19 The Goddess beneath the moon
One day later...
Zhen Shi opened his eyes and sat up on the bed with a thoughtful sigh. Even though he now had memories of another life, he didn't feel particularly different or that his personality had changed.
The only major change was that he now had complete memories of the other Zhen Shi; all eighteen years! The first few years were blurry, but this was expected. After all, they were memories of childhood.
But everything after that, up to the point of his death, was complete.
Zhen Shi looked down at his body as he fell into thought.
With all the memories complete, he now remembered every single second of the training he had undergone. He had the muscle memory, the training, and even a much stronger body. This meant that he should be able to make full use of his training!
Due to the memories, his understanding of [Draconic Wind Steps], [Unarmed Water Style] and even archery had improved by a great amount! After all, he now remembered spending months of training in each skill!
Seeing that his decision to complete Soul Assimilation had only brought about advantages, Zhen Shi smiled in relief.
Next, Zhen Shi proceeded to look through his memories for any information about this world but didn't find too much that was useful. After all, the former Zhen Shi had spent the majority of his life within the Zhen Clan...
But he was able to find an answer as to why there were western maids and butlers in a world with eastern cultivation. Apparently, in this world, just like Earth, there were people who followed various cultures and traditions. But no matter what culture it was, it definitely included cultivation! So even if he met a wandering knight on horseback or an old man versed in the way of the Mages, chances were that both of them were accomplished cultivators!
Nevertheless, Zhen Shi made a mental note to gather some books and find more information about this world. After all, asking about it will only cause problems and unnecessary questions. As such, he had to do it himself.
Suddenly remembering the system, Zhen Shi asked a question that had been in his mind for a while,
'System, what is the use of Otaku Points? And what are the conditions to gain more?'
System Information[Otaku Points]: Otaku Points(OP) are generally gained when the user makes use of the system granted skills. However, after earning a certain number of points, designated by the system, that particular skill will stop yielding points. Earning the trust and admiration of people may also yield some OP. Certain other methods may be revealed in the future.
Finally, the user can utilize those points to purchase divine boons.
'Oh? That actually seems pretty reasonable for the troublesome GOD System... By the way, what exactly do you mean by a divine boon?'
Divine Boon: The user can exchange a certain amount of otaku points for a favor from any god. The god whose favor you gain and what they owe you will depend on the luck. But of course, the user can pay extra to specify the god and what needs to be done.
'What Favor? You might as well call this an IOU(I OWE YOU)!
Holy Shit! IOU's from the Gods! Isn't that too OP? Not that I'm complaining though!'
'But wait... if it depends on luck, how is this different from gambling? System, don't you know that gambling isn't good for the family? And pay more to specify what I need? Is this the legendary pay-to-win?'
Nevertheless, Zhen Shi was greatly pleased as he asked again, \"Alright then. System, how much for a divine boon from the top tier gods... let's say, Zeus, Odin, Atum-Ra or one of the three pure ones?\"
For the moment, the user is not strong enough for IOU's from the highest tier gods.
Zhen Shi's face stiffened, 'Damn! I should've figured that nothing could be that perfect... Oh, well. It would've been too OP(Overpowered) for my lack of OP(Otaku Points) anyways.'
Consoling himself as such, Zhen Shi fell into thought, 'Now what should I get for my first divine boon? Gamble and hope for the best? Or maybe something specific? Such as... A personal divine beast pet? A divine army? A strong old man to guide me? A portable treasure house? Or maybe even a Harem?'
Pushing aside those ridiculous thoughts, Zhen Shi began to think in line with reality. Reminded of the fact that he had quite a bit of material on hand and that he was lacking a proper weapon, he asked mentally, \"System, how much to get... let's say Hephaestus to make a weapon for me?\"
Hephaestus is a high-tier god in the field of blacksmithing. The price is generally 1000 OP, but the user will be given a discount as it is his first time. As such, the price is 100 OP!
Zhen Shi couldn't help but smile at having received such a huge discount, 'Although I only have 45 OP, I do have an idea on how to earn a bit more. But wait... System, what would've happened if I gambled on the first try? Then I wouldn't have gotten such a massive discount, RIGHT?'
Praising his luck for not having missed such a good chance, Zhen Shi proceeded to activate , but only partially.
Instantly, a small pair of horns emerged out of the sides of his head but they remained hidden within his hair. Some azure scales appeared around his torso and chest, and his eyes gained a slight hint of red. But those were not the only changes.
Zhen Shi also felt a slight but strong killing intent stirring within him. But it wasn't strong enough to affect him since he had only activated the skill partially. And then he proceeded to maintain this state for about half an hour...
The user has earned 1 OP for using
Zhen Shi grinned in satisfaction, 'Yes! It worked! This means that I can earn enough points for that weapon by tomorrow!'
He would've used Hel's flare as well, but a count's mansion seemed like a rather inappropriate place to do so.
Realizing that he shouldn't reveal his ability to transform into a beast and cause unnecessary misunderstanding that might cause others to hunt him, Zhen Shi proceeded to put on the clothes that the maid had left for him.
As he donned that black shirt and trousers, completely covering his scales, his hand touched a familiar clean but still dirty looking loincloth.
*Sigh* His heart ached as he pocketed the loincloth for old times sake.
But, suddenly a loud voice was heard from outside his room, \"Lady Isolde, the daughter of Count Anguish Brishman has arrived.\"
Realizing that his elusive savior had come over to pay a visit, Zhen Shi calmly stood up and made himself look presentable.
Simultaneously, a light sonorous voice was heard from outside, \"Jacque, you know it is unnecessary to be so formal with me. You can be more relaxed here than your former employment.\"
This 'Jacque' replied, \"My lady, forgive me. But it is only proper. How could I dare to be disrespectful in the presence of the healing princess?\"
A light sigh, \"Fine. Just remember to be more relaxed then,\" and the door opened.
A blonde-haired girl dressed in a shimmering light pink dress walked in. Her blonde hair cascaded down like waves of water, and her face the picture of innocence was curved up in a slight regal smile. However, her wide eyes glowed in a mysterious way reflecting that she wasn't a simple lady that knew nothing of life.
The aether also revealed that she was one single step away from reaching the Core Formation Stage! This meant that she was much stronger than Sun Rou and the idiots of the Xue Yue clan!
Zhen Shi stared wordlessly at this beautiful girl for a moment, but almost instantly gained his bearings. To his surprise, he found that he wasn't particularly affected by her beauty and could control himself with ease.
As such, he calmly bowed in a way he knew that western nobles would and spoke thankfully, \"Lady Isolde, it is a pleasure to meet my savior. I am indebted to you for saving my life.\" Realizing that this girl was obviously well brought up and believed in class, Zhen Shi decided to act appropriately.
Isolde smiled brightly and spoke, \"It's fine. Don't worry about it. I've helped many people and I suppose you are one of many,\" while gracefully sitting down on a nearby chair. She nodded at Jacque to leave, and he did, but only after giving Zhen Shi a long hard stare.
Having realized this fellow's Core Formation Stage cultivation through the aether, Zhen Shi fearlessly returned back his stare, while simultaneously talking to Isolde, \"That may be the case for the Lady, but the fact that you saved my life is a simple truth.\"
As Jacque closed the door behind him he felt a slight sweat trickle down his back as if he had just stared at a beast in human skin.
Isolde seemed to notice the stare off and raised a surprised eyebrow. Nevertheless, she replied with an explaining smile, \"Ever since I saved Jacque from his injuries, he has been a tad bit overprotective... Young master Zhen Shi, I hope that you can pardon him.\"
Zhen Shi turned to her in surprise and replied with a smile, \"A minor matter. He didn't do anything wrong either way.\"
Her eyes glimmered with curiosity as she asked, \"So, young master Zhen Shi care to explain how and why you suddenly appeared in my room?\"
Zhen Shi laughed as he re-explained the story of the 'mysterious ruins', how he had been attacked by a 'powerful beast' and how he had jumped into a spatial tear.
Isolde nodded thoughtfully. Having heard the story from Butler Alec, she had to conclude that everything made sense. Zhen Shi had been injured from a claw attack after all, and only spatial transference could explain his sudden appearance. But the matter of how he was able to bypass the Kingdom's protective formation, even if by accident, was a cause for worry...
Nevertheless, she moved on to analyze his body and asked with thinly veiled curiosity, \"But I'm surprised that you healed so fast! As far as I can see, you're completely fine. But I'm confident that it would've taken a few more weeks to completely heal your injuries and cultivation. Perhaps you made use of a special skill and it caused you to pass out for an entire day?\"
Zhen Shi's eyes glowed as he realized that she was aware of the fact that he had passed out for a day. But then again it was expected to keep tabs on a stranger within one's home...
As such, he laughed and replied, \"Something like that. But if I were to explain my healing, I'd say it's because I'm a bit too thick-skinned.\"
Isolde smiled and nodded, but her smile died down rather fast... She silently stood up from her seat and walked over to the open balcony.
The sun was already setting, and the orange sunlight fell upon her, causing her to glow in a sorrowful light.
She began to speak in whispers with her back to Zhen Shi, \"Honestly, my guards were about to have you killed. No matter how kind we are, we wouldn't just save some random man who appeared suspiciously within the room of a noble lady. But I begged them and father to let you live... All because you reminded me of my brother, and I couldn't bear to fail anyone again.\"
The evening wind blew through the balcony, ruffling her hair as if to comfort her.
Zhen Shi had been unaware that such a situation had arisen because of his actions. Nevertheless, he remained silent allowing Isolde to continue...
\"Isaac was a very playful kid, always spouting ridiculous tales. But the way he told them always made me believe in him, no matter how impossible they sounded...
When he was only 12 years old, the King gave an order for the Brishman family to lead a diplomatic expedition to the allied Kingdom of Cerulea. My father had me attend first and arrange the matters there for his arrival. But, little Isaac was unwilling to leave my side and followed me. I didn't stop him either, I figured I would enjoy his company...
It was only supposed to be some random political courtesy! But on the day we left, just when we were close to reaching our destination and neared the edge of the Berthelien forest, a powerful beast attacked. The Beast was extremely strong and could shatter space with each attack, perhaps on par with the one that attacked you. Under that attack, almost all of the guards died. The only reason the two of us survived was because the Cerulean kingdom sent some experts to investigate the unstable space.
But my brother was gravely wounded. And that wound... was almost identical to yours. But I wasn't able to save him. He wasn't as fortunate as you... \"
Isolde's shoulders seemed to shiver as she continued to whisper, \"I, who was blessed with the strongest divine blessing of healing, from Eir, the strongest goddess of healing, was unable to save my own brother! How pathetic is that?\"
A sorrowful laugh rang out as she continued, \"Seeing you wounded just like him-- I realized that I wouldn't be able to forgive myself if I let you die under the same circumstances!\"
Isolde raised a hand and proceeded to rub her eyes. But, suddenly, as if she had just realized the place where she was in, Isolde turned around. Her lips were curved up in a smile... no signs of tears in her eyes, just a simple, but sorrowful smile.
\"I'm sorry Young Master Zhen Shi. I don't know what came over me. I'm not so open with strangers... Either way, I must've bored you with my nonsense. I'll be leaving then,\" and started to walk away.
Standing in a hurry, Zhen Shi spoke out, \"She isn't the greatest you know...\"
\"What?\" Isolde paused in surprise. If it had been anything else, she would've simply left. But the complete irrelevance of his words to the current situation caused her to stop.
Zhen Shi continued in a matter-of-fact tone, \"Eir. She was--I mean, is, a Norse Goddess of healing. But she was only a handmaiden to Freya, the Queen of the Vanir Gods.
In my opinion, the Sun God Apollo, the Eastern Emperor Yan Di, and even the Imhotep are leagues above her. After all, they were not only gods of medicine, but were also greater gods! In fact, there are some demigods with even more amazing achievements...\"
Isolde was intrigued, but frowned as she asked accusingly, \"Young Master Zhen Shi, are you saying that my healing ability is inferior?\"
Zhen Shi shook his head and spoke, \"Not at all. Lady Isolde, I simply mentioned that the Goddess Eir is inferior to those that I mentioned, even compared to demi-gods like Asclepius. Your ability has no relation to the abilities of the god that gave you your divine blessing. Divine blessings, Spiritual Roots, Special Physiques, whatever it is that you are born with, only provides one with a stronger starting point.
In the end, you are the one that can decide whether you are useless or not!\"
Zhen Shi's final words resonated like thunder within Isolde's mind. She had never had strong combat abilities and had made use of her divine blessing at all times. Hearing Zhen Shi's words, she realized that she had been relying on the divine blessing too much and not on herself! And in that instance of epiphany, she actually overcame her bottleneck and reached the Core Formation Stage!
Isolde raised her head and stared at Zhen Shi in amazement.
It wasn't that she had a lack of skilled and talented masters to train her. But no one, not even Sovereigns, dared to criticize the Gods and say such blasphemous words! She was extremely intrigued as to how this core formation fellow had the guts to do what he did, and, most importantly, why she found herself subconsciously agreeing with him...
Zhen Shi heaved a sigh of relief at her reaction. In reality, he had been immensely thankful and been moved by Isolde's story.
When she was leaving, he had wanted to comfort her, but the words that came out of his mouth was something else entirely! Almost accidentally insulting her! Thankfully, he was thick-skinned and had turned the matter around successfully...
Isolde asked with curious eyes, \"Young master Zhen Shi, there are almost no written historical records about the gods. Nor has anyone seen a god 'properly' in the flesh. Besides the information that the divine organizations hand out to their followers, we know nothing! How can you be so confident? How can you be so quick to criticize the gods that the masses worship with great ardor?\"
Zhen Shi smiled and replied, \"In my opinion, as powerful as the gods are, they are ultimately individuals. They make mistakes just as much as a weak human might. So why should I be afraid to criticize them? Especially when what I say, is my truth? As to whether or not you believe it, that is up to you.\"
Zhen Shi jumped into the Scholarly Library and opened up the \"Mythologue\" to the relevant section. Having found the part he was searching for, he continued calmly, \"Hmm... let me tell you some legends about Gods and Medicine. Let's start with Asclepius, whom I mentioned before... Well, did you know that he was so skilled in the field of medicine that he had the ability to make any man immortal? Zeus, who was fearful of his capabilities, had him kille--\"
And as such, he continued to speak, checking the \"Mythologue\" whenever he drew a blank. Recounting tale after tale, only pausing to answer Isolde's occasional questions.
As time passed on, listening to his tales, Isolde couldn't help but be amazed. No matter how much she tried to question him, Zhen Shi always had a perfect answer ready!
As such, she found it hard to not believe him. And most importantly, each of his stories connected to each other in impossible ways... They perfectly fit, like the missing piece of a puzzle, giving a completely realistic and humane description of the gods!
Night had fallen and the crescent moon was illuminating the balcony. The moonlight was falling mystically upon a duo, who were entranced by each other.
Isolde continued to stare at Zhen Shi, lost in a world with only one other person, and mystical and magical tales that were impossible yet strangely believable.
Zhen Shi was speaking passionately with the moonlight lighting up his face. His eyes had a faint hint of red, and he moved in a charismatic way as he spoke of these tales; as if he would never grow tired.
Isolde felt herself being drawn in by his words, and couldn't help but wish that things would remain like this... simple and beautiful.
Suddenly, Zhen Shi stopped and looked up at the moonlit sky. Realizing that he had lost himself, he smiled as he spoke to Isolde, \"Lady Isolde, it's getting late and you should rest. Don't you think that it's improper for you to remain in a room alone with me? People like Jacque might get the wrong idea...\"
Isolde was surprised as she too raised her head to look up at the moon. She hadn't felt the time pass.
But realizing Zhen Shi's meaning, she couldn't help but blush. Nevertheless, she replied with a slight smile, \"I will. But only if you call me 'Isolde' from now on. Do you agree?\"
Zhen Shi grinned as he took a step closer, \"I mean... I could agree, but...\" Taking another step forwards, he spoke in a half-hearted whisper, \"Why would I want you to leave?\"
Hearing his blatant speech, Isolde blushed even harder. But she frowned in mock anger and displeasure. Immediately Zhen Shi retreated and waved his hands in mock fear, \"Geez. Fine Fine. Forgive me. I'll call you Isolde from now! But only if you drop the young master?\"
Hearing that he had agreed, Isolde's lips reflexively curled up in a bright smile.
Seeing her bright smile, with a slight tinge of red still visible on her cheeks, and under the silver moonlight, she looked like a goddess descended from the heavens. It was as if Chang'e (The Chinese Moon Goddess) had reincarnated and returned from the moon! This time, Zhen Shi was truly stunned...
As such, he barely noticed Isolde cover the remaining distance between them, whisper \"Deal!\" in his ear, kiss him on the cheek and run out of the room.
When Zhen Shi finally came to his senses, \"Shit! I missed such a great opportunity!\" But a slight smile remained on his face as he looked on at the closed door.
Congratulations to the user for earning 15 OP!
'What? Could Isolde have fallen for this handsome and scholarly self? Or did I just gain her trust and admiration?
Wait... combined with 15 OP I've gained so far by maintaining doesn't this mean that I can get my godly weapon by tomorrow morning?
System, I've said it many times and I'll say it again, YOU ARE THE BEST!'
Zhen Shi continued, \"Is this what they mean by, 'when it rains, it pours'?
WAIT... That isn't right. Don't they use that statement for bad luck? SYSTEM, you made this scholarly self make a MISTAKE! I always did say you were a bad influence!\"