Aito dodged aside, stepped on his enemy's tail, and brutally sent it flying with a kick. A tingling feeling crept up his spine, as if to signal him of an imminent death threat. He rapidly turned and barely had time to see something that never happened before: the evol monkeys attacking simultaneously. He shifted his waist to avoid a spear thrust and luckily blocked a strike with his iron ax. However, he felt a stinging pain in his right lower rib.
"Kyak! Kyak! Kyak!"
The dagger monkey retreated backward and expressed his enthusiasm by puffing his chest as if to say "See? I did it!". His 'colleagues' jovially replied in kind.
'Bastards,' Aito thought, eyeing the dagger stuck in his lower rib.
No medical knowledge was needed to guess that removing it will cause the blood to pour out and kill him in a matter of minutes. So he gritted his teeth through the pain and left it there. However, he needed to treat this wound, and fast. But first…
"I need to take care of those apes." He said with rising killing intent.
Taking advantage of their diverted attention, Aito brought down his ax on the spear monkey before they regained their focus and split its skull in half, then grabbed the spear.
It alarmed the two remaining monkeys, who eyed Aito viciously before running, weapons in hand, towards him. He waited until they got close enough, aimed for the dagger monkey, and flung his ax.
The dagger monkey violently hit the ground, never to move again. Before Aito's last enemy could reach him, he quickly took a step back, grabbed the spear with two hands, and impaled the ax monkey. Panicked and choking on its own blood, the ax monkey frantically moved around, desperately clawed air before drawing its last breath.
"Damn monkey," Aito said, dropping the weapon.
With the adrenaline from the fight dying down, the pain from his gaping wound progressively amplified, and the fact that he might die struck him like a truck.
The past month had relatively been easy to survive, and he had never sustained any kind of life-threatening injury. Now, however, was different. Aito assumed it would just get worse with each passing day, and that demoralized him.
Added to it was one month of loneliness that had gnawed at his sanity, breaking down his mental defenses that… finally… crumbled.
He felt weak, powerless, useless.
A primal feeling seized him: FEAR. Fear of failing the trial. Fear of never going back to Earth. And most of all, the fear of being unable to atone for his sin.
Paralyzed, his vital fluid dripping down his wound, he found himself thinking back to when he was a small, feeble boy in his room.
Back then he had had a nightmare. Cold sweat had poured down his back, and, like now, fear overwhelmed him.
Somehow, his father had sensed it, or he had kept an eye on him. He couldn't recall.
But what he did remember, however, was that his father had given him a hug filled with warmth and parental love before saying those words:
"Fear defines your limits, but don't let it define yourself. Because courage stems from fear, and in it lays the potential to overcome your limits."
A child couldn't understand the meaning behind those words, but who could blame him? It was lengthy and frankly boring. It was much later on, that Aito figured out it meant to overcome oneself, to go beyond one's own limits.
"Don't let it define yourself." He muttered, his courage slightly rising with each word spoken, gluing back his still fragile sanity. "Thanks, dad."
Aito opened his inventory, took out dried coconut fibers, wood, two flints, and started a fire. He laid his ax on it and waited until it glowed red. Then, he placed a piece of wood in his mouth, bit hard, and with a swift motion removed the dagger to cauterize the wound.
The acrid smell of charred human meat entered his nostrils. His skin and flesh burnt, bubbled, smoked. Like a plague, pain spread to his body, intensifying with each passing micro-second that felt like hours to him. The piece of wood cracked, hardly holding out against Aito's gritting teeth. Fighting off the urge to faint with pure will, his mind repeatedly blurred before awakening again to a world of pain.
Aito dropped the ax and sat to rest. He had never felt this kind of pain before and would prefer to receive ten punches on the ring than go through this again. But he had a feeling that this kind of situation will repeat itself more than once.
He had underestimated evol monkeys too much. More variables added to the equation with the passing weeks.
First, they no longer appeared in a flash of light and at noon. So it was more difficult to prepare. Soon, they might attack at night.
Second, evol monkeys now used weapons, which increased the potential harm they could cause him. They were still clumsy at using those, but he expected their proficiency to snowball.
Third, those creatures drastically grew stronger and smarter with each passing week. Furthermore, now that he thought about it, there was a barely noticeable increase in their intelligence each day. He noted that some of them started to avoid traps. Probably because of the marks he had placed. Though risky, he made a mental note to erase them later on.
There might be other unpredictable variables. For example, where did those things come from? He had explored the entire island and found no traces of evol monkeys. Another variable could be the increase of attacks' frequency. Or another species of monkey could be added to the fray. Or some sort of monkey army could attack him. Or—
"What's that?" He said, smirking. "Not such a bad day after all."
The monkey tried to free himself from the bamboo cage. Confused, he looked around to assert the situation and quickly understood what was happening. It was that damn man-thing that had sent him flying with a kick!
There it was, looking at him from the outside. The monkey hated it; he didn't know why, but he hated it, nonetheless.
It was sitting crossed leg, gazing at him. Was it mocking him? Stupid man-thing. The monkey felt an urge to kill it. Yes, killing it would ease the hatred.
He redoubled his effort to break down the cage, but it was too sturdy. However, he could see his attacks slightly weakened his prison. Given time, he could break out and kill the man-thing that humiliated him. Yes, yes, it was a good… he heard his stomach rumble and so did the man-thing.
Wait… It was giggling! That fatty moving piece of meat was ridiculing him! How dared it! Then, something alarmed the monkey.
IT took out a piece of meat from thin air. What was that trick? He needed to learn it so that he could brag about it with his comrades.
Then the man-thing started a fire. What kind of power was that? It could use stones to ignite wood? What if it used those stones on him? He dared not imagine the result.
It then impaled the meat on a stick and hung it on top of the fire. NOOO! It was ruining the meat! The juicy, chewy, gummy, tasty, flavourful meat!
He will never forgive it for this sacrilege. Never!
Aito skewered the monkey meat and cooked it on the fire. Monkeys were supposed to be herbivores, but he wondered if that creature would eat its own species. After all, it clearly didn't come from Earth.
"So, what should I call you? I can't keep calling you monkey, now, can't I? How about…" Aito said, smiling. "Jack. Let's go with that."
Jack disapprovingly looked away. It stared at a tree, seemingly angry for some reason.
"What's the deal with you? Jack's the name of my best friend. You should be honored. Hey! If you continue to ignore me, I won't feed you."
Jack was the monkey he had sent flying in his previous fight. He had found it unconscious and imprisoned it since it could prove useful to study Jack's behavior. Which made him think about a certain guy…
"What was that Chinese guy's quote again? Do you know it, Jack?" He said, while entirely aware of the futility of it. But for the first time in a month, he could finally talk to "a living being". So, right now, he didn't care about how stupid that might look like to others. Not that there was anybody else on that island.
"I think it was something like 'know yourself, know your enemy and you will be victorious in a thousand battles.' Hum… it doesn't sound right, but you got the meaning behind it." He said before something else drew his attention.
The meat's fat was dripping on the fire, evaporating as soon as it touched a flame, its savory aroma spread in the air, tingling at Aito's nostrils.
He turned his gaze towards Jack that was still staring at the tree and smirked when he saw dribble pouring down its chin. He then cut a piece of meat, fixed it on a stick, and slowly brought it within Jack's reach.
After a few seconds, the monkey finally couldn't hold it in anymore and snatched the meat.
'What a divine taste!'
The monkey was chewing on the meat, his eyes sparkling with delight and wonder. Each bite magnified the taste twofold, or so he thought.
He had never eaten anything like that before. Or had he ever eaten anything? He had memories of eating, but it felt… wrong… false.
Whatever, it didn't matter. Right now, he wanted another piece of divine food. However, his pride forbade him from asking for more meat to that man-thing.
The man-thing was smiling. It then cut down another piece of meat, and like last time, presented it to him.
Was it thinking of corrupting him? Make him its comrade? Never! He will never betray his own. Although he had to admit that the food it provided was delicious. Maybe if it became his personal chef, the monkey will acknowledge it as his subordinate, or so he thought while swallowing the divine food.