Chapter 29: The Inheritance of Elpis
“Where’s the researcher located?” Zhou Yu did not seem to be shaken up by the scene before him.
Wu Yun raised his wrist to study it, changing the angle as if he was correcting the positioning.
“What’s wrong?” Zhou Yu asked.
“According to distance and direction… He seems to be inside of Elpis…” Wu Yun furrowed his brows.
Did Elpis swallow the researcher?
Were they lured here according to Elpis’ plan?
“Put on the respirator.” Zhou Yu put on his respirator mask.
Wu Yun immediately understood what Zhou Yu meant, and he clasped Zhou Yu’s wrist, “Even if the tranquilizer bullets are effective on the bluelight fireflies or swordbone butterflies, they might not be for Elpis!”
“We’ll know once we try it. Wu Yun, don’t forget about your daughter. Anyway, it’s already too late for us to go back from the way we came, so there’s no harm in giving it a shot. I have a hunch that you will be able to retrieve the recorder from the researcher, reap unimaginable benefits, and get back safely.”
“… A feeling about this kind of thing… Do you have any hunches about what will happen to me?” Wu Yun asked with a helpless smile.
Will he die here?
Or… Will he be able to see his daughter again?
“Don’t think about the future. The future can be changed, and ‘later’ is bound to arrive.”
After that, Zhou Yu suddenly threw out his only tranquilizer grenade.
The grenade exploded in mid-air and dispersed the sedative gas.
This was an enclosed underground space, making the effect of the tranquilizer grenade highly effective.
Zhou Yu counted in his mind: one second, two seconds, three seconds… Nine seconds, ten seconds!
The swordbone butterflies in the centers of the Elpis flowers fell, one after another, followed by the bluelight fireflies. Like a rain of blue, the scene before them was spectacular.
Like the flow of time, like a vast and momentous illusion.
The ground was soon covered.
The sedative was soluble in water. Since it was effective for bluelight fireflies and swordbone butterflies, it should also be effective for underwater dragons, although the effect would not last as long.
Zhou Yu made a ‘forward’ gesture.
They must race against the clock.
The closer they got to Elpis, the more deeply could feel the mystical wonder of the tree.
As if every vein was a creature capable of independent thought, the second Zhou Yu looked up, an inexplicable sense of holiness filled his heart.
Elpis was like an elder that had observed the world, and it looked down upon them with a merciful gaze.
At that moment, Zhou Yu’s heart seemed to beat as one with Elpis.
Wu Yun looked at the locator on his arm and walked up to Elpis. To his surprise, the researcher lay just under the Elpis tree, completely unharmed by the swordbone butterflies or bluelight fireflies, and not suffocated by the devil vines.
Wu Yun put pressed his fingers to the researcher’s neck and found that his pulse was steady.
This was an impossible situation.
Wu Yun could confirm Zhou Yu’s theory that Elpis had deliberately let them in here, and this researcher had been their bait!
What was its purpose?
At that moment, the sleeping researcher suddenly opened his eyes, startling Wu Yun to back away.
Then he slowly stood up, wearing a smile that Wu Yun had never seen before.
Calm and unflustered, yet noble.
“Welcome to my world.”
The voice was ethereal, echoing in the vast underground kingdom like a star contained within a cup.
“Who are you?! That’s not Zhao Xiaoping’s voice!”
Although Wu Yun wasn’t familiar with the researcher named Zhao Xiaoping, he had been on several missions with him.Wu Yun knew what Zhao Xiaoping’s voice and mannerisms were like.
The man before him was definitely not Zhao Xiaoping!
Zhao Xiaoping looked past Wu Yun’s shoulder at Zhou Yu, “What about you? Who do you think I am?”
Zhou Yu’s expression was much calmer than Wu Yun’s.
“You’re Elpis,” Zhou Yu answered.
Wu Yun was flabbergasted. Then he suddenly recalled how Elpis controlled other organisms.
Although it did not mimic humans like S rank organisms, it could insert its consciousness into other organisms and control their behavior.
“Why did you invite us here?” Zhou Yu held his gun while coldly staring at Zhao Xiaoping, ready to shoot Elpis at any moment.
Whether his precaution was a futile effort or not, he would still try to create a chance of escape for Wu Yun at all costs.
“Don’t be like this, Zhou Yu. The bullets fired from your gun aren’t powerful enough to penetrate my body.” Zhao Xiaoping turned to the side. His eyes were full of banter and detachment that came from standing above humanity.
Wu Yun felt a premonition of danger: Elpis could read their thoughts… It could control himself and Zhou Yu at any time and even make them kill each other.
“What do you want? If you take me and Wu Yun as your prey, then there’s no need for all your chit-chat.”
“You should know that, as Elpis, I will bear only one fruit after thousands of years. However, I gave that fruit to an organism of a higher rank than I.”
Zhao Xiaoping’s words surprised both Wu Yun and Zhou Yu.
An organism of a higher rank than Elpis had to be S rank.
“I lost the opportunity to pass on my blood.”
Wu Yun subconsciously took a step back.
If Elpis’ goal was not to treat them as food, then it might be because it was planning to use them as nutrition for its progeny!
It wanted to nurture another life, so it needed…
“Let’s play a game. In three minutes, the sedative gas will become ineffective and my subjects will awaken. If you can climb up fast enough, you may still be able to get out of here.”
“Climb up?” Wu Yun was completely puzzled.
Zhao Xiaoping only smiled while pointing above their heads.
When Zhou Yu and Wu Yun looked up together, Elpis’ leaves and branches started to shift. A ray of sunlight shone down on Zhou Yu’s face from between the gaps. The midday sun was especially dazzling, and Zhou Yu subconsciously turned his head to the side.
In other words, the huge underground space was not completely enclosed, but Elpis’ dense foliage had covered up the top of the cave!
“We are different from the hypocritical and deceitful humans who fail to keep their promises. Once we make a promise, we will absolutely honor it. The humdrum of passing time bores me, provide me with some entertainment. Time is ticking! Be quick, or else my children will awaken soon.”
Immediately following those words, Zhou Yu looped one end of his rope into the launcher he carried and shot it out high above their heads.
“Let’s go! Wu Yun! ” Zhou Yu’s shout alerted Wu Yun.
They quickly climbed up along the rope towards the top. They were climbing for their lives.
To Elpis, they were insignificant beings, like the ants on a tree.
It took them almost a full minute to reach where the leaves began.
Sweat dripped down from Zhou Yu’s temples. He stepped onto the flowers to boost himself upwards, trampling over the devil vines.
Wu Yun also moved swiftly. At the moment, they had no time to think about whether Elpis was playing tricks on them or whether it really was bored enough to consider them entertainment.
Two minutes later, they were not even halfway up Elpis.
But they couldn’t give up.
At three minutes, and slumbering creatures were gradually starting to awaken.
They had just climbed past the midsection of Elpis and could now clearly see the sunlight.
Zhou Yu saw countless swordbone butterflies and bluelight fireflies flying towards them through the gaps in the leaves.
Time was running out!
Zhou Yu swung up in front of Wu Yun and said, “Give me your rope!”
“Hold on tight!” Saying that, Zhou Yu tied his and Wu Yun’s ropes together so that one end was tied tightly around Wu Yun’s waist. He shot out the other end at a branch high above them.
However, the metal claw did not seize onto any of the branches and fell down the other side.
As Zhou Yu grabbed the metal claw again, Wu Yun suddenly understood what he was trying to do.
“Zhou Yu! No!”
“Take good care of Zhou Qing for me! I’m Elpis’ target!”
Saying that, Zhou Yu threw himself off.
“Zhou Yu!” Wu Yun reached out to grab him, but he was pulled up by the rope. He watched with his eyes wide open as Zhou Yu, who had jumped down, was dragged away by a devil vine that had been creeping upwards.
The more force the devil vine used, the faster Wu Yun accelerated upwards.
Zhou Yu opened his eyes wide and loosened the rope just as Wu Yun seized onto a branch.
“Don’t let my life go to waste!” Zhou Yu loudly warned Wu Yun, but very soon, he was completely engulfed by the branches and leaves.
Wu Yun’s tears streaked by. He gritted his teeth and truly felt how powerless he was to fight back against this creature that was more powerful than him.
He regretted telling Zhou Yu about his daughter. If he hadn’t told him anything, then maybe Zhou Yu wouldn’t have sacrificed himself to save him.
The sunlight shone down on his body. Although he was still a long way from the apex of the cave, the bluelight fireflies would not follow him to where the light was. Those creatures only lived in darkness, and sunlight would rupture their bodies. The swordbone butterflies targeted their prey by fear, and as long as the suppressants inside his body had not metabolized yet, then he would not be attacked as long as Elpis did not really intend to kill him.
Wu Yun’s mind constantly replayed Zhou Yu’s words. “Don’t let my life go to waste.” No matter how much hatred he felt, no matter how much he wanted to jump down and find Zhou Yu, he still had to do everything he could to keep climbing up.
When he finally made it to the top, he unexpectedly found himself at the edge of a cliff.
He fell to his knees with both of his hands supporting the ground. His tears fell without stopping.
He had lost many companions, but Zhou Yu… Was the one he did not want to lose the most.
He wiped away his tears and reoriented himself, headed for the base.
His steps were shaky and his mind was full of scenes from the first time he saw Zhou Yu up to their entire journey together.
He placed his hands over his eyes.
“You bastard! I should… How do I explain all of this to Zhou Qing?”
At this moment, Zhou Yu was being hauled away by the devil vine. Below him, Elpis was slowly unraveling its body, layer by layer. Zhou Yu fell into the center.
There was a golden liquid. Caught unprepared, Zhou Yu heard one last gurgle in his ear before being completely submerged.
His hair floated up in the water, and he could no longer breathe. His limbs were bound by something that seemed like veins. They twisted together tightly, making it seem like he was being held in an overflowing glass of champagne.
It was all like as if Elpis had opened its mouth and swallowed him whole, the liquid being his digestive fluids.
Zhou Yu swam upwards, but his supply of oxygen was rapidly decreasing. Just as he was finally on the verge of breaking through the surface, it felt like he was pushed back by a force, and he sank down again.
His supply of oxygen was depleting, fast. He coughed and swallowed a few mouthfuls of the golden liquid.
That liquid was tasteless, but it seemed to permeate throughout his body once it entered him. It infiltrated his blood, cells, and deep in his nerves.
Zhou Yu pounded hard at the walls, but he couldn’t find a single point of weakness.
His body became heavier and heavier, until he could no longer struggle.
At the very end, his consciousness seemed to pull out of his body. His limbs stretched out and he floated in the golden liquid.
“Zhou Yu… Zhou Yu…”
A soft voice sounded. Zhou Yu slowly opened his eyes.
Am I dead?
Am I still breathing?
A hand reached into the golden liquid. Zhou Yu instinctively raised up his hand to hold onto it.
Then a sudden and powerful force pulled him up, crashing through the water’s surface and into a vast and boundless space.
Before him was a woman in a long white dress.
She was elegant and noble, reminding Zhou Yu of an Elven Queen from a movie.
“Who are you… Where is this?”
Zhou Yu wasn’t sure whether this was an illusion from his deathbed, or if he was already dead and on his way to other lands.
“I am Elpis, the one who trapped you. I apologize for inviting you into my world in this way.”
Zhou Yu looked into her eyes. She was peaceful and thoroughly non-aggressive. Her eyes were even merciful.
“To invite me? Why?”
Elpis smiled, “I told you that I lost the fruit I had been nurturing for millennia. It was my child. I lost the successor of my blood.”
“Yes, you said that. So what? Do you want me to become nutrition for your next fruit?”
Elpis shook her head.
“Our way of ‘inheritance’ is beyond the human concept which only encompasses the replication and passing on of genes. It has another form: ‘thought.’ You know that we Elpis are rare plants that have a brain and a consciousness capable of individual thought.”
“Yes, I know about that.”
“I’ve lived for tens of thousands of years, watching the world. My ancestors have passed on what they’ve seen to me, and I would have passed on those memories to my children. However, I have lost my children, and I will soon reach the end of my own life. I must find a living body to receive my memories. That is the legacy of Elpis.”
“What? Why did you choose me? There are so many creatures in Nibelungen! And I’m a human being from a different world!” Zhou Yu couldn’t understand Elpis.
Elpis smiled. It was detached and aloof, as it it could see through the past and the future.
“Because he chose you. It would be my greatest honor to have you inherit my everything.”
“Who is ‘he’?”
Elpis walked up to Zhou Yu, step by step. She placed her fingers on both sides of his head and slowly closed her eyes.
“The process of accepting everything may be painful, but it will be very important for you to continue surviving in Nibelungen.”
After that, there was no opportunity left for Zhou Yu to refuse or question anything as a force flooded into Zhou Yu’s brain like a current.
It pounded and surged like a whirlpool.
Zhou Yu’s head started to hurt violently, as if it had cracked open.
“Ah—” he cried out painfully.
Numerous fragments and memories flashed through his mind. The origins of various organisms and their paths of evolution and extinction all shuttered past like fleeting landscapes.
Zhou Yu couldn’t breathe. He thought that he would die.
It was like his body had been battered and smashed to pieces by the torrent of thought.
“Zhou Yu… You will live on…”
Elpis’ voice grew more and more distant, until all the extreme pain dissipated.
Zhou Yu could not open his eyes, he only knew that he continued to sink.
He lost consciousness.
Wu Yun returned to the base by helicopter.
He cut a sorry figure. As he walked to Song Zhi’s office, members of the other teams watched him pass by.
When he walked into Song Zhi’s office, the first question he was asked was, “Did you obtain the fruit of Elpis?”
He was ice-cold, and he followed a pre-established trajectory without any deviation from its course.
For the first time, Wu Yun felt the impulse to beat up the man.
“No, the Elpis tree said it did not have any fruit.”
“No fruit? How is that possible? We’ve been observing it for three years! Wait… What do you mean it said that it did not have any fruit?”
“Elpis is a plant possessing a consciousness. They can’t mimic other organisms, but they can enter the minds of other organisms through their thoughts. One of the researchers, Zhao Xiaoping, had his mind under Elpis’ control and acted as its spokesperson. Zhao Xiaoping said that its fruit was taken away by an S rank organism.”
Wu Yun placed the recorder he had recovered from the researcher on the table in front of Song Zhi.
“Very good, I know that you tried your best. If the information you brought back is true, it will be of major significance to our research on the A rank organism, Elpis. You can go back and rest. Although you did not bring back the fruit of Elpis, Juli Corp will reimburse you in full according to the initial agreement of employment.”
Song Zhi’s answer was machine-like.
“That’s it? Don’t you know that Zhou Yu died?” Wu Yun clenched his fists.
He had never been an impulsive person, and had long become indifferent to life and death, but at that moment, he really wanted to pull out his gun and blow Song Zhi’s head off.
“He’s already dead. What I can do for him now is to transfer his compensation payment to Professor Zhou and give full support to Professor Zhou’s research. Perhaps Professor Zhou will be able to manage to find a cure for himself before his time is up. What you can do is to protect what Zhou Yu wanted to protect. Apart from this, do you think there’s any point in me weeping and subjecting myself to misery over this?”
Song Zhi looked at Wu Yun coldly, as if he were looking at an unreasonably troublesome child.
Wu Yun could not refute what he said, it made complete sense.
“Do you know why you are so emotional at the moment?” Song Zhi asked again.
“Oh? Why? Is Mr. Song knowledgeable in psychology?”
“You don’t blame Juli Corp for sending you on this mission because you knew how dangerous it was and how likely it was to die before you received this mission. You feel guilty because of yourself. Why weren’t you the one who gave up your life to save him?”
Wu Yun forced himself to close his eyes. He knew, deep in his heart, that Song Zhi was right.
“Wu Yun, don’t you know what Zhou Yu’s character is like? People like Zhou Yu don’t have any interest in complaining about whatever fate befalls them. He was willing to sacrifice his life for those who were important to him, and he trusted that you will spare no effort in protecting Zhou Qing, so he was able to save you with no hesitation. Don’t let down his trust in you.”
Wu Yun’s throat tightened with emotion.
“You can leave. I still need to go in your place and explain to Professor Zhou why Zhou Yu did not return.”
Wu Yun did not speak and went out. He leaned against the wall. Everything was so stifling that he could not breath.
How he wished that Zhou Yu was still alive. They could drink beer together in the dining hall and talk about all kinds of irrelevant things.
In his office, Song Zhi connected to the intercom: “Is the team alpha still there? I want you to go on a mission and confirm the location of the cave where Elpis is growing. If you can, please look for Zhou Yu’s body. It doesn’t matter if he’s dead or alive, I just want a definite answer.”
In the quiet of his office, Song Zhi had his hands clasped together and pressed against his forehead.
“Why do I have a feeling that you’re not going to die just like that? Show me another miracle and give me a pleasant surprise… Zhou Yu…”
At the same time, Zhou Yu opened his eyes, exhausted.
The rays of the setting sun slanted in from above his head, illuminating the pool of water at the bottom of the cave.
Zhou Yu panted heavily for a while, feeling blood flow from his brain to his fingertips. His fingers trembled slightly, and his thoughts returned to him in that instant.
Where is this?
Zhou Yu moved, shifting to lie down and face the sky.
Where was Elpis? Didn’t its leaves and branches cover the entirety of the cave opening? How was he able to see the sky?
Zhou Yu looked down and found that below the knees, he was still submerged in clear water.
He shook his head. He could clearly remember being dragged into that golden liquid at the center of Elpis by the devil vine!
Looking around, Zhou Yu saw the branches that had belonged to Elpis spread around the entire cave floor. The nerves that had originally appeared to have a pulse and circulation now lay there, dead and lifeless.
All the white flowers had withered and fallen.
The leaves were also a pale, dull color.
Zhou Yu stood up and stepped out from the center that contained the liquid.
Thanks to Kleep as usual and best wishes <3