Chapter 51: Sleeping Beauty
“That is indeed a good solution, thank you very much. However, I want to see the Nibelungen jellyfish first to take a good look at the culprit.”
“Of course, please follow me.” Dr. Ron nodded.
Zhou Qing got up, patted Li Qian on the shoulder and said, “You and Han Li are tired from traveling. Go rest up!”
As Zhou Qing walked, he and Dr. Ron discussed their research progress.
Dr. Ron suddenly stopped and said to Zhou Qing, “Professor Zhou, I have a rather presumptuous favor to ask of you.”
“Please.” Zhou Qing could see that it must be something very important to Dr. Ron for him to ask someone for a “presumptuous favor”.
“I noticed that your brother, Zhou Yu, brought a night spirit. It is said that this night spirit grew up with him and only obeys his orders. We want to do some very simple research on the night spirit, and I hope you can help us persuade Zhou Yu. We promise we won’t hurt the night spirit.”
“Of course, but even if you wanted to hurt him, it probably wouldn’t be possible. The potential of the night spirit is limitless. Up to now, Mo Ye’s power has been far stronger than any A rank organism we know of.”
“Thank you very much. We heard that Dr. Carlos has been studying the night spirit’s intelligence and that their learning ability was found to be much faster than humans. We are curious if it could adapt to human society.”
“It’s not a question of whether it could adapt to human society, but if it can be accepted by human society.”
Dr. Ron showed a rare smile. “It’s true that Nibelungen’s creatures look terrifying, but they are much simpler than human beings.”
Zhou Qing followed Dr. Ron to the place where the Nibelungen jellyfish specimen was being kept, then he was completely floored by what he saw.
A giant Nibelungen jellyfish was immersed within a transparent vessel the size of a swimming pool. It looked quiet and peaceful; it did not spin or float, as if it was asleep in the water.
It reminded Zhou Qing of the fairytale of sleeping beauty, waiting for a kiss to awaken it from its slumber.
Its translucent body reflected the light in the storage room, like a hemline of a flowing skirt, it seemed to cast a veil over the entire room. The walls of the room were dyed with a light layer of transparent gold.
“In order to preserve it, our base used up our yearly supply of formalin.” Dr. Ron said.
“Heavens… It’s beautiful.”
It was like a nymph, a masterpiece of the gods, one you couldn’t look away from.
Zhou Qing tilted his head up, mouth agape.
“The more beautiful it is, the more dangerous it is. Don’t forget the virus it carries.” Dr. Ron reminded him with his arms behind him.
“Yes… I was just thinking, why can’t any of Nibelungen’s organisms simply be beautiful?”
“Because pure beauty is too easily destroyed. If we want beauty to last forever, we must be cruel.” Dr. Ron replied.
“Who said that? Or did you come to that conclusion yourself?” Zhou Qing turned to face him.
Dr. Ron shook his head and said, “I did not come to that conclusion, but those are the words of my predecessor, Dr. Jiang. He is a genius in the field of viral research, but because of a new epidemic in our human world, he went back. If he were still here, I bet he wouldn’t even need a day to work out a vaccine for you. Before he left, he left behind a lot of information about virus research on the Nibelungen jellyfish. I’ll transfer them to you for reference.”
“Thank you very much.” Zhou Qing looked up at the enormous jellyfish and suddenly felt curious about Dr. Jiang.
At this time, the workers taking a sample of the virus slowly moved aside the cover on top of the huge storage container to create a small gap and extended the sampler down.
Zhou Qing’s heart clenched. He watched as the sampler lightly poked the jellyfish. The jellyfish suddenly trembled as if it had been electrified. The light beams in the room rippled outwards in zigzagging waves.
“Don’t worry, it’s because the static electricity on the sampler reacts with the jellyfish.” Dr. Ron explained.
“Of course, it’s impossible for any creature to remain alive for such a long time immersed in formalin solution.” Zhou Qing smiled.
At this time, all the researchers and field workers in the base were having a meal in the dining hall. The side dishes were very simple; there was only bread and milk, but it was very delicious for them.
Mo Ye lay on a corner of the table and focused his concentration on the food on Zhou Yu’s plate, lowering himself to sniff it from time to time. It was the first time he’d smelled bread and butter before. Although there was only bread, the treatment provided to them by Base 2 was pretty good.
“It’s been a long time since I smelled butter. The last time was when I went to Area 12 with you to bring back the supply truck. I ate two slices of bread with butter.” Wu Yun sighed.
Zhou Yu broke off the bread and tore out the softest part at the center, reaching it out to Mo Ye’s mouth as Mo Ye lay down beside him.
“Try it. It’s better than green beans and carrots.” A faint smile appeared on Zhou Yu’s lips.
Han Li said, “How rare, I’ve never seen you smile before, Zhou Yu.”
Mo Ye’s eyes narrowed into happy crescents. He stuck out his tongue and gave the bread a small lick, then drew his shoulders in and squinted his eyes, sampling the aftertaste.
“Do you like it? Eat it if you like it. “
But Mo Ye stretched out his front paw and pushed the bread back to Zhou Yu’s lips. He raised his chin as if to say: I’m not hungry, I’ll give you all of it.
“Uhh… Is it really okay for you to show PDA like this? ” Wu Yun expressed his dissatisfaction.
Mo Ye looked over and seemed to say: I’ll kick your ass!
Zhou Yu raised his hand and rubbed Mo Ye’s head.
And just like that, night soon fell. Research on the Nibelungen jellyfish’s virus also began.
Several researchers were observing samples of the virus in the laboratory.
“Look at this, it’s shaped differently than an ordinary virus; it’s not spherical, coronal, brick-shaped or tadpole-shaped. It’s smaller and more flexible than an ordinary virus…”
“And you can see that this part is a bit like influenza A virus, which would enable it to carry out gene recombination in a short period of time and evolve new disease strains to effectively multiply its infectivity rate. And this section is highly similar to Ebola, dengue fever, and other hemorrhagic fever viruses, except that this virus acts even faster than Ebola… This truly is the most terrible virus I’ve ever seen. I heard that Dr. Jiang is currently working on decoding the virus and is only a step away from developing an antiviral drug.”
“If only he were here… Then maybe we’d have already returned to the base with the antiviral drug by now.”
After researching for most of the night, the researchers soon grew sleepy.
“I’m so tired, Dr. Yao… I’m going to close my eyes and rest for five minutes.”
“Okay, Dr. Shen, go to sleep. I’ll keep checking the research reports left behind by Dr. Jiang.” Dr. Yao replied.
But less than a minute later, Dr. Yao, who was looking over the materials, also grew drowsy. He rubbed his eyes, but eventually gave in to it and fell asleep sprawled over the table.
Sometime later, the tinkling of a bell sounded by his ear, altogether seeming to come from another world.
Dr. Yao opened his eyes and was surprised to see a woman in white sitting on the corner of his desk.
Her eyes and brows were poignant like the washes of ink in a landscape painting and the curve of a smile at the corner of her lips sent tremors through Dr. Yao. A curtain of long black hair came cascading down as she leaned over Dr. Yao, lightly flitting over his cheek with a touch of intoxicating molten gold.
“W-Who are you? Are you a researcher at the base?” Dr. Yao foolishly asked.
The woman kissed Dr. Yao’s lips, each moment of the wonderful feeling taking Dr. Yao’s breath away.
Time came to a standstill.
On the morning of the next day, Zhou Yu was awakened by Zhou Qing.
“Brother—Brother—come, quick! Something happened to Dr. Yao!”
Zhou Yu was shocked. He hadn’t been expecting to sleep so well. Because there were not enough rooms, he, Wu Yun, and the other field personnel slept directly on the floor of the dining hall.
Mo Ye had ignored Wu Yun’s jeering and was determined to stick to Zhou Yu. Zhou Yu slept pillowed on Mo Ye’s body and Mo Ye spread his wings open to cover Zhou Yu. His whole body had been kept warm by Mo Ye, which was probably the reason why Zhou Yu was lax enough to sleep so deeply.
“What happened to Dr. Yao?”
“W-We don’t know what happened, but he fell into the storage vessel of Nibelungen jellyfish and drowned…” Zhou Qing looked sorrowful. He and Dr. Yao had been alumni of the same high school.
“What? Drowned? Wasn’t he studying the virus? What was he doing at the place where the specimen was being stored?” Zhou Yu didn’t think it was as simple as merely drowning.
Wu Yun also got up. “Let’s go! We’ll take a look!”
Since Dr. Yao had been escorted over by Zhou Yu and Wu Yun, Dr. Ron was unable to prevent them from going to the scene of the crime for confirmation.
When they saw the giant jellyfish specimen, they couldn’t help but gasp.
In the formalin solution, Dr. Yao was floating, suspended between the tentacles of the jellyfish. He wore a serene expression as if he was merely asleep, but even a fool would know that it was impossible for him to still be alive.
Wu Yun gulped, then pointed to Dr. Yao. “How… did he fall in?”
Dr. Ron sighed, “Please follow me. You can see the full account through the surveillance tapes. “
While they were following Dr. Ron to the monitoring room, Zhou Yu turned around on impulse and found that the bell of the jellyfish was slightly raised, as if it was rotating slowly. But because it was so large, it looked like the effect of light refraction.
Mo Ye did not leave and continued looking up silently.
“What’s the matter, Mo Ye? Is there a problem?” Zhou Yu came to his side. Mo Ye bit down on Zhou Yu’s pant leg, urging him to leave.
At this time, a worker in a diving suit slipped in from the top through a gap in the cover and retrieved Dr. Yao’s body from the formalin.
He was placed in a sealed body bag, awaiting an autopsy.
Zhou Yu and Wu Yun came to the monitoring room and watched what happened last night.
Dr. Yao left the lab in the base at 3 a.m. and went to the storage room of Nibelungen jellyfish. He opened the lid of the storage vessel with a sampler in hand, but just as he leaned down to take a sample, he suddenly tipped over and fell into the formalin.
“Oh my God…” Wu Yun covered his eyes.
As if Dr. Yao’s fall had broken the peace within the storage vessel, the Nibelungen jellyfish started to slowly twirl and glide in the liquid. Although Dr. Yao had struggled, he was gradually enveloped by the giant jellyfish until he stopped fighting, having finally drowned.
Dr. Shen, who had been in the same lab as Dr. Yao, was overcome with guilt. He covered his face and cried, “I didn’t mean to… I was just so tired I wanted to sleep for a while… I told him I only wanted to nap for five minutes! He must have found something in the research materials left behind by Dr. Jiang, so he went to take samples for confirmation! If I hadn’t fallen asleep, I could have gone with him! I could have pulled him back and stopped him from falling in!”
“It’s not your fault. It was just an accident…” Dr. Ron put a hand on Dr. Shen’s shoulder and comforted him.
Ron turned to meet Zhou Qing’s eyes, both of them giving each other a nod of understanding.
Dr. Ron went back to the storage room for the Nibelungen jellyfish and gave orders to scan the specimen.
“Don’t you think the way Dr. Yao was walking is strange?” Zhou Qing went up to Dr. Ron and asked in a low voice.
“Yes, it doesn’t look like excessive fatigue, he appeared almost drunken.” Dr. Ron looked coldly at the Nibelungen jellyfish specimen. “We can’t hold the organisms here to the same standards as creatures of the human world. I now suspect that this jellyfish was merely in a state of dormancy before, perhaps the previous sampling touched on its nerves and woke it up. Maybe it lured Dr. Yao here in some way, or maybe Dr. Yao was getting too close to its secret, so the jellyfish had to kill Dr. Yao before the virus could be decoded.”
“Any idea that might sound like it’s completely in the realm of fantasy is a reasonable doubt here.” Zhou Qing replied.
But even after a whole-body biological scan, no signs of life were detected in the Nibelungen jellyfish. Its cell activity index was zero.
“So it really is just a specimen?” Zhou Qing didn’t ask for sure.
“I will have someone monitor its biological activity 24 hours a day.” Dr. Ron replied. This was their best solution at the moment.
Zhou Yu and Mo Ye had been staying in the dining hall the entire time. A few researchers stared at Mo Ye from afar, wanting to observe him up close yet too timid to approach him. Mo Ye deliberately spread open his wings and faced them with a ferocious expression. The researchers instantly turned pale and ran away.
Wu Yun, who is also stewing in boredom, started laughing loudly.
Zhou Yu rubbed Mo Ye’s head. “You little rascal, watch out or Dr. Ron might stop feeding you.”
Mo Ye looked at Zhou Yu with round eyes. Zhou Yu knew that the little guy was pretending to be innocent again to win his sympathy.
“Don’t look at me like that. It’s useless.”
Mo Ye stuck to him and intentionally used the tip of his nose to nudge the back of Zhou Yu’s hand. Zhou Yu pulled his hand away, but Mo Ye chased after it and quickly caught Zhou Yu’s finger in his mouth.
He twined around Zhou Yu’s finger with the tip of his tongue, but he didn’t rush to bite it. Instead, he looked into Zhou Yu’s eyes with a very obedient expression. He wouldn’t bite down without Zhou Yu’s permission. But Zhou Yu knew well that if he didn’t let Mo Ye eat his fill, then Mo Ye would cling to him and make sure he got nothing done.
At this time, Dr. Yao’s body was being dissected.
There were three anatomists at the scene. They all turned on the video recorder. When the first cut was made into Dr. Yao’s abdominal cavity, a number of translucent Nibelungen jellyfish of a pale golden color came bursting out of his abdomen.
The main dissector recoiled in a fright, and in only an instant, Dr. Yao’s body seemed to melt into a mess of blood and flesh, forming a puddle on the operation table. Only his gleaming white bones were left behind.
“Oh my God… What’s going on?”
At that moment, the jellyfish on the ground suddenly started to move and climb up the bodies of the three anatomists.
“Go away! Go away!” The dissector swung his scalpel at the jellyfish, but he could not penetrate into their bodies.
Very quickly, the bodies of the three anatomists were covered in jellyfish. They fell to the ground, twisting and trying to rip off the jellyfish, but their hands were also swallowed up. Their bodies seemed to melt as the jellyfish squeezed beneath their skin to crazily absorb their nutrients.
“Why hasn’t Dr. Yao’s autopsy report come through yet?” A few hours later, Dr. Ron felt that something was strange and buzzed the intercom in the dissection room. He called several times without anyone answering.
He immediately opened up the surveillance cameras in the dissection room and found that all three anatomists had turned into pools of blood. The scene was unbearably horrific.
“It’s like they were infected with the virus from the Nibelungen jellyfish…” Zhou Qing’s gaze darkened. Things were more complicated than they’d thought.
Dr. Ron immediately closed off the dissection room and isolated everyone who had come into contact with it.
“Was Dr. Yao the one to spread the Nibelungen jellyfish’s virus?” Dr. Ron pursed his lips in thought.
Zhou Qing suggested, “Let’s watch the entire dissection, quick!”
When they saw the swarm of palm-sized Nibelungen jellyfish kill the anatomists in the video, Zhou Qing finally understood.
“The giant jellyfish didn’t die, it had been asleep the whole time.”
Dr. Ron clenched his teeth. “It could be that the formalin isn’t a suitable environment to live in, so it paused all cell activity and waited for the right conditions. We were all deceived by it! It’s been here since I took over the base! It not only deceived me, but also Dr. Jiang, the one who has been studying the virus!”
Zhou Qing looked at him. “Now… Dr. Yao has become nourishment for its offspring…”
Dr. Ron immediately sent out orders. “Inject neurotoxins into the storage vessel where the Nibelungen jellyfish is being kept! Send some people into the dissection room to look for the jellyfish offspring! They must be hiding somewhere!”
An entire squadron entered the dissection room. They opened up their biological scanners to comb over every inch of the room. When the Nibelungen jellyfish is spread out flat over the ground, it was only subtly translucent and overall very hard to detect.
They finally found the transparent jellyfish spread over the bottom of the dissection table.
“Those little things are cunning. They hid in our blind spot, out of sight.” Zhou Qing realized that the intelligence level of Nibelungen jellyfish might be very high.
“Be careful… You must make sure not to be touched by them…” Dr. Ron watched them through the surveillance camera. He was worried that one of them would accidentally repeat the mistakes made in Base 5, where Song Zhi was located.
They were finally able to retrieve the jellyfish. The jellyfish were mercilessly put into a solution containing neurotoxins, where they soon dissolved.
But Ron soon received another message: the storage vessel containing the giant Nibelungen jellyfish had not been designed with the tubing to inject neurotoxins. After all, who would have thought of injecting toxins into a lifeless specimen?
The base then sent an executioner to inject the neurotoxin manually, however, when the executioner went up to the jellyfish, he looked up at it with an obsessed expression. No matter how much his colleagues tried calling out to him to perform his task, he did not respond.
He wore the look of a devout pilgrim. His gaze seemed to pass through the giant transparent jellyfish and into another world.
In the midst of the repeated shouts of his colleagues, he took out his handgun, held it against his head, then pulled the trigger with a hopeful smile.
When he heard the gunshot in the surveillance video, Ron shuddered.
“W-What’s going on…?”
Zhou Qing was watching the surveillance video with him. It was no longer Zhou Qing’s first time dealing with this situation. “I’m guessing that the jellyfish has the ability to influence a person’s mental state and produce hallucinations. Do you remember how Dr. Yao walked into the jellyfish storage room? You said he looked drunk. My guess is that he was already under the spell of the jellyfish.”
“We can’t administer the neurotoxin through the system and no one would dare go in there now even if I ordered them!” Ron massaged his temples, feeling a headache come up.
“Should we bomb the entire area?” Zhou Qing asked.
“The explosion would just free the jellyfish from the storage vessel, the large amount of formalin solution is enough to act as a buffer force for the explosion. I suspect it only took action now because the formalin restrains it to some extent. To blow it up is to give it its freedom. And it has been proven to be highly mobile, as demonstrated by its offspring.”