Novel Translation

The Greatest Showman – Chapter 110

Chapter 110 – Moment of losing oneself

The fingertips of his left hand touched the rough and coarse rock particles. Through the thin layer of anti-slip powder, the moisture seeping from the rock’s surface could faintly be felt. The right hand was carefully inserted into a crevice in the rock. The narrow gap only allowed part of the finger to enter. After slightly adjusting the angle to find the best position and probing a few times, the finger was finally wedged in. Both feet were stepping on a protrusion on the cliff. Although called a protrusion, it was only as wide as a finger. The toes pressed through the thin soles of the shoes to maintain balance.

The scorching sun above was relentlessly radiating energy, making the entire sky brilliantly bright. The hot air seemed to become thick and murky. The sweat on the back had completely soaked the clothes, and the sweat sliding down the forehead dripped into the eyes, but there was no time to wipe it away. A gust of wind howled through the canyon, and the narrow passage intensified the wind’s force, making it not only feel cool but also slightly cold. Goosebumps appeared on the arms.

Heat and cold, swaying and stability, sweat and shivers… contradictions and harmony merged into one, as if one could clearly hear the dialogue between nature and the fingertips.

Taking a deep breath, he applied force inward with the fingertips of his right hand, concentrating the power from the forearm to the upper arm and then to the shoulder. His toes suddenly exerted force as the centre of gravity sank, and his whole body lightly leapt up. He was stretching his left hand diagonally upward to grab a fist-sized stone protrusion. However, due to exerting too much force, the estimated position deviated slightly from the intended target, and his fingertips slid across the rough rock surface, unable to feel the pain before his left hand firmly gripped the protrusion. Both feet stepped on the surface of the cliff below, causing some sand and gravel to fall down. He felt a bit of slipping under his feet as if he could not find a stable foothold.

In the critical moment, the strength of both of his hands exploded completely, pulling his body upwards in a pull-up motion. His feet lifted slightly, almost hitting his stomach with his knees, but his tightly tensed muscles narrowly avoided the collision. Yet, as expected, his feet failed to find a foothold and started to slip downwards. However, he was higher than initially planned, and the friction from his feet sliding down slowed the falling trend. He could barely feel the thin soles of his shoes as his toes calmly searched for a grip. Finally, before his body fully extended, the sliding stopped, and he stabilized.

“Hu, hu…” Taking a couple of deep breaths, he calmed his boiling blood a bit.

The adrenaline rush left his mind completely blank, with no time to think. He could only respond based on his body’s instincts, intuitive guidance, and trained skills. In a mere millisecond, every muscle in his body was operating at a high speed. All distractions vanished entirely, leaving him focused solely on this cliff, on the next protrusion and crevice, on controlling his body, and nothing else.

Looking down at his feet, he realized he was now nearly fifty meters above the ground. The dizzying height transformed into a bottomless abyss amidst the rushing waters, like the gaping maw of a giant shark, ready to devour any life at any moment. Yet, what he felt was only the thrill and excitement surging through his blood. At this moment, he truly forgot himself.

It didn’t matter who he was, he didn’t care about exploring his acting skills, he didn’t care about the nightmares that haunted him, because at this moment, everything was so real— he was truly living, truly breathing, truly existing. Breathing, heartbeat, blood, sweat… every detail was so vividly real that it was intoxicating. Whether he is Renly or Paul, what did it matter? What matters is that at this moment, he could clearly feel the texture of the rock, the wild roar of the wind, and he could breathe in the air mixed with moisture and the scent of moss.

The smile at the corner of his mouth involuntarily spread wider. He wanted to shout loudly and release all the pent-up air in his chest. But when he looked up and saw the distance above him, he realized he was now less than twenty meters from the top of the cliff. He could vaguely see the middle-aged man from before, sitting on the edge of the cliff with his legs hanging down. The wind carried the intermittent sound of the man humming a folk song, leisurely and carefree, as if the world was at his feet.

Excitement surged back into his blood, and his focus sharpened again. He tightened his grip with his left hand and reached into the pocket at the back of his waist with his right hand to grab some chalk, and the sweat on his palms and fingertips instantly disappeared. He then continued to slowly explore upward along the crack, constantly trying to find a spot where his fingers could exert force.

This section of the cliff was very smooth, with almost no protruding rocks. Most of it was sand and gravel, providing no leverage points and being too loose and slippery, making it extremely dangerous. Fortunately, the crack on the side offered some leverage points, but it still required utmost caution.

His right hand fully extended, with the elbow slightly bent, leaving a bit of room for exertion. After confirming the position, he began searching for a leverage point for his left hand. However, after searching thoroughly, the smooth wall left him empty-handed. There were indeed many small protruding stones, but even using his toes for support was too difficult, let alone his fingers.

Patiently searching several times and confirming there was no other way, he took a deep breath to calm his restless mood a bit. It was evident that he still lacked experience. In the process of climbing up, he had chosen a wrong or rather treacherous path, but this in itself was one of the charms of free solo climbing. All the unknowns awaited his exploration; only after encountering them could he understand the true nature of the wilderness.

Decisively, he decided to continue climbing along this crack. This demanded strict control over balance and the centre of gravity, but it was the only route to the top of the cliff.

His left hand also began to repeat the work that the right hand had just done, carefully exploring for a while. Finally, he found a stable position below the right hand. With both hands now placed together, it demanded more strength, so he couldn’t be too greedy. He advanced a little bit each time, maintaining a steady ascent.

His left hand started to sweat. He put it in his pocket to rub some anti-slip powder, then squeezed his palm and reinserted it into the crack. After confirming the force points of both hands, he exerted strength with both hands, and his whole body rose again. This time, however, his feet did not rush to leave the wall. Instead, he stepped on the gravel, climbing upward bit by bit. After gathering energy in his lower abdomen, he felt as light as a swallow. It had seemed like an impossible task, and yet he successfully made a significant advance again.

There was no time to rejoice. His right hand went back into his pocket to grab some anti-slip powder and repeated the previous actions. The tedious process made his nerves completely tense.

The raging wind howled through his arms, chest, and legs as if it could blow him away at any moment and then smash him to the ground. Suspended in midair, neither touching the sky nor the earth, he relied solely on the strength of his hands to grasp a crevice to control his body, while the sand and stones beneath his feet continuously loosened and fell. The roaring waves and the piercing cries of eagles only highlighted the vast silence of nature. He knew his companions were above and below, but at this moment, this was a solitary battle.

Bored? Not at all. He was completely in a state of self-forgetfulness, all distracting thoughts were insignificant, leaving only the smooth, mirror-like cliff face before him.

Inhale, lift, and soar.

He started to climb up again, but just at that moment, the rock crevice his left hand was gripping suddenly made a sharp cracking sound. Before he could react, his left hand was holding onto a piece of broken rock that loosened and fell. Because his hands were exerting maximum force, his left hand flew backwards with inertia. The fingertips of his right hand felt a tremendous impact, and straining hard, managed to pause his falling body for a moment. His shoulders felt a violent pull from the weight, and his feet hurriedly tried to stop by pressing against the wall using friction. However, in the ever-changing situation, his toes slightly lost their grip. His brain immediately realized that he had misjudged the spatial distance. A gust of wind blew, and he was less than a hair’s breadth away from the wall. Then his toes exerted force, but the result was… he missed his step.

His whole body plummeted sharply. The powerful pull of gravity couldn’t be stopped, and then the fingertips of his right hand felt a tremendous tearing pain. Even so, he still couldn’t hold on because he had lost the space to exert force. Thus, his whole body… fell down.

The force of the free fall made his heart suddenly surge upwards, fiercely slamming into his chest cavity. Immediately after, the rope around his waist pulled him up sharply, forcefully halting his descent. The tremendous force nearly snapped his body in half at the waist, causing his internal organs to churn. His stomach was tightly constricted, and the churning acid almost made him vomit.

The safety rope saved his life, but if this had been a real free solo climb, he would have met his end here today. This was far worse than Paul’s situation in “Buried.” He didn’t even have time to feel fear; as everything was about to be over. There was no chance to lie there, feeling regret, fear, terror, and despair. Whether it was Paul or Renly at this moment, he should be thankful: he was still alive. He still had the chance to feel regret, to challenge himself, and to clash.

He relaxed his limbs, hanging in mid-air without hastening to regain control of his body, letting gravity pull his limbs down. He let go of all his strength, and the blood started rushing to his brain. He found this somewhat amusing, so he laughed out loud.

“Hey, buddy, are you okay?”

A concerned voice came from not far away. Renly made an “OK” gesture, “I’m fine. I don’t want to die yet, so I’ve taken adequate safety measures.”

The self-deprecating words made the other person laugh heartily. Then, Renly grabbed the rope with both hands again, regained control of his body, swung gently, and hooked his toe onto a protruding rock, which looked like the handhold he had used earlier. He then stabilized his body.

At this moment, he finally had time to look at his climbing partner, who was also climbing. However, it wasn’t the middle-aged man from earlier but a guy about the same age as Renly. “Hall?” The other person exclaimed first.

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