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Chapter 1

Plague Doctor
     Chapter 1: The Rock Pillar At The Bottom Of The Sea

    15

    Larbre Studio  Larbre Studio

    How important is money in a human's life? Whenever this topic came up, Gu Jun would wield the same opinion, money, well, it is very, very important. "Let me tell you something. There's only one true illness in this world, and that's poverty."

    1

    Gu Jun could still vividly remember the incident that changed his life three years ago. He had just turned eighteen years old and received the acceptance letter for an eight-year course for a masters and doctorate degree in clinical medicine from the Eastern University, one of the top five national medical schools. During the high school graduation party, it was this movie quote from Dying to Survive that he imparted on his friends. This was not the man being bleak, if anything, he painted himself on the other side of the line, no, he was not the one with poverty, he was one on the path to rule the world.

    Yes, a young man on his way to rule the world, a disguise he carried… alongside the heartache known to no one but himself.

    Indeed, for an orphan whose parents died when he was only ten, the various compensations that added up to five million dollars, was the only source of income for Gu Jun during his ten odd years of life. It became the only spiritual pillar that prevented him from crumbling.

    2

    The money was being managed by a custodian fund. By the time he turned eighteen, he was free to access his inheritance.

    He had no more relatives in the world, but he still had money!

    Money, the only thing that he had left.

    

    "Tycoon Jun". This was the nickname his classmates in the university had secretly given him. This nickname was used with both adoration and ridicule.

    He spent lavishly, treating his friends to all sorts of entertainment and luxuries. His wallet seemed like a bottomless trench. In the eyes of others, this was his only redeeming point in school.

    1

    After entering college, he had lost all motivation and drive. Perhaps the college entrance examination had sapped him all his energy to study in this life. His heartfelt aspiration of "I want to be a doctor when I grow up!" which he confidently declared to his mother years ago seemed meaningless now.

    His study spiralled out of control, he either barely passed his classes or gave up completely. Having fun. That was the only thing he knew. Day in, day out, he chased girls in bars and spent his life as a drunken mess.

    Time passed and his professors threw away all their expectations of him one by one. Even the counsellor had given up. Many students gave him a wide berth when they saw him. Everyone said that people like Gu Jun, apart from smearing Eastern University's reputation, would amount to nothing. Anyone who hung out with him would only be dragged down to his level.

    Gu Jun did not refute anything. After all, he knew from the bottom of his heart that everyone was right; he was a wastrel, and he planned to continue wasting his life away.

    That was until half a year ago.

    A second major setback entered his life.

    Brain tumour.

    Medulloblastoma, the most malignant type of brain tumour. Furthermore, his condition had gotten so bad that surgery was not an option. Then again, even if he had the option of surgery, it would be followed by chemo and recovery, the best patient had an average life expectancy of 0.9 years, that was less than 1 full year.

    At that moment, Gu Jun, who had been wasting his life away for the past two and a half years, seemed to have been doused by a basin of cold water. He completely came back to his senses.

    Tycoon Jun was dead and Gu Jun was back.

    His spirit returned and he cooperated fully with his treatment. However, the brainstem was the nerve centre of the human body. It had always been the "surgical forbidden zone". At that time, he travelled to many cities and countries, but no hospital dared to operate on him.

    After three months of unsuccessful medical consultations and scourging the world's latest medical information on brain tumours, Gu Jun accepted the stone-cold reality. His condition was incurable. Not even his vast amount of wealth could help him.

    6

    Thus, he made two decisions.

    First, he bought a set of luxury cruise tickets, which departed from Eastern Province, passing through Malacca, finally reaching the Indian Ocean. Seizing the last moments of his life, he had planned to visit all the places where his parents worked when they were still alive during this blazing hot summer vacation. That was his wish since childhood. If he was still alive after that, he would continue to travel around the world.

    Second, he only left a few tens of thousands for himself. He donated the remaining one million RMB to the Swan Children's Hope Fund to fund orphan education.

    If he had a next life, doing good may perhaps give him some good karma for his reincarnation.

    1

    "Hello Mr Gu, we have reached the Longkan submarine volcanic belt. Your deep-diving expedition has been arranged. Please gather at the boat ladder within the next half an hour."

    1

    The sweet voice of a waitress pulled Gu Jun, who was sitting in a daze in the open-air cafe on the top deck, from his thoughts.

    "Alright." He nodded, "I will be going now." As he said that, he generously tipped her.

    The waitress accepted the tip, and the smile on her face became even more vibrant. This Mr. Gu was handsome and was very loose with his purse strings, so she would always be thrilled to serve him. She smiled. "Mr Gu, please come with me."

    At present, Gu Jun followed the waitress to the lower level of the ship, looking at the surrounding sea with mixed feelings.

    Gu Jun had never liked the ocean ever since he was young. His father was the captain of the scientific investigation ship "Seabird", and his mother was the doctor on board. He never truly understood why they had to stay at sea for many years and abandon him to a guardian.

    That accursed heartless research company! The only news he got was a statement "The Seabird sank in a storm, and the lives of the entire crew on the ship were lost" and the five million that was thrown at him. There had been no follow-up. The ship could not be found, and none of the body either! Soon after, the company closed.

    1

    The sea seemed eerily blue, and the waves tossed and churned relentlessly, as though wanting to cover up the past.

    Gu Jun sometimes even wondered, were his parents really dead? Perhaps they did not die in the shipwreck, but was living on a deserted island and waiting for rescue?

    Or perhaps... the boat sank to the seafloor right in this area?

    For the sole purpose of finding out the truth, he paid a hefty price for this deep diving project. Tourists entered a boat-shaped submarine that could dive down to 2000 meters below the sea and observe the volcanic belt through the window. This was not a benefit that came along with the standard ticket, but a special offer for the rich. That was because a single dive incurred hefty expenses.

    1

    As he was about ten steps away from the boat ladder, Gu Jun noticed that there were three young tourists in addition to the crew members and the captain. Two males and one female.

    "Ladies and gentlemen, we are now at the legendary Longkan Submarine Volcanic Belt!" One of the young men, who seemed to be in his early twenties, was holding a mobile phone and seemed to be doing a livestream. He was wearing a fancy Hawaiian flowery shirt and had an extravagant hairstyle, trying to be reggae.

    Gu Jun heard the man speaking mysteriously into his mobile phone. "The local indigenous tribe calls it ‘Hamkanaba', which means ‘Abyss of the Devil'..."

    2

    The other man was a little older. He was a sturdily-built, tall, and muscular man with a tight pink vest covering his upper body. Two log-like arms were exposed and he impatiently asked the captain, "How much longer will we have to wait?"

    The only woman amongst them was the youngest. She seemed to be sixteen or seventeen with a tall figure and a pretty face. She was wearing a stylish coat and shorts that were both a military green colour. Her long pair of legs extended endlessly, looking like a pair of chopsticks and was extremely eye-catching. She had a large tattoo on her left lower thigh, and it was difficult to differentiate whether it was real or merely a tattoo sticker.

    1

    She was the first to notice Gu Jun's arrival, but her eyes remained cold and arrogant. She deftly brandished the military sabre in her hand, as though giving a warning to anyone daring to approach.

    1

    "It's like this, this diving expedition has already been booked by another guest," the old captain explained awkwardly and suddenly exclaimed, "Ah, Mr Gu, you have arrived already!"

    The captain signalled for the waitress to leave. Gu Jun then walked forward, under everyone's scrutiny.

    The old captain started the introductions. The reggae man was called Li Yuerui, while the muscular man was named Wu Dong. Finally, the girl decked out in military uniform was Lin Xiaotang. They are the "Most Respected VIPs" on the cruise ship- the captain hinted with his eyes that they were powerful scions that must not be offended.

    2

    The three were initially looking to rent a speedboat to have some fun in the nearby ocean, but the boat-shaped submarine caught their attention. They requested to join the deep-diving expedition as well. The submarine had a total of seven seats. The two operators and one lifeguard took up three slots and only four slots remained. Gu Jun had reserved all of the remaining slots.

    Since the submarine needs to perform various safety inspections after each dive, according to the cruise itinerary, there was only one diving opportunity this month. The three young masters and miss were so excited and eager to join so the captain had no choice but to try to negotiate with Gu Jun for the three of them to join him and they would share the cost. After all, the more, the merrier, right?

    "Sure," Gu Jun shrugged and casually replied. Since the seats were going to be empty anyway, it did not matter to him if other guests wanted to tag along.

    "But..." The muscular man, Wu Dong, was still a little unwilling. His eyes darted about, as though wanting to say something.

    As for the reggae male Li Yuerui, he had been standing there while continuing to live stream, not participating in the negotiation.

    Gu Jun looked at the girl in the military uniform with a sudden curiosity.

    "What are you looking at?!" Lin Xiaotang noticed him scrutinising her and immediately scowled back at him with a ferocious expression on her face.

    "Looking at you," Gu Jun said.

    1

    He was so direct that Lin Xiaotang was a little stunned. "You ..."

    "It's up to you now. Anyway, I don't mind everyone sharing the boat." Gu Jun glanced at the other three with a smile and took the initiative to go down the boat ladder, not caring about their opinions. One of the perks of knowing his expiration date was that he had much less f*ck to give.

    "Hey brat, stop!" Wu Dong hollered, "GET BACK HERE!" but Gu Jun continued walking forward. Li Yuerui had already run down the boat ladder and was chasing after him. One of his hands continued filming with the mobile phone and he grabbed Gu Jun's shoulder with the other. He smiled like they were already best buddy. "Hey, bro. I hope you don't mind. Wu Dong that fella is a bit tense, stubborn as a stone sculpture. See, take a look at my live stream, every time he appears on screen, the viewers will send the message ‘it's the cute dummy'."

    "Heard that, cute dummy?" Lin Xiaotang chided out as she walked past the sullen Wu Dong.

    Wu Dong was really depressed, scratching his head and complaining, "Wasn't it you guys who wanted to keep this mission a secret?!"

    Uh, aren't you guys livestreaming? Keeping what a secret? Gu Jun could not figure out if the term cute dummy applied to every one of them.

    1

    After things dragged on for a while, everyone finally equipped their protective gear under the guidance of the operator and took their seats in the submarine. The tourist seats were arranged in two front and back rows with two seats per row. Gu Jun sat at the seat with the number 1, while the second position on his right was occupied by Li Yuerui. The third and the fourth position was filled by Lin Xiaotang and Wu Dong.

    Soon, the hatch of the submarine was closed, and they started to dive. They were surrounded by blackish-blue water. 200 meters, 500 meters, 1000 meters ...

    At this time, Gu Jun's ears caught wind of the discussion that the other three were mumbling to each other.

    "Ah Rui, are you sure we're at the right place?" Wu Dong asked.

    "Just how credible this information is..." Lin Xiaotang's tone was similarly full of doubt.

    "If you guys don't believe me, at least trust that guy! Well, what I heard was that this is the place... But the seafloor is so vast so whether we can capture a shot is really up to our luck now." Li Yuerui was the only one who spoke with confidence, since there was no signal in the deep sea, he swapped out the livestreaming for video recording.

    Gu Jun understood from their conversation that they were here to explore. These days, the Internet was always filled with all kinds of bizarre rumours. There were many sea monster sightings, but never a credible evidence to support such claims. Occasionally, a few blurred photos or fuzzy videos were uploaded only to be proven to be false afterwards.

    But seeing the backgrounds of these three people, the "news" that they had heard should not be referring to those Internet rumours, right?

    "Dear viewers!" Li Yuerui continued filming the dark ocean outside the window. "Look at how dark it is outside. We have dived over 1,500 meters, and we're not far from the ocean floor!" To get a clearer picture, he unfastened his seat belt, got up, and proceeded to the side of the cabin to shoot a better image of the view outside the window.

    3

    "Mr Li, please return to your seat and fasten your seatbelt. Your current actions are potentially hazardous. There are many undercurrents on the seafloor," the old captain advised weakly.

    "It'll only take a moment!" Li Yuerui made an ‘okay' gesture and continued to film. "If it wasn't for the submarine, humans would be squashed by deep-sea pressure..."

    Gu Jun gradually paid less attention to them. Under the light of the searchlights, he gazed out at the rugged seafloor outside the window. His heart was secretly beating fast with anticipation at the sight of a decrepit sunken boat.

    His anticipation was also mixed with the trepidation of seeing such a scene.

    Perhaps it was only a hallucination caused by his brain tumour, but he suddenly noticed that there was a rock pillar about half the height of an average human on the seafloor. It looked like an igneous rock formation, but he seemed to see a surface full of carvings of various lines and patterns.

    The more he stared, the more he found the rock pillar increasingly puzzling. Magma were flowing out as if the sculpture was actually bleeding.

    Morbid, perverse, yet brimming with vitality that even burns through the darkness. That was the impression he got.

    PU!! With a sudden jerk, the magma seemed to rush straight towards the submarine and drown him before he even had any time to react.

    AHHH! IT HURTS!!!!

    Gu Jun grunted, with both his hands tightly clutching his head. The intense pain inside his head threatened to overwhelm him, and he was sweating buckets.

    What are these illusions? Countless indescribable sights poured into the back of his mind, flooding him with an unspeakable sense of confusion, terror, and madness. It hurts. IT HURTS! Blood seemed to leak out of his eyes, dying his entire vision crimson. He saw a wild storm, an enormous shadow rising from the depths of the sea.

    "WHIRLPOOLS DETECTED, ABNORMAL WHIRLPOOLS DETECTED!" the old captain seemed to be screaming in panic. "SURFACE IMMEDIATELY! TURN THE SUBMARINE AROUND, NOW!!!"

    The submarine trembled violently. Fortunately, everyone was secured in their seats, but...

    Gu Jun seemed to vaguely hear Li Yuerui's miserable wail of "Ah!" As well as Lin Xiaotang's and Wu Dong exclaiming in surprise, "Ah Rui?!"

    DING DING! A mechanical sound seemed to reverberate inside his head.

    "Now binding with the host. Binding successfully. Monitoring the vitals of the host..."

    1

    Gu Jun's consciousness was still a bit vague, but he could clearly ‘see' a system interface inside his mind.

    "The report on the host's vitals is out. Please reconfirm."

    Name: Gu Jun

    Species: Human - Homosapiens

    1

    Sex: Male

    Age: 21

    Height: 182cm

    Weight: 78kg

    Body fat percentage: 17%

    Heart rate: 81 beats/min (Normal)

    Blood pressure: 100 mmHg systolic blood pressure, 77 mmHg diastolic blood pressure (Normal)

    Blood glucose levels: 4.82 mmol / L (Normal)

    Red blood cell count: 4.9 × 10 ^ 12 / L (Normal)

    White blood cell count: 6.78 × 10 ^ 9 / L (Normal)

    ...

    Brain stem: FATAL ABNORMALITY, FATAL ABNORMALITY, FATAL ABNORMALITY!

    The host's brain stem is mutated, with the rapid proliferation of malignant tumours. Based on the current growth rate, it will take an estimated 32 days for the host to experience symptoms such as esotropia, facial paralysis, and uncontrollable twitching of facial muscles. After 60 days, the host will experience sudden death.

    DING! A mechanical sound rang out inside his head again.

    "As the host's brain stem is abnormal, the host must complete self-rescue missions through the task system within 60 days. Otherwise, the consequence would be inevitable death."

    [A new mission log has been generated. Hosts can get rewards for completing tasks. The higher the mission difficulty, the greater the rewards.

    The mission level is divided into three levels: NORMAL, DIFFICULT, ABYSSAL. Only one level can be selected every time, so choose carefully. Currently, the host can only take one level per mission until the task is completed or has exceeded the deadline.

    Every day at 0000hrs, the task list will be refreshed. "

    July 21, 2020

    NORMAL mission: Successfully rescue an emergency patient today. Mission reward: 1 box of human brainstem tumour-targeting drugs which can extend the host's lifespan by five days.

    DIFFICULT mission: Dissect 3 human remains in three days. Mission reward: 1 Carlo scalpel

    ABYSSAL mission: Complete dissection of a zombie within one week. Mission reward: UNKNOWN]

    1

    "Please redeem your Newcomer's Gift. This is your only chance. Generous rewards await!"