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Chapter 27

Plague Doctor
     Chapter 27: The Malformed Banyan Disease

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    "Before we discuss this creature, let's talk about the malformed cadavers that were sent to you a few days ago." Professor Qin's expression was calm. However, the words he said sent a hair-raising pressure sweeping through the audience.

    "Those people had contracted a disease, which we address as "Banyan Malformation Disease" for now. The name came about as the disease is, as this student had suspected, related to a banyan tree. The Banyan Malformation Disease shows up in 3 stages after a person contacted it. The first stage is the Asymptomatic Stage, where nothing shows up on the patient. This period is short and not longer than 15 days."

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    "The 2nd stage is the Limbs Malformation Stage. At this degree, cells begin to malform and quickly multiply, very much like cancer cells. It will destroy the conventional cell structure within days. The difference is that these abnormal cells would cause the patient's body to undergo a drastic change in appearance. Within a couple of days, the body would become like the ones you have dissected. If a timely and proper amputation is done, the disease can be entirely cut off so there is still hope of treatment for the patient."

    As he spoke, staff members projected a related video on the massive screen in front of the stadium. The hundreds of people that had gathered watched attentively, as though they were in a lecture.

    Gu Jun was no exception. On the video, the amputation process was shown from a top-down perspective. This surgical process was done by a specialised team of surgeons, who carefully and precisely removed areas of the limb that was infected by the Banyan Malformation Disease. Having dissected this malformed limb first hand, Gu Jun was well aware of the incredible difficulty of this intricate process.

    Should the number of patients be large, there was no surprise that this special department would require to hold emergency recruitment of talents. Afterall, anatomy and surgery processes had an immense correlation.

    As the video played on, beads of sweat formed on the foreheads of the audience. Several of them watched with dropped jaws, while others were caught in a daze. Even the renowned surgeons with the professors were gasping in disbelief. The technical expertise of the surgeons in the video was dazzling. They could not hold a candle in comparison.

    

    "Wow." Xu Hai, Zhang Haoran, and the rest couldn't contain their adulation for the first-class technique they were seeing. This video was a massive eye-opener for them.

    Gu Jun was also taken aback. Even with the benefits of the 2nd tier Hands of Dexterity, he knew that he could barely be sufficient to be a waterboy for these phenomenal surgeons.

    The surgical video skipped a few parts and only played 10 minutes worth of footage. In the next scene, the patients had had their malformed limbs cleanly removed. Just like regular amputees, a prosthetic limb had been attached. With some physiotherapy, they would be able to move properly again. Even after the amputation, Gu Jun was sure that these patients would be quarantined separately and monitored for a very long time.

    "As to whether the patient could suffer a relapse and their expected life span, there isn't any conclusive data yet. We will need a longer clinical observation at the moment."

    Professor Qin continued, "The malformed remains that you have dissected were in the second stage, but they failed to get proper treatment at the right time."

    Obviously, this statement concealed some crucial details. Professor Qin's words became sober, "When the patient progresses to the third stage of bereavement, the abnormal cells will quickly spread to the whole body except for the head. Structural distortions and skin ulceration would be seen. The patient is in severe pain, confusion, delirium, and mania. As the condition develops, the patient will experience muscle spasms throughout the body and even develop opisthotonus."

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    The development of opisthotonus was due to severe hyperextension and spasticity. In this state, an individual's head, neck, and spinal column entered a complete "bridging" or "arching" position.

    As Professor Qin spoke, another video was played on the big screen. Immediately, a petrifying wail resounded throughout the entire venue.

    It was a CCTV footage of a white jail-like room. The room was narrow and cramped, smaller than 5 square metres and utterly barren of any furniture. There was a patient lying on the ground, curved backwards like a bow. It was a gruesome sight. The patient's head had bent all the way and stuck onto his back. His abdomen also protrude outwards. At this point, he could barely be called human anymore.

    Once again, the sight had sent a crushing pressure onto the audience. Amongst the people, many were silently reaching out for the vomit bag.

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    Gesturing at the screen, Professor Qin explained further, "For patients in the bereavement stage, they had already lost all of their senses. Should there be another patient who is also in the bereavement stage nearby, they would enter a frenzy and rush together. Due to the ulceration of their flesh, they would be stuck together like glue and unable to come apart. At the spot where they touched, new skin forms and the wound heals. From that point on, the two patients would be connected together like a conjoined twin. As several others get conjoined, they would malform and take the shape of a banyan tree; just like the patients you have seen within the cage."

    As the blood-curdling screams lingered in their ears, a sudden chill trickled down the spines of the professors and students present as the memory of the abomination they saw resurfaced. This was not the shock and fear they had felt earlier, but a dark and gloomy sense of reality sinking into their minds.

    Previously, they acted like ostriches. They hid from the truth and convinced themselves that this mutation was only a bad dream. A horrific experimentation that had gone wrong. The video had forcefully pulled them out of their lies and showed them the truth. This abomination was no demon or ghost. It was a disease, and they were doctors.

    As this reality sank in, a large patch of gloom and pressure loomed over their heads. Just like a brewing storm, the demand as a medical slave was about to rain upon them.

    "Once the patients with Banyan Malformation Disease have glued together," Professor Qin's face was downcast and grave, "We no longer treat them as humans, but as a new kind of creature. Right now, there is no way to cure them. At this moment, we have found this creature in at least two states; alive and dead. The living Malformed Banyan can continue to grow. Its black liquid is infectious, and other organisms will become infected once they come into contact with the active black liquid. What's more, the infected organism would rapidly develop and enter the bereavement stage. Just now, Gu Jun hypothesised accurately. The Malformed Banyan can bind to organisms other than humans. The rejection reaction that Sun Yuheng mentioned does not occur."

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    Another video was played. This time, everyone was stupefied. The scene in the video had entranced everyone watching.

    It was still a CCTV footage of a similarly barren white cell. Within it was a gigantic white-painted metal cage. Within this cage stood a human banyan tree.

    It was evident that it was not the same as the one in the stadium. The one in the footage was several sizes bigger. Probably about 30 odd corpses had already attached themselves. It was a gruesome sight as it started pacing around the cage slowly. As two staff, clad in full Personal Protective Equipment, approached, tens of heads turned. As though it was rehearsed, they started screeching out simultaneously and formed a cacophony of shrill, deafening shrieks which was worse than what they had just endured.

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    "The biologist within the department concluded that this creature was dependent on their screeches to hunt," Professor Qin discussed the behaviour while the video was playing. "Should any of you have the misfortune to meet a Malformed Banyan one day, you cannot allow yourself to be paralysed by fear. You must immediately escape from its hunting range. Otherwise, you would be partaking in this hunt."

    At that moment, 2 lab rats were released into the cage by the staff.

    "Chi! Chi!" Facing that gargantuan monster, the rats yelped in fear and balled up as their fear had them stuck in their spots. Like a sitting duck, the rats were soon stuck within the hands of the Malformed Banyan and were unable to escape from the hands of death. The footage was sped up. Quickly, the black liquid was released and penetrated the rat's skin.

    Several minutes later, their bodies were also twisted. After another 10 minutes had passed, they were in opisthotonus. Within the next half an hour, it was already the bereavement stage!

    Several hundreds of professors and students witnessed the conjoining of diseased organisms. On the CCTV footage, the time had shown how the lab rats had become part of the Malformed Banyan within two hours.

    Within the stadium, it was pin-drop silence as everyone watched on. Only the low rumbling of the air-conditioning can be heard. It was a depressing sight for them all. Students gripped their hair in horror, while others cupped their heads and balled up. The psychologically stronger few simply sighed helplessly while looking up at the ceiling or the floor.

    "Uh..." Cai Zixuan opened his mouth and wanted to say something, but words failed to form.

    The same silence had stricken Wang Ruoxiang. Beside her, He Yuhan hugged her teammate tightly and muttered falteringly, "It's too miserable, so miserable..."

    Yes, it's miserable. Gu Jun's eyes narrowed, and he looked directly at the demonic sight on the screen. Yet, why did he see a particularly regal and magnificent aesthetic in this creation?

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    It was like a new birth, a high tower rebuilt on the ruins of destruction...