Chapter 45: The giant desert whale
Zhou Yu narrowed his eyes in concentration and searched through his mind. It suddenly came to him that the digestive organs of the Nibelungen jellyfish were found throughout its body, and Professor Chen had been infected by the virus only after touching the jellyfish. He had a bold conjecture. “Mr. Song, do you think it’s possible that the virus may have evolved with the jellyfish over time? Jellyfish absorb their food directly through their bodies and those who were infected had deteriorated very quickly. Maybe the atrophying helps the jellyfish save decomposition time and absorb larger quantities of food more easily.”
Song Zhi looked up in thought and nodded as he paced. “A very interesting idea. I’ll send it back to Juli Corp headquarters for Jiang Jinghang and his team to review.”
Zhou Yu didn’t say anything else unnecessary. He simply stood outside the isolation room, keeping watch over his brother.
That night, Juli Corp sent them a message from the distinguished virologist, Jiang Jinghang.
Doctor Jiang’s report was written in casual language, unlike other virologists who used too many technical terms. He gave Song Zhi two choices.
The first option was to give up the base and evacuate everyone. But in order to avoid bringing the virus back to the human world, Juli Corp will not allow them to use the shuttle on their return.
The second option was to find the maternal lineage of Nibelungen jellyfish. The Nibelungen jellyfish was different from the common jellyfish; they were sexually dimorphic. In most cases, the male jellyfish did not grow to be very big, just like the one observed by Professor Chen. But their maternal line was able to live longer and grow larger by absorbing more nutrients. In theory, it was possible for them to grow large enough to swallow a person whole. The virus was born from its maternal lineage, so the only possible way to develop antibodies for the virus is if they worked starting from its maternal side.
“What do you think, Zhou Yu, what should we choose? ” Song asked.
“If we evacuated, then where would we transfer to?” Zhou Yu didn’t expect Song Zhi to ask for his opinion, but for him, all he wanted to do was to try his best to save Zhou Qing’s life.
“The first base established here by Juli Corp has been remodeled into an observation station because of its outdated equipment. There are enough supplies there for all of us to survive on for a month. After a month, when we can be sure that none of the rest of us are infected with the virus, we can apply to go to the nearest base, Base 2, then take the magnetic shuttle back to our original world.”
“That sounds like the most appropriate decision. But Mr. Song, if you still need to ask me for advice, then it shows that things are not as simple as they appear. “
“Juli Corp focuses most of its studies on the strong healing abilities and long lifespans of the organisms here, and viruses were not included as part of our research focus for a long time. In my impression, very few of Nibelungen’s creatures die from disease. But it is clear that the jellyfish’s virus not only affects humans, but also the other creatures here. It can cause great damage to the regeneration system of organisms. Juli Corp hopes to conduct in-depth research on it and find a way to counter the virus.”
“Besides countering the virus, are you also planning on using it as a biological weapon to attack other organisms here?” Zhou Yu asked coldly.
Song Zhi let his silence answer the question.
If Wu Yun were here, he would have looked up into the sky and let out a long sigh while mentally cursing at Juli Corp for wanting to control two worlds.
Song Zhi looked into Zhou Yu’s eyes, trying to figure out what he was thinking. Zhou Yu was calmer than he anticipated, as if he’d been expecting all of this for a long time. He said calmly, “So the question is, how are we going to find the maternal lineage of the Nibelungen jellyfish, and do you want the field workers to go out and capture it?”
“There’s a Nibelungen jellyfish specimen at Base 2. But virology research at Base 2 is not as advanced, so I’ll need you to take a team of field workers out and escort our virologists to Base 2. Of course, you can also take people important to you along the way to the observation station… such as Zhou Qing, Li Qian, and even Han Li.”
“So your deal is, I take the risk, and also the reward. Is the reward Zhou Qing’s safety? To keep him away from the virus for a while? Besides Zhou Qing, you must also want me to escort other important personnel from the base there, correct?”
“Yes, I have a list of names. We will take blood samples for all the people on the list before departure to make sure they are not infected by the virus before they enter into your team.”
“And you? Are you leaving? “
“I can’t leave. Someone has to stay here.”
Song Zhi gave the list to Zhou Yu. Zhou Yu opened it and found that Zhou Qing, Han Li, and Li Qian were all on the list, as well as Doctor Carlos.
“And Doctor Daniel?”
“He volunteered to stay behind and study the damage and other effects of the virus on the human brain.”
“I’ll respect his choice, but I want to take Mo Ye with me.” Zhou Yu said.
Song Zhi chuckled. “Even if I don’t agree, we can’t keep Mo Ye behind.”
“Then, I’ll go prepare. Goodbye, Mr. Song.”
When Zhou Yu and Wu Yun met again in the machinery warehouse, Wu Yun whistled, “So we’re going to flee this time? Are we running away someplace far away or are we going to go down with a fight?”
Zhou Yu threw an ammunition clip at Wu Yun. The two men sorted out their equipment tacitly, with a mutual understanding.
“What are you doing with so many tranquilizer bullets?”
“If we encounter anything like silver spider overlords along the way, then I’ll just feed ‘em 17 or 18 tranq bullets and see how they like the smell of that!”
“In that case, shall I help you request another vehicle just for packing the tranquilizer bullets?” Zhou Yu asked.
“Oh, could you? Of course, that’d be great! If we have a car full of tranquilizers, then we’ll be safe even if an S rank shows up!”
Zhou Yu shot a look at Wu Yun then turned away.
After arranging all the vehicles and supplies, Zhou Yu took attendance with the names on the list, but there was no Dr. Carlos.
“Does anyone know where Dr. Carlos went?” Zhou Yu asked loudly.
“Dr. Carlos’s research reached a very critical stage. He closed himself up in the lab and said that he probably won’t have a chance to be infected with the virus. He wants to wait for the result of his research here,” said a doctor in the same lab as Carlos.
Zhou Yu closed his eyes. He knew that Carlos’s so-called research result was the revived night spirit.
The madness of an academic was beyond his comprehension, so he could not stop it.
Before leaving, Zhou Yu confirmed the physical conditions of all the researchers.
“If you have a fever, muscle spasms, abdominal pain, or other symptoms, please raise your hand right now and tell me. Once we leave the base, you won’t be able to receive any medical attention, which means that if you’re ill, then you’ll probably die on the way.” Zhou Yu’s expression was serious and his voice was ice-cold.
No one raised their hand. Zhou Yu nodded, “Let’s head out.”
As usual, Wu Yun was in the driver’s seat. Zhou Yu opened the door to get in shotgun, but he didn’t close it. Instead, he whistled.
From close by, a black figure came dashing out from the gates like lightning, suddenly charging into Zhou Yu’s seat. Because of the strong force, the Hummer shook on impact.
The researchers in the vehicles behind them were startled.
Zhou Yu patted Mo Ye’s back and Mo Ye turned around to lean over the back of the car seat with his paws, popping his head up to look behind them.
Although they were in different cars, the researchers instinctively leaned back as much as they could into their seats. Deep down, they were still afraid of the A rank organism from Nibelungen. Only Zhou Qing reached out to lightly tap Mo Ye on the tip of his nose.
Mo Ye’s amber eyes lit up and he licked Zhou Qing’s fingernail with his tongue.
“Alright! Everyone’s here, let’s go.” Wu Yun started up the vehicle. The other Hummers followed behind him.
This time, almost all the elite field workers in the base were sent out.
Their fleet sped across the desert, raising a cloud of dust. With a hand on the window, Zhou Yu could feel the hot weather outside the vehicle. The whole desert seemed to stretch on boundlessly to the ends of the sky.
“I wonder how those staying behind in the base will fare. I wish Doctor Carlos had come with us…” Zhou Qing said.
“And Mr. Song. Although he’s usually pretty horrible, I didn’t expect him to stay behind in the base instead of leaving.” Li Qian added.
“Actually, don’t you think that Mr. Song is kind of strange? He’s not a man without integrity and principle, so I don’t understand why he’s working so hard for Juli Corp. He always puts Juli Corp first before all other considerations. Even though there’s a rumor that he was adopted by the chairman of the corporation, this is a still little extreme… It’s like he’s brainwashed.” Han Li chipped in.
“Stop, stop! Don’t say anything nice about Song Zhi to me! Zhou Yu and I nearly died a bunch of times outside already. His missions are life-threatening.” Wu Yun had long been itching to shoot Song Zhi.
“Then let’s not talk about Mr. Song… My biggest concern is the virus. Our vehicles are limited and not everyone can leave. Anyone who hasn’t been evacuated from the base is staying in the isolation ward, but it’s unclear how the disease spreads. By the time we bring back the antibody from Base 2, our base might already be a ghost town…” Han Li frowned. There were too many concerns running through her mind.
“Don’t think about it too much. Even if this isn’t a world for humans, there’s a saying that’s still relevant. That is, everything happens according to fate,” Zhou Yu said.
Han Li couldn’t help laughing. “No way, Zhou Yu, you’re our role model at the base when it comes to going against fate!”
After driving for two to three hours, they officially entered the outback of the desert. The fleet of more than a dozen cars was like a line of ants in the vast desert, on the verge of being completely engulfed at any time.
“Hah, besides the sand I’m driving through, there’s only more sand to be seen. There isn’t even a bug in sight. I really want a cig to keep awake.” Wu Yun gave a big yawn.
But everyone knew that even if it looked like there was nothing outside, they absolutely should not roll down the windows.
“Coffee?” Zhou Yu held up the thermos that he’d prepared.
“Nah. I can’t stand that foreign stuff that tastes like traditional medicine. Only Song Zhi likes it.” Wu Yun shook his head.
Taking a look at Zhou Qing and Li Qian in the back seat, he found them sleeping leaned onto each other.
Even Mo Ye, who had been lying on Zhou Yu’s knees, yawned widely and pushed his head into Zhou Yu’s chest to sleep.
From time to time, he made soft, murmuring sounds, as if he was having a sweet dream.
Wu Yun looked at him enviously then joked, “Zhou Yu, what do you think he’s dreaming about? An action movie? Or watermelon? Or returning to the human world with you?”
Zhou Yu chuckled, “Is there any research showing that Nibelungen’s organisms can dream?”
“You really have no sense of humor, this is putting me to sleep. Hey! Why don’t these cars have autopilot settings? That way, all I’d need to do is to go in one direction, close my eyes, and snooze off with the rest of you. In any case, I won’t bump into anything in this endless desert.”
“Stop dreaming, there aren’t any human satellites in Nibelungen, how could there be autopilot?”
Even so, Wu Yun was still drowsy after he drank all the coffee, which seemed to be useless.
Just when Wu Yun was close to nodding off, Zhou Yu suddenly gave him a hard push. “Wu Yun, what’s that in front of us?”
Mo Ye, who had been curled up on Zhou Yu’s knees, suddenly straightened out and pricked up his ears, on alert for something.
Wu Yun was abruptly woken up. He squinted to concentrate on making out what was in front of them, only to find that the sand dunes a few hundred meters ahead of them seemed to be moving, as if something was flying in and out of the sand. The entire desert was like a sea, and there was a giant creature roaming that sea.
As the moving sand dunes got closer and closer, they found that it was a massive creature the size of a whale with the wings of a roc. It would glide in the air for a short distance, then plunge into the sand as if swimming, before bursting out of the sand again.
In mid-glid with its mouth wide open, it looked as if it could swallow up their entire fleet.
The people in their vehicles had their eyes opened wide. They got a clear view of the creature’s larynx when it opened its mouth, as well as the serrated teeth before it.
“What… the hell? ” Li Qian, who rarely went out for fieldwork, had eyes as round as marbles and almost dared not to breathe.
The massive creature got faster and faster, and would soon be right in front of Wu Yun. The grains of sand from its giant mouth fell onto the windows of Wu Yun’s vehicle at the very front when it breathed, almost enough to blow them away.
Zhou Yu instantly shouted, “Turn around!”
Wu Yun quickly turned the steering wheel and hit the gas pedal to try and bypass the behemoth. He used his handheld transceiver to notify the team behind him. “Turn around! Now! Immediately!”
Sand sprayed into the air from their wheels. Their vehicle whipped around and almost threw them out. Li Qian’s face hit the glass, but he couldn’t even shout. Zhou Qing frowned, then raised his hand to take a tight grip to the handrail on the roof. His body was pressed under Li Qian, and Han Li was on him.
The rest of the fleet followed suit and made a U-turn, drawing an arc in the desert sand.
The large creature lifted up its flank and blocked out the sun, leaving behind a huge shadow in the desert. Sand came plummeting down like a waterfall. It appeared as if the sky was going to collapse. The visual impression it left behind was inexpressible.
“Oh… Oh my God!” Han Li sat on the side that was closer to the creature. It almost felt like she was about to be crushed underneath it.
Wu Yun steered the vehicle to narrowly avoid the giant monster’s flank. The wave of dust that surged up almost overturned the car.
If they had been a second too late, then they would have gotten crushed underneath, with unimaginable consequences.
“That’s a giant desert whale. Its attacking power isn’t too strong, but it’s huge. When spring turns into summer, it will migrate through the desert. In the spring, they like places where there is plenty of sunlight, which aids their digestion, and their young are born stronger under the intense light. But in the summer, they need to travel to an oasis in the desert to find water and survive, or else they’ll die of dehydration,” Zhou Yu replied.
“I’m not interested in their habits and names! I just want to know, does it want to eat us?” Wu Yun asked in a loud voice. No one was sleepy anymore.
“No. The only reason we’d die is if we cross their migration path and get crushed to death. By the way, they’re only B rank organism.”
“What. A creature that size is only B Rank? Are you kidding me, Zhou Yu?”
Just then, they saw about a dozen smaller giant sand whales coasting along in the desert behind the larger one. It was a spectacular sight to behold.
Not only Wu Yun’s vehicle, but everyone in the rest of the fleet was also looking at them. In comparison, the wildebeest migration as seen on the Discovery Channel was nothing. It may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but it was also a deadly one.
Mo Ye, who had been resting on Zhou Yu’s knees, suddenly butted the side of Zhou Yu’s face with his head, as if to remind him of something.
Zhou Yu frowned. He petted Mo Ye with one hand while thinking. “Why do I think the desert whales don’t just look like they’re migrating, but also hiding from something?”
“Stop! Stop! Don’t scare me again. If the giant desert whale is B rank, then the thing that can scare them into fleeing must be A rank or above. How are we going to make it out alive then?” Wu Yun took a look at Mo Ye then reached out to pinch his little face. “But we still have Mo Ye. Mo Ye is also really strong, right?”
Mo Ye seemed to enjoy Wu Yun’s praise. For the first time, Wu Yun was allowed to pinch his face.
When he looked up again, Wu Yun peered into the distance. There seemed to be something connecting the skies and the earth together, but because it was too far away to make out. “What’s that in front?”
Zhou Qing picked up his binoculars and looked out into the distance, then shouted, “Shit, it’s a giant tornado! The desert whales must be running from the tornado!”
“Fuck, there’re tornados in Nibelungen, too? What’s Juli Corp saying about the weather forecast?”
Wu Yun shouted while stepping on the gas pedal. He turned the car around almost parallel to the direction the giant desert whales were migrating to.
“It’s already been said there aren’t any satellites in Nibelungen. What are they going to use for the weather forecast?!” Zhou Qing replied.
Li Qian was close to tears. They’d just managed to avoid the giant desert whales, yet now there was also a tornado: “I have a farmer’s almanac on my computer! I just forgot to check it before leaving today!”
“It would have been safer to suffocate in the base than to come out here!”
“I’d rather be crushed to death by some organism than be infected with a virus!” Li Qian had witnessed too many tragedies with those who had been infected with the virus. If he could choose, he’d rather have a quick death.
The entire fleet turned around again, drawing a horseshoe in the desert.
But the tornado behind them was pressing closer.
The fleet was already at full throttle, but they still felt like they were about to be swept away by the sandstorm.
“It’s over! We can’t match up to the speed of the tornado!” Han Li turned to look at the tornado that was getting closer. It was a whirling mass between heaven and earth, constantly gaining power as if it would take everything in the desert to the sky.
The pod of giant desert whales got farther and farther away.
Just then, Mo Ye tapped his paw on the window.
“What are you doing, Mo Ye? You can’t go outside now, you’ll get swept away! “
But Mo Ye only glanced at Zhou Yu before continuing to dig at the window. He was determined to get out.
“Does Mo Ye have a solution?” After having experienced so much, Wu Yun no longer regarded Mo Ye as a newborn pet.
Zhou Yu looked into Mo Ye’s eyes and tried to understand what he was feeling. Mo Ye was determined and confident. Zhou Yu knew that Mo Ye was faster than ordinary organisms. It was possible for him to escape from a tornado alone.
If possible, Zhou Yu hoped that Mo Ye could live a good life, no matter what the cost was.
Zhou Yu quickly opened the window and pushed Mo Ye out. Before he could be seen clearly in the all-encompassing yellow sandstorm, Mo Ye had already disappeared from view.
A large amount of sand poured in and blew all over Zhou Yu’s face. He had to quickly roll up the window again.
“How’s Mo Ye? Has he escaped?” Zhou Qing asked.
Zhou Yu knew that it was impossible for Mo Ye to abandon them based on his character and loyalty, but what was he going outside for?
The author has something to say:
Mo Ye: How could I leave my Zhou Yu?!