Preface – A Phoenix’s Fierce Flame
The night wind was whistling. Clenching his teeth, he covered the gunshot wound on his shoulder and kept running forward. Above the forest, the sound of helicopter rotors could be heard from near and far and a beam of blazing white light swept across the sky. The sound of dogs barking could be vaguely heard behind him.
Blood continuously gushed out of the gunshot wound, dripping onto the ground; half of his body had already turned ice-cold and his footsteps felt increasingly heavy. However, he knew that there was no time to stop, and if he did, everything would be completely over.
After planning for the past few years, he carefully selected a time to escape from the organization and bet his life on this one night. However, he was unable to understand why, on the night he chose to escape, the base had suddenly tightened its defenses.
Just what exactly happened…
There were two bullets left in the gun he was holding – one for the enemy, one for himself. This was good enough, but before he died, he wanted to know why the organization made such a big deal out of an insignificant assassin like him leaving. Not only was the strongest group of assassins sent out, several high level members with special abilities appeared as well.
These ability users called themselves “metahumans” and had always been hidden in the depths of the organization. During the time he worked at the organization, he only met one or two of them and knew that they were only deployed for a certain category of targets. As he was only an ordinary assassin, there was no way they were sent out to handle him, so he really wanted to know why it was different this time.
As he had been running non-stop, the blood loss affected him and his vision started to blur. When he reached the edge of the forest, a cliff blocked his way. Several helicopters appeared in the sky so if he climbed up the mountain, it would definitely be a dead end. Instead, he ran alongside it. Suddenly, the mountain took a sharp turn ahead of him and faint red light diffused into the air.
Helicopters were flying overhead and the barking and voices were getting closer. Knowing that he was nearing the end of the road, he slowed down and carefully peeked around the corner. There was a fire raging there, but strangely, it did not feel hot. He saw someone standing next to the fire and he shuddered, tightening his grip on the gun.
It was a metahuman from the organization.
Metahumans were generally humans that possessed special powers. He did not know how many of these ability users were gathered there and he did not dare look. Regardless, he only had two bullets left, so he quietly raised his hand and aimed at the metahuman, knowing that this would be the last time he targeted someone.
The ability user was standing facing the fire with both hands open and arranged in a peculiar way. If that person was an assassin, then he would have definitely not assumed such a defenseless position, however…
It doesn’t matter…
He clenched his teeth and a gunshot resounded. The bullet hit that person’s head, right in the middle of the temple, sending his whole body flying. ‘So what if he is an ability user, he will still die if he gets shot,’ he thought and then aimed the muzzle of the gun at his own forehead. However, at that moment, he heard a strange noise; a soul-piercing bird cry suddenly rang out and his hand trembled. Soon after, he saw a huge wall of fire rush towards him like a flood.
The flames were so hot that they could melt gold and crack iron. He didn't know how far from the forest it had traveled, but any trees that were caught in its path immediately turned to ashes. The flame had burst forth from a crevice in the mountain wall, and just so happened to sweep past him. For some reason, he did not feel any heat from the fire. He lifted his head and saw a giant fiery red bird fly into the sky while quietly chirping – it was a phoenix from the ancient Chinese legends.
The fire cloud illuminated the night sky. When the helicopters that had been following him touched the flame, they instantly exploded and the debris fell into the forest like red specks of rain.
He was dumbstruck at the sight.
Suddenly, he turned his head. The soldiers that were chasing after him had finally caught up and appeared on the scene. It was clear that this unexpected event caused them to lose their heads out of fear. They were all looking up towards the sky and did not open fire on him even though he was their target. Their eyes filled with terror as they turned to escape.
When he looked back, the flame-covered phoenix directly swooped down towards him, the air surging around it. Then it flew near the large cliff wall and made a loop before suddenly flying back at him; soon after, he saw the phoenix’s two eyes.
Flames engulfed him completely.
However, he did not die nor feel any pain. After the shock passed, he could clearly see the area around him had become a sea of clear, yellow fire. He was enveloped in a large round ball of liquid fire that was levitating above the ground. His surroundings were completely quiet, just like when heaven and earth were first created. He looked around, apart from the light of the fire, his whole world had become extremely slow-moving. When the phoenix flew back at him, the heat of the flames had destroyed everything in its path. The trees snapped or burned before turning into ashes. The people that were trying to escape, as well as the hunting dogs, had barely moved a few steps before they all howled in agony as they burned to ashes.
In a split second, he understood everything.
According to the legends, at certain intervals, the phoenix would lose its feathers and then die. Soon after, it would rise and be reborn from the ashes. It just so happened that the day he had chosen to escape was the same day the phoenix was going to die. The organization had prepared and gathered all those people in order to capture this phoenix when it was on its deathbed, its power at the weakest. The organization had also sent out the ability users to assist, however because of his one shot, the plan to encircle the phoenix failed and it managed to escape.
A voice sounded in the darkness, asking him, “Thank you. What do you desire?”
“I…” he opened his eyes wide.
“...I want freedom.”