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Chapter 77 - Abnormal Space (2in1)

Plague Doctor
     Chapter 77: Abnormal Space (2in1)

    “Inside there, other than the stretch of dead trees that we walked through, there is nothing but a slate of barren ground that has been rotten black.” Xue Ba thought back to the withering and death. Even though he had gotten used to abnormal energy, the discovery still left its mark on him. “The banyan tree appears to be the center of that space. No matter the direction we take, after we travel in straight line for 1,037 meters, we reach a high wall. The space is surrounded on all sides by a stone wall. We were trapped inside it.”

    “How tall was the wall?” Gu Jun could not help but ask.

    “No clue.” Xue Ba sounded regretful when he said that. “We did use the drone that we brought with us to try to measure the height, but even after it had travelled 1,500 meters, which is the drone’s maximum altitude, we were nowhere close to the edge of the wall. If we moved higher, the drone would have fallen from a loss of control. Naturally, the videos that we captured are distorted as well.”

    A circular stone wall that was more than 1,500 meters tall surrounding a space that was 2,074 meters in diameter. Just how majestic and impressive the place must have been. Gu Jun’s brows creased together. Could that really be a product of human creation?

    “The wall barred us from moving further,” Xue Ba said.

    The Demon Hunters conducted a carpet search of the barren land. This took half a month. Their superiors did not allow them to use overly rash methods like using explosives on the wall because they were worried that might affect the stability of the abnormal space, causing the connection between the space and the tree hole to collapse. However, that also meant that the unit came up with nothing.

    The superior gave them a few days of holiday to unwind after they returned from the project. That was until yesterday when they had a new breakthrough—the foreign characters that was found at Lai Sheng Company’s base, and they were confirmed by Gu Jun as a type of language. The unit had seen a similar row of foreign words on a particular spot of the wall before.

    With this new breakthrough, the emergency group refocused their attention, but the problem was that the exploration team members’ mental state appeared to have been affected. They only had an indescribable blockage in their mind when they tried to think about their experience in the abnormal space. None of them could write down the row of foreign characters. Naturally, the videos were not of much help either. The strangest thing was, the exploration team had tried to copy directly the foreign characters while they were inside the abnormal space, but the copied version could not match the characters on the wall no matter how hard they tried. The characters themselves possessed abnormal energy.

    

    Later, they had linguists join them, but they could not make head or tails of the foreign characters.

    “But once I saw the few sentences that Lai Sheng Company left on those trees, I was reminded directly of those characters that we saw! Uncle Dan confirmed my suspicion, but we still could not write them now,” Xue Ba said as he patted Gu Jun on his shoulder. “So, the mission this time is for us to bring you inside the tree hole and see whether you can understand what the foreign characters mean.”

    Gu Jun finally understood what was happening, and a thought immediately bubbled up in his mind. ‘Could the abnormal space be a part of that foreign civilization’s world? The Afterlife Cult’s experiment… has joined both worlds together?’

    He had many questions that he needed to be answered. “Captain Xue, does that only happen here? What about the banyan trees in other places of outbreak?”

    “That only happens here, but we suspect Lai Sheng Company might be in possession of other routes.” Xue Ba’s face turned serious. “The Action Department did not catch anyone at their base yesterday. They saw human activity inside the building, but they disappeared mysteriously.”

    “Has Phecda encountered such incidents with abnormal space before?” Gu Jun asked.

    “Yes, we have encountered something similar, but something like this… should be the first time. Actually, the headquarters are directing the whole operation now.”

    “Captain, what about that abnormal creature with the lamellar bone in its chest? Where do they come from?” Gu Jun asked with a stern tone because this question was very important. “I believe they are related to Lai Sheng Company, and I believe I am right about this.”

    “Oh?” Xue Ba instantly looked at Gu Jun with open curiosity. “The result of the Investigation Department concluded that those monsters are separate incidents from the Malformed Banyan Disease.”

    “No, I am sure they are related! They are of one source, and I suspect they enter our world from another one through these banyan tree holes,” Gu Jun quickly explained. The Afterlife Cult probably did not have the power to control these creatures that destroyed their old world, but they had the ability to direct the tragedy over to Earth…

    “Okay then, I shall report this to the superiors.” Xue Ba naturally understood the severity of this situation and soon departed. Gu Jun glanced down at the withered large tree and suddenly a scary thought cross his mind. ‘Sixteen handprints, sixteen people. The Demon Hunters plus me—doesn’t that equal sixteen people?’

    “Captain Xue, wait!” Gu Jun hurriedly called after Xue Ba. “Have our handprints been compared to the ones on the tree?”

    His handprint had already been recorded when he was accepted by Phecda.

    “Haha, kid, you sure do think ahead.” Xue Ba laughed openly. “Of course we have done that. It’s fine. Otherwise, why would they still send us in? But still, it might be a one-way trip every time you enter the abnormal space. There is no guarantee. I’d draft my will now if I were you.”

    Seeing Xue Ba walk away, Gu Jun shook his head with regret. He thought that knowledge of the foreign language would provide him with security, but now it only put him into deeper danger. For now, he went to Uncle Dan to ask for a pen and paper. He wrote down a simple will, mainly jotting down his appreciation for Prof Gu, Brother Qiang, and Surgeon Zhu for their confidence in him, and then he left words of encouragement for Cai Zixuan, Wang Ruoxiang, and the rest. If he died, he would want them to keep moving forward. Then he grabbed his head, faking a headache. After some moaning, he gasped hungrily as he told the crowd who had gathered around him. “I was suddenly reminded of so many foreign words…”

    Then he wrote down the five hundred foreign words that he already knew to the organization.

    Things had changed. In the morning, he had kept this a secret was for his own security, but now he did this… probably for the people he had mentioned in his will. Gu Jun had no idea whether the people saw through his trick or not. In any case, no one said anything. However, after Xue Ba and the team looked over the list that he had just written down, they still could cannot remember any trace of the foreign characters they had seen on the wall. Even though there was a chance they could decipher the characters now with this new list provided by Gu Jun, the superiors still ordered Gu Jun to tag along this mission. Perhaps he might be triggered to remember more things when he was inside the tree hole.

    “Your latest update has garnered the headquarters’ attention.” Xue Ba told Gu Jun. “Due to the urgency of the situation, we need to finish this mission as fast as we can.”

    Before this, the Demon Hunters had already conducted a series of tests inside the abnormal space, like the air density. Other than the low density of oxygen, which was at thirteen to fifteen percent, there was no trace of harmful elements to the human body. They had conducted toxin tests and microbiology tests as well; they all passed. Theoretically speaking, human beings could inhabit the space without any special protection. But for the sake of safety, the group still put on yellow protective suits that covered them from head to toe. Since the skin must not have any physical contact with the banyan tree, when they were inside the space, it was better not to remove the protective gear unless necessary.

    The abnormal space had a ‘capacity’ limit with regards to the presence of external objects. In other words, it could only support a certain upper limit when it came to things that did not come from the space itself, be it alive or dead. This capacity was not limited at entry only; the things placed inside the space was counted as well. To explain it clearly, imagine the space like a cup of glass. Once it was full, no more water could be poured into it. Therefore, options like transporting parts of tank into it and then constructing one inside were impossible.

    Therefore, the emergency unit had to make serious considerations regarding the items that the exploration team would take with them. This time, their mission was to enter the space to take a gander at the foreign characters and then come out.

    Therefore, the first consideration was safety. How would they deal with possible enemies? To answer that, weapons were made necessary, and it had to be a well-rounded selection of weapons to deal with different kinds of enemies. For example, if there was an ambush of subterrain giant worms, and it had chomped on one of the members, then the weapon had to be able to harm the worm while ensuring the bullet would not pierce and injure the member it had its hold on. They had to consider other abnormal creatures that had become active recently as well. In conclusion, the team was equipped with different kinds of weapons, with different bullet calibers and different ranges to deal with different situation.

    The second consideration was survivability, specifically food and water that could last for a week. The third consideration was life support, things like medical instruments, medicine, and blood bags—because when necessary, the heavily injured members could be abandoned. After all, Phecda was built on the sacrifice of many Special Mobile Force members.

    Then there were other devices and miscellaneous items. After carrying all these, heavier weapons like anti-tank cannons would be over the capacity limit. The focus was agility. Everyone had a gun. That was better than just having one double barrel anticraft machine gun. Some of the objects had already been placed inside the abnormal space beforehand. The remaining load would be separated evenly among every member’s inventory. The combined weight of all totaled up to a precisely calculated number.

    “This here is a QWC 05. Take it with you.” Before they departed, Xue Ba grabbed a submachine gun and tossed it to Gu Jun. “It’s easy to handle. Just switch off the safety here, load, aim, and fire. This gun is fully loaded. This is just a precaution. Do not switch off the safety unless necessary, and never point the barrel at your ally! If you do, I will gun you down on the spot, the reason being your S value has dropped dangerously low.”

    “Understood…” Gu Jun could tell that Xue Ba was not joking.

    The QWC 05 was not a heavy gun, but it felt quite hefty in Gu Jun’s grasp. This was the first time he had held a real gun. At least, in his known memory, this was the first time. Three hours after they had arrived at Gu Rong Village, everything was finally ready.

    Then with the people from command central sending them off, the Demon Hunters and Gu Jun approached the big banyan tree. The tree’s decaying stench was isolated outside the protective suit. Gu Jun breathed in the oxygen provided by the small oxygen tank and watched as Xue Ba, who walked at the front of the group, squeezed into the tree hole and disappeared among the darkness. Then it was the next team member, followed by another team member.

    “Ah Jun, keep up.” Then it was Uncle Dan’s turn. His voice came over the wireless. “Don’t be scared. Uncle Dan will be there for you.”

    “Okay.” Gu Jun watched as Uncle Dan also disappeared inside the tree hole. Then he took steps forward to move toward the decayed, dark, and gray hole.

    First step, second step, third step…

    He could see, as if through a mist, a blur that was a dance of light and darkness.