Chapter 39: The string sandworm
Just as a string sandworm was about to attack their rear, it was hit by a bullet.
The neurotoxin quickly felled the sandworm, its body narrowly missing the helicopter.
Sweat nearly dripped down from Wu Yun’s forehead. He patted Xiao Chen’s shoulder and said, “When you get back alive, you can write a novel.”
Xiao Chen was panting while his body trembled like a sieve, “Is it… is it over?”
Zhou Yu let out a sigh, “It’s probably over. Let’s get down.”
When he opened the cabin door, Xiao Chen tightly gripped onto the safety handrail, unwilling to go outside.
Actually, not even Wu Yun could be sure that it was completely safe. He walked out first with his gun, carefully searching for movement in the sand.
On the contrary, Mo Ye jumped out from behind him, landing in the white sand. He jumped around for a bit, then looked at Wu Yun with his head askew, as if he didn’t understand why Wu Yun was being so cautious.
Wu Yun didn’t have the patience to wait for Xiao Chen and hauled him off the helicopter.
“Mo Ye, come back.” Zhou Yu got out of the pilot’s seat and shut the helicopter’s door.
Obediently, Mo Ye scampered up to Zhou Yu while flapping his wings.
Zhou Yu also carried his gun with him and together with Wu Yun, they protected Xiao Chen by sandwiching him between them.
“Xiao Chen, where are the remains of the night spirits? There’s so much sand here, don’t tell me we’ll have to dig it all up.”
Xiao Chen gulped, scared that he would accidentally step on something.
“I-It’s… halfway down the sand… the night spirits all died together.”
“Really?” What a strange way to die, Wu Yun thought to himself.
When they came to an approximate location, Wu Yun jabbed Xiao Chen with his elbow, “Get working.”
Xiao Chen was flustered, and after groping around for some time, he finally pulled out a gun.
“Hah? You have a gun, Xiao Chen? Did you pass your firearms test? I don’t care if you shoot yourself, just don’t shoot me!” Wu Yun asked, worried.
It was actually a specially modified gun that had been turned into a sampling device.
If he aimed at the target and pulled the trigger, then the sampling device would penetrate through the sand and dig down past its layers. Pressing another button would allow the device to automatically extract itself, eliminating the need to dig up the sand.
“Okay, Xiao Chen, don’t listen to Wu Yun, just take the sample.”
Xiao Chen didn’t want to stay there for a minute longer than necessary so he aimed at the ground and pulled the trigger, making the device shoot out. When the sample was taken, Mo Ye, who had been beside Zhou Yu the whole time, suddenly started to tug on the corner of Zhou Yu’s pants, forcing him to leave.
“What is it?” Zhou Yu worriedly asked.
Xiao Chen had already deposited the sample into a sealed container and was taking more samples from different directions.
Mo Ye vigorously shook his head, as if he didn’t want them to take back the samples of the remains.
“Is there a problem with the sample?” Zhou Yu frowned.
Mo Ye nodded.
“Do we need to take them again?” Xiao Chen looked dismayed.
Just as Xiao Chen shifted his stance, the sand beneath their feet suddenly started to sink. Xiao Chen immediately started falling and he let out a shriek, “Ahh—”
Just when Wu Yun was about to pull him out, the radius of the sinkhole started to widened, also carrying Wu Yun along with it.
Zhou Yu ran away from its edge, but he couldn’t match up to the speed of the quicksand and also fell into it. Mo Ye leaped up and bit down on his shoulder, but he was also standing on the quicksand and couldn’t use any strength. Both of them eventually sank in together.
There was an empty space underneath the sand, and when Xiao Chen had taken the samples, it skewered the rock that had been supporting the layer of sand. It caved in and the sand had swept downwards, just in time for them to fall in with it.
Wu Yun stood up with his mouth full of sand. Xiao Chen was not too far away, practically buried in the sand. Wu Yun quickly pulled him out and patted his cheeks, “Hey! Idiot! Get up! Pronto, if you don’t want to get buried in here!”
A steady flow of sand was spilling in, soon about to engulf the entire place. The sand buried Zhou Yu completely, but luckily, Mo Ye was there to pull him out.
Zhou Yu had almost suffocated. He supported himself up on the ground and took big, gasping breaths while coughing and spitting out the sand in his mouth.
The sand was quickly overwhelming the space. Wu Yun hauled Zhou Yu up. “Don’t stop! We’ll get stuck in the quicksand!”
Zhou Yu looked up and saw that everything was dark. He couldn’t make out how spacious the cavern was or if there was another exit.
Zhou Yu took out an oxygen mask from his backpack and put it on.
Wu Yun was quick to understand Zhou Yu’s meaning; the underground cavern had been sealed for so long that it was sure to contain harmful gases, and the oxygen that got in with them from when the top layer had split open was far from enough to keep them going.
Also, they were currently stepping on top of a vast expanse of skeletal remains, the eerie white bones stacked in a crisscrossing pattern. It was evident that they had experienced a brutal battle before their deaths—not against a foreign foe, but against other night spirits.
Xiao Chen looked surprised. He was about to take a sample before Wu Yun tugged him back. “Don’t run around! You wanna fucking die?”
The quicksand was slowly swallowing up the bones of the night spirits and had even reached up to Xiao Chen’s knees.
Xiao Chen came back to his senses and staggered back.
After running a great distance away, the quicksand finally could not reach them anymore. Xiao Chen’s heart almost couldn’t take it and he was left gasping for air. Wu Yun and Zhou Yu stopped and took out light sticks from their backpacks. After giving them a shake, a shimmer of light finally appeared in the darkness.
The place was bigger than they had thought.
Wu Yun snorted, “I hate caves. I hate caves the most. Ever since Elpis’s cave, I started to really hate this kind of claustrophobic space!”
Zhou Yu raised his light stick and found that there were also many night spirit skeletons in this cave. He looked down at Mo Ye, who was squatting beside him, and worried a little that he might be scared. After all, this was the first time he’d seen the remains of his own race. It was also the first time he would come to realize that even with strong healing abilities, his race was not immortal.
Xiao Chen took everything in with eyes as round as marbles. “Why did the night spirits kill each other? Also, night spirits are organisms with strong healing abilities, it’s inconceivable that they would all die out like this!”
The place was too silent. It was as if they had entered into the mausoleum of the night spirits, where it was dry but dark. The departed souls of the night spirits resembled the gatekeepers of hell.
Zhou Yu was suspicious, but Mo Ye didn’t seem to care about anything around him. He only looked up at Zhou Yu. In the darkness, his round eyes appeared particularly bright, just like a weak flame in the dark that could burn up the entire place at any time.
“Xiao Chen, weren’t you going to take a sample?”
Chen jerked into action and put on his gloves. He half-kneeled in front of a night spirit’s skeleton and put its bone fragments into the sampler.
Wu Yun looked around forlornly. “Who cares about the sample? The only way down here is through the cave entrance, and it’s already been blocked by the quicksand. There aren’t any other exits! If we don’t suffocate in here, then we’ll starve to death. “
Xiao Chen’s eager face quickly fell.“What? We’re going to starve in here? And suffocate? Let’s hurry up and figure out how to get out of here!”
“Calm down, Xiao Chen. The night spirits were able to come in here so there must exist another route other than the opening we fell through. There must be a second entrance for the night spirits to go through.”
At Zhou Yu’s words, Xiao Chen finally calmed down. “Yeah! How did the night spirits get in? It couldn’t be through that opening, that was an accident! So that means there must be another entrance here, I’ll go look for it right now!”
“What are you doing, Zhou Yu?! I just wanted to scare him a little, but you gave everything away,” Wu Yun shrugged regretfully.
“Now’s not the time to joke around. Although there should be another entrance here, the night spirits have been dead for tens of thousands of years; it would be a big problem if that entrance isn’t here anymore.”
Zhou Yu walked up to the cave’s stone walls with his light stick, searching inch by inch for any cracks along the surface, as well as any clues on how they could get out.
Mo Ye followed by his side, occasionally stepping over the remains of the other night spirits. He turned to avoid the sight of them, looking disinteresting.
Every time someone stepped on a stone or a bone fragment, the sound it made would echo for a long time without quieting down, making it a hair-raising experience.
Suddenly, Mo Ye bit down on a corner of Zhou Yu’s pants and started to shake it wildly. Zhou Yu followed Mo Ye’s line of sight and saw what appeared to be tiny bugs crawling on the ground. He half-kneeled down on the ground and shone his light stick over them.
The bugs were normal, D rank organisms that did not pose a threat to them. They were crawling in from the cracks on the stone wall, and going around the night spirits’ bones, they carried back a moss-like substance that grew in the crevices of the stone wall opposite to them.
Zhou Yu stood up and carefully examined the rubble. All the other stone walls were in one piece, yet the rocks in this area were all broken up.
“Wu Yun! Wu Yun! Come here! I think I found a way out!”
Wu Yun also examined the place with narrowed eyes. After circling the rubble once with the light stick, he sighed regretfully, “Are you sure, Zhou Yu? This is the exit? Are we really that desperate to be reborn again?!”
“Why is this happening? It’s blocked!” Xiao Chen circled around and was almost at the point of tears.
“Humans can conquer nature. We’re just trying everything we’ve got at this point, let’s see if we can move away this bit of rubble.”
Zhou Yu put down his light stick and stretched his hands and wrists. It seemed like he really was prepared to start moving the rocks.
“I think it wouldn’t be a bad deal at all if the rocks collapsed and crushed us halfway through!”
Although that’s what Wu Yun said, he still intended to help out Zhou Yu. He also understood the same truth; only an idiot gave up without trying.
Zhou Yu worked hard and used his Swiss Army knife to smash the rock. After he managed to knock out the first piece, a small crack appeared, making his work much easier.
It took them more than two hours to dig out less than 10 centimeters.
“Zhou Yu, what’s that on the other side? Is it a bright light? Or is it sea water that’s pouring in? “
“Shut your goddamn mouth!”
Zhou Yu was tired and sweating buckets. He sat down to the side and took out a bottle of water from his backpack to gulp down a few mouthfuls.
Mo Ye came to his side and stood up on his hind legs to lick off the sweat on Zhou Yu’s forehead.
Although Xiao Chen hadn’t done much, he was already exhausted too. No one knew how much rubble there was; would they be able to see the sunlight again after they moved everything? They all clung onto that hope to keep working, because once it is crushed, then despair would follow.
Xiao Chen saw Mo Ye stuck close to Zhou Yu’s side and showed an envious expression.
“Why is everyone in the base so scared of Mo Ye? Mo Ye’s so docile!”
“You think Mo Ye’s docile because he’s only docile in front of Zhou Yu, you haven’t seen his temper tantrums yet, he’ll blow off the roof.” Wu Yun had started joking again.
Zhou Yu didn’t drink all the water and brought the bottle to Mo Ye’s lips. Mo Ye stuck out his tongue and licked Zhou Yu’s finger, bringing it into his mouth. He swirled his tongue around Zhou Yu’s finger and even lightly sucked on it. However, he did not bite into his flesh.
“Aren’t you hungry?” asked Zhou Yu.
Mo Ye shook his head, then circled around Zhou Yu once before lying down beside him.
Zhou Yu understood why; Mo Ye believed that he had expended too much of his energy and didn’t have the heart to drink his blood.
“What a good kid.”
Zhou Yu rubbed Mo Ye’s head. Mo Ye looked displeased: I’m already all grown up! I’m not a good kid!
Wu Yun dusted off his hands and stood up, “Okay! Guys! Break’s over, we still have a long, long way to go!”
The three of them plus Mo Ye started their back-breaking labor again.
Loose rocks tumbled down many times, nearly crushing Zhou Yu or Wu Yun. Mo Ye had extended his wings to catch them, making Zhou Yu’s heart ache, as thought that Mo Ye’s wings might have gotten injured because of it. No matter how quickly he healed, he would still feel pain.
When they had dug up a few meters, they found one giant rock blocking their path. The rock was stuck so tightly that not even Zhou Yu and Wu Yun’s combined effort could shift it away.
“Fuck!” Wu Yun was about to angrily kick the rock, but Zhou Yu pulled him back.
“Don’t be rash, what if it collapses?”
“I know, I wasn’t really going to kick it! I was just pretending to!”
Wu Yun and Zhou Yu stepped back.
Zhou Yu tilted his head back to drink water. Xiao Chen was sitting alone in a corner, muttering to himself.
Wu Yun fumbled all over his body for a cigarette, but unfortunately, all he had on him was half a bottle of vodka.
“Hah… This vodka saved our lives last time, now I can only use it to numb myself.”
Just then, Mo Ye dashed back inside the little cave they had dug out.
“Mo Ye, get back here! The cave might collapse!” Mo Ye quickly rushed after him.
But Zhou Yu didn’t expect that with a burst of energy, Mo Ye would bolt straight at the rock.
With a loud crash, smashed bits of rock came falling down.
Zhou Yu’s heart abruptly clenched so tightly that it stopped beating. He shouted, “Mo Ye! Mo Ye! Are you okay?”
“Jesus! Is that little thing crazy?” Wu Yun ran up.
The large rock embedded in the passageway had been completely knocked out by Mo Ye. It rolled away with a clunk, indicating that the way to the other side had opened up!
Loose pebbles littered the passageway. Zhou Yu searched the place nervously. In the dark, he could barely make out Mo Ye’s amber eyes.
“Hrrn?” Zhou Yu could see that Mo Ye had his head askew and was pushing around some pebbles with his forepaws.
“Mo Ye? Are you stuck under anything?” Zhou Yu anxiously picked up the light stick and stretched it out into the passageway. Mo Ye was lying down on the other side and seemed to be safe.
Zhou Yu finally sighed in relief.
“That little guy sure has gotten a lot stronger!”
Wu Yun and Zhou Yu began to move aside the loose rocks in the passageway together, and Xiao Chen quickly came to help.
The passageway was quite low; they would have to stoop to make it through.
“Why is it still dark?! We’re just going from one cave into another! There must be a mistake! ” Wu Yun was extremely disappointed.
They had worked hard for most of the day, yet the exit wasn’t on the other side.
When Zhou Yu was about to walk out of the passageway, Mo Ye suddenly pushed in front of him. He spread open his wings and blocked the people behind him.
“What’s wrong, Mo Ye?” Zhou Yu also became nervous.
Wu Yun turned his head to the side and whispered, “Zhou Yu, did you hear that?”
Quieting down, Zhou Yu seemed to hear something moving on the other side of the cave. It wasn’t just a single something, but many somethings moving all at once.
It must be dangerous, or else Mo Ye wouldn’t have stopped them.
“Wu Yun! The flares! “
Immediately following Zhou Yu’s shout, Wu Yun took out a flare and threw it over Mo Ye’s shoulder. The light from the flare illuminated the space around them. They were in a bigger cave than before, but the flare was too bright and Zhou Yu and Wu Yun couldn’t help but look away.
When the brightness of the flare gradually weakened, they could see that there were countless baby string sandworms crawling back and forth along the walls of the cave and on the ground. The smallest sandworms were only as long as the index finger, but the larger ones were as big as a cobra.
They were watching them, and they seem to be waiting. The moment Zhou Yu and the rest stepped inside, the would have attacked en masse!
There was also the skeleton of a creature inside the cave.
Its frame was so massive that it practically supported the ceiling of the cave. It gave off an unearthly glint, and from a distance, it was a far more magnificent sight than the fossils of giant dinosaurs found in museums. It was twice as big as a fully grown silver spider overlord.
“Oh my God… What is that…?” It was the first time Xiao Chen had seen such an enormous creature since coming to Nibelungen.
Hanging off the skeleton were numerous oval-shaped, egg-like things. There were what appeared to be blood vessels running across the surface, intertwining, crisscrossing and connecting with each other. It gave off an odor of rot.
The history of this cave must date further back than the bones of the night spirits. The giant creature had died a long time ago, but what was that attached to its bones? Why did the eggs still seem to be alive, and why did Zhou Yu seem to be able to hear the sound of different hearts thumping?
Zhou Yu had a very bad feeling about it.
Fortunately, they were wearing oxygen masks, otherwise, Zhou Yu had no doubt that Xiao Chen would throw up behind them.
“Fuck! It’s the offspring of those string sandworms! We just had to pick the harder way out! They must want to avenge their parents!” Wu Yun swore in a low voice.
All of a sudden, the string sandworms all rushed towards them. Mo Ye unfolded his wings to block the entire cave entrance so that only a repeated battering sound could be heard from the other side. Zhou Yu’s shoulders subconsciously stiffened.
Xiao Chen was so scared that he crouched down and covered his head.
Zhou Yu took out a tranquilizing projectile from his backpack and shouted: “Mo Ye! Get down! “
Mo Ye instantly dropped down as Zhou Yu threw out the bomb. It burst open and released the tranquilizing gas. One by one, the sandworm larvae fell down in a faint after making contact with it. Some writhed on the ground, trying to gain consciousness.
Fortunately, Mo Ye’s metabolic capacity was stronger than that of ordinary organisms and the tranquilizing gas was not effective on him.
“Nnn……” Mo Ye whimpered.
Zhou Yu immediately went to Mo Ye’s side and tried to flip him over, but Mo Ye only laid on the ground, refusing to turn over and show Zhou Yu.
Zhou Yu picked up the light stick and checked Mo Ye’s wings, only to find that they had been eaten away to make countless bloodied holes. Some sandworms were still embedded in his wings. Zhou Yu’s eyes reddened after seeing this.
“Show me! Quick!”Zhou Yu was indignant; other than the time his team had been wiped out by the Perytons, he rarely felt so enraged. He wanted to crush all the sandworms into paste.
Mo Ye licked the back of Zhou Yu’s hand as if he was comforting him. It’s alright, I’ll be fine soon, it doesn’t hurt at all.
Mo Ye’s body was rapidly healing, and one by one, the worms that were embedded into his flesh were squeezed out by his regenerated muscle. Even after he watched all Mo Ye injuries disappear, Zhou Yu’s heart still ached.
Wu Yun angrily stomped on the string sandworms in front of them and turned a bunch of them into mush.