step, they left the blood-stained cliff and marched into the distance.
Agony ripped through his limbs and body, radiating faithfully up to his brain. Normally, when people suffer such agony, their body would fall into a coma for self-protection, but Allen was still fully awake.
He could clearly feel the parasite at the back of his head, gradually taking control of his brain. This control would soon be complete and, before long, he would become a walking corpse for the parasite. He may also become a hotbed for the parasite’s offsprings.
Allen didn’t want this.
But even if he was unwilling in his heart, there was nothing he could do now. After falling from such a high cliff, he’d broken bones in countless places all over his body. Blood was everywhere, though the place where he’d amputated his arm was no longer bleeding.
The rapid blood loss and the cold environment made Allen feel as if he was turning into a frozen popsicle. He laid on the ground, staring straight ahead. In the valley, there was slit in a glacier, which was probably formed by the movements of the earth’s crust. It was only two to three meters wide, but he’d fallen inside.
He didn’t know where the dagger had fallen to. If the weapon was still around, Allen would have aimed it his own head and settled the matter himself.
The pain was excruciating.
He saw the red, giant insect appeared at the edge of his line of sight. It approached the slit, intending to eat him, but it couldn’t find a way inside.
After hovering for a while, it finally gave up and flew away.
Dong Zheng should be fine, right?
Allen thought hazily. The agonizing pain made it harder for him to control his ability to think. For a while, he remembered Dong Zheng in the Labyrinth of Time, trying to rescue him from the Quantum Caterpillar. Then, he thought of the golden times on the California beach, and he remembered Kazami Eri’s shy smile.
These scenes gradually overlapped and jumbled together before his eyes.
Suddenly, he heard a small sound.
His reaction was very slow. When he realized that the approaching sound was footsteps, it was already very close.
Was someone here?
Much as he tried, Allen couldn’t turn his head to look.
He lifted one hand and leaned his broken body against the thick wall of ice
His gaze shifted with the movement of his body, and a man with blond hair and gray eyes appeared in front of him. His face was somewhat familiar. Allen thought for a while with his damaged brain, and he suddenly realized that he’d seen this person before in Dusk Island.
What was he doing here?
There was a deep scar on Domingo’s left cheek, which extended all the way up to the root of his ear. The red flesh was puckered and swollen, though it was no longer bleeding. He wasn’t wearing a protective suit and was only dressed in thick, winter clothes. It was unclear what kind of struggles he’d overcome.
“Bear with it for a bit.” Domingo knelt beside Allen on one knee. He held his head with one hand, guiding it so that it was bowed. Then, he pulled out a dagger with the other hand.
Domingo looked at the slight lump on the back of Allen’s head, and suddenly slashed the skin there. He pressed the tip of the dagger down, directly hitting the parasite that had already penetrated halfway into Allen’s brain.
He slowly pulled out the parasite. The insect was a bit larger than when Wang Que had tried summoning it out. It’s body had a terrifying black-red color because it was engorged with blood.
There was still some white brain tissue hanging on its long feet. Domingo threw the insect on the ground. When it turned over and tried to escape, he directly stepped on it.
Blood exploded out from under his army boots, just like stepping on a swollen bag of blood.
Domingo grinded down hard a few times. It wasn’t until he’d confirmed that the bug was thoroughly dead did he finally lift his foot. He crouched down and whispered, “That wasn’t too bad, was it?”
With the insect gone, Allen slowly blinked his eyes. He was finally able to move again. He no longer felt any pain at all, and he could clearly sense his own death approaching.
He opened his mouth and couldn’t make a sound for a while. “…Who are you?”
Domingo looked at him steadily. After a long time, he finally said, “My name is Domingo.”
“Who…are you?” Allen asked again.
He wanted to ask how the man had found him, and why he wanted to help him extract the insect. But this required more talking than he could manage.
Domingo didn’t answer. He checked the wound on Allen’s amputated arm, which had already frozen solid. If this was the case, then even the stitched-heart bear couldn’t do anything for him. The little bear would need a clean wound to create a new limb.
Domingo slowly released his arm. Tears flashed in his eyes. He squeezed his eyes shut and whispered, “I’m sorry. I…still couldn’t save you.”
Allen shook his head. He was struggling to breath, and he could hardly feel his own body.
He no longer asked who Domingo was. Now, he’d already had a vague guess in his heart.
Since Domingo wasn’t willing to say, then he must have his reasons.
Blood trickled down the corner of Allen’s mouth as he looked at the man in front of him. He asked with some difficulties, “I…can still choose to become a prisoner or an npc…right?
“Yes, death is not the end of life.”
Allen’s vision began to fade. When all was said and done, the parasite had destroyed his brain tissue.
“If…If I became an npc, will I still…remember them?”
“Kether will wash away all your memories. But you have to believe that even if you forgot everything, they will still remember you.”
The corners of Allen’s mouth lifted in a curve so small that it was nearly imperceptible. Blood began to trickle out from his ears and his nose, and the dark pupils in the center of his blue eyes gradually widened.
His last words “thank you” couldn’t be completed in the end.
Domingo didn’t move for a long time. He held Allen’s intact hand until Allen’s body temperature had gone completely cold.
Finally, he took a deep breath and raised his hand to close Allen’s eyes.
Domingo stood up. The wound that Tang Ji had inflicted on his thigh was still slowly bleeding, soaking his black pants.
He ignored it, took out a yellow piece of talisman paper from his pocket, and drew intricate patterns with cinnabar on it.
Then, he tidied up Allen’s body, gently combed back his messy red hair, and laid him flat on the snow.
The pure snow was a sharp contrast against the red blood, like a blooming mandala flower.
He stepped back and threw the talisman next to Allen.
Flames rose up and warmly enveloped everything.
Xixi: This is so sad, but I’m really glad that Domingo was there for Allen, so that he didn’t have to die alone and didn’t become a parasitized corpse.
On a technical note, there’s something wrong with the embedded format of the comment system in mobile (thanks for the heads up, Anonymous!). Apparently, it might have something to do with cookies and viewers not allowing cross-checking on their mobile browsers. I tried using the popular third-party comment system, Disqus, but axed it because it requires that you log in to social media or create a Disqus account just to comment. I’ll keep an eye out for a solution, but for now, we’ll have to make do with a pop-up comment box instead, with no reply option. Not ideal.