Gushing blood slowly started to dry up as Frank sat by Rigel’s side healing and looking at him for one final time.
His eyes were filled with grief and unexplainable sadness. Frank, who saw Rigel’s unconscious body and the shattered dantian closed his eyes and sat in silence.
“I should have never taken you in, Rigel. I thought that I can abandon you whenever I feel like it but sigh… This old man started to love once again. Without noticing, I began to care about you as if you were my grandson and now, look at what I have done.” Frank looked at Rigel for a minute, and the rose to his feet.
However, he stopped for a second as he remembered Rigel’s past. He knew what Rigel did, and he also knew how stubborn he was. The past two years, he taught Rigel how to survive in Gehenna and if Rigel did learn everything as he intended him to then, he would forget about him and get on with his life but what if he didn’t. What if he tried to chase after me? What if he does find me? Then what would happen to him?
Unanswered questions haunted Frank’s mind. He looked at his old arm and said to himself, “I can’t change your fate. I don’t know what you will decide, but I will give you a warning Rigel. I can only hope that you will find your life more precious than my own.”
An old arm suddenly fell on the ground as Frank severed it with his knife. He then picked up the arm and said, “This will either be your ticket to freedom or the path of pain. I can show you the way, but it will ultimately be you who will decide your own future Rigel.”
That day, Frank silently disappeared from the old cave leaving behind nothing except an old severed arm.
Three days later
In the ghostly silence of a dark cave, Rigel woke up in shock. His eyes red with confusion as he scanned the cave blinking in muddy consciousness. Rigel mind was replaying the past events as a dream, and he woke up upon dying in the hands of a mysterious man.
Adjusting eyes caught glimpses of the empty cave filled with potion bottles and old books, but it was devoid of any life besides himself. Then, Rigel’s mind was forced to admit the fact that what he had dreamed of really did happen.
His body screamed in pain. Rigel wanted to get up. The wound on his dantian was mysteriously healed up, but the pain was too excruciating. Unable to move and unable to stop himself from thinking about Frank, Rigel’s eyes were filled with tears as he thought about Frank.
For two years, he lived learning the art of living from Frank and in these two years, he had taken quite a few lives but still he never felt sad about it. However, his eyes which never shed tears for two years involuntarily became moist as he thought about Frank.
“Why did it have to be us? Why did you die before letting me see you for one last time, Frank? I couldn’t even say goodbye. Why?” Rigel silently shouted inside his heart, but he knew that there was nothing he could do. Just like how he preyed upon people, they had now become someone’s prey. Rigel knew that he had no way to take revenge, nor did he have a way to find out about that man who had killed Frank.
Rigel laid on that spot without moving for seven hours enduring the pain but then, his face suddenly contracted as he felt a fierce pain stab his mind so powerfully that he lost his consciousness again.
Deep inside the dantian, the black pearl which was like a ball of cold energy silently started to rotate. The dantian is a place below the navel where the energy of the body is stored, but it is also a place where Qi circulation is centered. Thus, it functions as the heart for pumping Qi.
Every living being is born with minute quantities of Qi. However, absorbing and cultivating the Qi is how one threads in the path of cultivation. The black pearl inside Rigel’s dantian which was rotating very slowly released a minute quantity of black Qi.
Released in dantian and following the natural circulatory system of all living beings, that black Qi silently started to spread throughout the body without any kind of rejection or reaction. Minutes passed and then hours passed and then a little more black Qi was released from the black pearl.
This time, however as the black Qi started to spread throughout the body, the black Qi from earlier suddenly began to boil in excitement. Black Qi and Black Qi, both Qi’s engulfed each other and as a result, another Black Qi emerged from them.
The instant this fused Qi appeared, Rigel’s unconscious body spasmed violently. Vessels inside the body started to contract, and crimson blood began to flow at high speed. Muscles twitched, and Rigel began to have fits even though he was unconscious.
The Black Qi, which was formed from the fusion, was entirely different from the previous Qi’s. It was as if its fusion has activated the Black Qi. It was no longer a Qi, and the reaction in the body was not a rejection. It was pure destruction. The Black Qi was destroying the Rigel’s body by the minute. It destroyed everything it touched as it passed through his meridians.
Vessels, organs, and even the blood. Everything it touched started to whither and then they began to whither more. Hours passed. And, the spasming body spasmed more while blood began to flow out of all orifices due to the destruction of internal body organs.
Rigel coughed up blood as he laid there, his body endured the unendurable pain, although unconscious. The only reason why he was still alive was that his mind was shutting off the pain from reaching his consciousness.
Seven hours later.
Rigel’s twitching body slowly relaxed as the reactions stopped. The Black Qi completely disappeared from the body. The rotating black pearl showed no signs of releasing any more Qi. All that was left after the bursting of Black Qi was a newly destroyed body and an old shattered dantian.
Seven days later.
Rigel slowly felt his consciousness returning from a long slumber. His body felt heavy, and his mind reeled as he remembered bits and pieces of the pain he felt back when the Black Qi shattered his body.
Rigel slowly sat up and involuntarily looked at his dantian. Unlike the previous time when he felt an unbearable pain, this time, he was all right. He dragged his weak body deprived of energy towards the container which stored water.
Deep breaths resounded in the cave as Rigel sat by the wall drinking the water from the container. He had no idea how much time had passed since he had lost consciousness, but his stomach was roaring in hunger while he was almost dying of thirst.
Deep silence permeated the cave as Rigel sat there looking blankly at himself. He was sure that he almost died in the mysterious man’s hands as he remembered being clearly stabbed in the dantian yet, there was no wound.
Then again, he faintly remembered that he was almost dying in his sleep due to excruciating pain. He felt as if his body was ripped from inside, and yet he was living, breathing and drinking water.
Was that all a dream?
No. Rigel didn’t believe that he dreamed of all that because he couldn’t imagine himself dreaming of his death twice in a row and then again if he was dreaming then where was Frank?
Rigel mind suddenly replayed the part where the mysterious man held the knife.
“Yes, yes…. The knife. I saw it before. It belongs to Frank. So if I find it then…” Rigel stopped his words in mid-sentence because he saw it stabbed deep into the rock wall right in front of him and a line of dried up blood below it.
Rigel expression slowly changed as he saw that knife. It was just a regular knife, and yet, it was embedded deep into the rock. Just what kind of strength does one need to accomplish that feat?
The line of dried up blood below it showed Rigel that he didn’t dream anything. Everything he remembered was true. Including the fact that he came back from the door of death two times in a row.
Rigel slowly moved his hand and lit a lantern beside him. Moving his tired body, he walked towards the wall to inspect the knife, but before he could take a step forward he stopped in his tracks because the ground below him, it was filled with dried up drops of blood.
His eyes moved involuntarily, and Rigel lifted his head to glance the ceiling of the cave, only to see an old arm hanging from it.
The arm was dried up like a corpse and had numerous wrinkles. Rigel had seen it far too many times to forget, but his eyes didn’t see the arm alone. They saw four words engraved in blood on the ceiling.
“Forget about me, Rigel.”
Rigel stood there stunned as he saw those words. Upon seeing the arm, he would have been furious to death, but the words made him forget the fact that Frank had lost an arm.
Those four words conveyed many things to Rigel. They carried many hidden meanings. They answered many of his questions, and they definitely responded to the first of his questions for sure.
Are you alive, Frank?
Yes, he was. And unlike what he had thought, the mysterious man wasn’t a person who just came into their lives. He came for Frank, and he captured him.
But why would he want Frank?
Rigel, who thought that, but then he suddenly realized something. No matter how long he may think about it, he would never understand why someone would chase Frank because he knew next to nothing about him.
Aside from his lectures, Frank never talked about anything and above all, he would never utter a single word about his past. So Rigel would never know why. The only one who can answer this was Frank and him alone.
Rigel stood there like a statue looking at the four words and then at the arm which hung on the ceiling. He knew what Frank was conveying with those words. He understood that Frank was giving him a choice, he was asking Rigel to stay away.
Rigel stared at the arm for a long time. The old him would search for Frank even if he knew that he was against all odds. The new him shouldn’t do that. Everything Frank ever taught him told him to forget about Frank, but then again, Rigel’s eyes saw those old wrinkles on that arm.
He was unable to accept the fact that Frank had died, and now, he knew that Frank was alive somewhere, so what would he do? Would he ignore him to save himself? Would he?
Rigel questioned himself and the he lifted his hand and caught the arm. There was no need to answer the question because there was never a need to question himself. There was only one thing he would do, and he would do that even if he knew that he would be against the gods themselves.
Rigel turned the arm around and gazed at the Blood red skull symbol on the dried up arm. His face was grave as he saw it, but in his eyes flickered a stubborn dangerous light as he whispered to himself, “To find Frank, I have first to find the origin of this symbol, the Blood Emperor.”