Dong Zheng’s breath caught in his throat.
As he looked at the massive back exposed above the water, his mind flashed over the many legends of sea monsters. The creatures that appeared on Dusk Island seemed to come from ancient myths and legends. He naturally thought of Leviathan.
The biblical Book of Jobs describes a creature the shape of a whale, with hard scales on its back and spikes under its abdomen. It was a formidable sea tyrant.
“When it glides through the sea, it creates big waves that swallow the current. From its mouth came burning flames, its nose emits smoke, and its teeth were deadly sharp. It was cruel by nature and will kill ruthlessly. It hunts the ocean for prey, and it could smell all living creatures around it.”
In later Christianity, Leviathan gradually became synonymous with the devil and was crowned as one of the seven deadly sins, “Jealousy.”
Looking up, Dong Zheng vaguely saw blurred hieroglyphs and the Satanist symbol of the inverted pentagram atop the river cave walls.
Being deprived of vision in the dark, other senses sharpened. Cui Zuojing could hear that Dong Zheng’s breathing had changed, and he felt a faint sense of tension through their spiritual link, as if he’d seen something terrifying.
What was it?
Cui Zuojing was curious, but he didn’t dare to speak out. He pinched Dong Zheng’s fingertips in inquiry.
Dong Zheng spread out Cui Zuojing’s palm and wrote “Leviathan” on it with his fingertip.
Cui Zuojing understood. He blinked and waited with great patience for Dong Zheng to continue his observation.
They were in a gap by the side of the river. The monster seemed to be asleep and didn’t move for a long time.
This space was too small so Dong Zheng’s view was very limited. If he wanted to really observe the river’s layout, he would have to leave this spot.
When they were sucked in, the self-aware bear had clung to the front of Dong Zheng’s clothes and had not let go. Dong Zheng held it in his arms and wrote word after word on Cui Zuojing’s hand. After thinking it over, the youth squeezed his finger in agreement.
Dong Zheng led Cui Zuojing up slowly, and they quietly walked out of the six to seven meter deep slit. He’d originally wanted to pass what he saw to Cui Zuojing in the form of data, allowing him to gain some vision. But after attempting it, his head began to ache. Knowing that he still wasn’t strong enough, he had to give up.
The soft sensation of shoes stepping into the water surprised Cui Zuojing. He wanted to return to the prisoner’s space, but he stopped himself from suggesting it to Dong Zheng.
Dong Zheng was holding onto his hand tightly. Cui Zuojing wondered why Dong Zheng himself didn’t suggest that he return to the prisoner’s space. Perhaps, he was somewhat afraid of walking by the monster alone?
Didn’t you say that you were most afraid of ghosts? Why are you afraid now?
Cui Zuojing was a little pleased with himself. He felt as if he’d discovered another of Dong Zheng’s weaknesses.
Dong Zheng led Cui Zuojing through the shallow shore of the river. The stones were very slippery after being soaked so long by the underground river water. If he didn’t pay close attention, they might slip. Cui Zuojing’s ability to control his body was very strong. Even though he couldn’t see, he walked steadily, not making the slightest sounds.
They were afraid of waking the Leviathan and walked very slowly. It took nearly 20 minutes to walk more than a hundred meters. The monster was still asleep, and they began to move away toward a perceived exit.
The underground water was continuously flowing. Dong Zheng followed the direction of the river to find his way out of the complex cave that seemed to extend in all directions. The stone walls were full of engravings and inverted pentagrams. It was unknown how long they’d been there, since a majority of them were corroded by water.
After taking two turns, the familiar crystal ore finally began to appear on the cave walls. Although, it still wasn’t enough to allow him to see clearly, Cui Zuojing finally no longer needed to strain his eyes.
He felt he could act independently so he took the initiative to let go of Dong Zheng’s hand.
They’d been holding hands for a long time now, and their palms had become sweaty. Cui Zuojing rubbed his hand on his pant leg and leaned down to dip his fingertips in water. He whispered to Dong Zheng, “We’re still in the same cave, only that it’s a layer deeper.”
Dong Zheng nodded. “My guess is that this is also connected to the cave we stayed in during our first night on this island.”
Cui Zuojing said, “That was in the southeast. We’re in the north. This cave is very long.”
Dong Zheng said, “When the magic gemstone opened Bes’ door, the entire island’s underground system rumbled. This island probably wasn’t formed naturally. Back then, King Solomon hid his magic ring in order to prevent it from being discovered by the world. It’s possible he created the island as a hiding place for the ring, allowing it to sink to the bottom of the ocean. This is the most likely explanation for why Gabriel II had traveled this route so many times but had never encountered this mysterious island until now.”
Cui Zuojing said, “I don’t think it’s like that. If it had sunk to the bottom of the ocean, it’s impossible for the island to have no trace of it, and there wouldn’t be so many wild animals.”
Dong Zheng thought about it, and it made sense.
Cui Zuojing added, “Maybe King Solomon or the later British expeditions used some magical means of hiding the island. Anyway, let’s not worry about it for now. Let’s focus on how we can get out of here.”
Dong Zheng said, “I’m not sure. Let’s take a look.”
They followed the river for a while. The dim crystals on the walls had gradually increased, and the water depths slowly deepened. Soon, it came up to their knees.
Dong Zheng was a little worried about the rest of the team. The darkness that had sucked them in was a kind of teleportation point that seemed to be able to send them to different places at different times.
He was most worried about Wang Que. The little girl was hindered by her previous injuries. Moreover, she was reluctant to use her ability to solve problems, and her physical fitness was only average.
But, it was useless to worry. Dong Zheng sighed, hoping that everyone would be well.
They continued walking for a long time, and the water continued to rise up as the cave passageway slanted downward, as if heading to the bottom of the sea.
At this moment, the entire cave shook.
Cui Zuojing’s balance became unsteady, and he had to hold on to the wall. The water also began to ripple, creating waves that pounded against the wall and stone pillars, making a series of crashing noises.
The quake wasn’t too violent; it was much lighter than when they’d been in front of Bes’ door. The source seemed to be coming from far away, and they were only feeling the aftermath of it. Because of this, there weren’t any violent changes in the terrain.
But, Dong Zheng and Cui Zuojing internally cursed at the same time. They realized an even more terrible problem.
A huge, whale-like sound blasted from the distance and extended in all directions in a roar, hitting their eardrums like a heavy hammer.
Cui Zuojing’s ear rang painfully. He raised his hands to cover his ears, but the powerful sound wave continued to slam into him, even causing his internal organs some discomfort.
The underground riverway became chaotic, and the world seemed to have turned upside down. The ocean overlord, the ancient behemoth Leviathan, who was temporarily living in this underground river, had awakened, and it was enough to cause such a shock even at a distance!
Cui Zuojing and Dong Zheng immediately began to run.
It may have yawned sleepily, and the force of it created a hurricane that blasted through the cave, carrying the smell of warm fish and humidity, creating loud winds and violent waves. All of this slapped into their backs.
The waves knocked them over, and they fell completely into the water, like sinking into a churning washing machine. The turbulent water carried them through the cave. There were many stalagmites and sharp stone protrusions sticking out from the cave walls. If they passed through carelessly, they might get stabbed. Fortunately, they were both good swimmers and managed with some difficulties to control the trajectory of their forward movements.
No other aquatic animals dared to enter the underground river inhabited by the ocean overlord. Cui Zuojing finally adjusted his body to start resisting the downstream current. Suddenly, he saw a sharp turn rushing up ahead!
He could only prop the sword’s handle against the wall of the turn to prevent his head from slamming into it. Meanwhile, Dong Zheng ducked underwater and kicked his feet sharply against the wall, allowing his body to follow the current.
Leviathan began to move in the water, stirring up wave after wave of chaos. The waves swept Cui Zuojing up in their torrents and pushed him past Dong Zheng, making him feel as if water had entered his ears.
There was another curve ahead. He turned and discovered that there was a slightly elevated cavity on the cave wall suiting for landing.
But, there were many sharp protrusions on that side of the wall.
Cui Zuojing held his breath and hurriedly tried to adjust the direction of his body to avoid them. But, there was no safe place to change the direction of his body’s momentum. No matter what he do, it would have little effect.
If he ran into it like this, he would definitely be poked through in an instant!
“Let me go back!” he shouted. The water rushed up and down over his face, constantly submerging him and muffling his voice. This, combined with Leviathan’s deep breathing, nearly swallowed his voice completely.
But Dong Zheng was completely unable to draw the pattern that would recall Cui Zuojing back into his prisoner’s space. In the moment before Cui Zuojing hit the protrusions, Dong Zheng mustered all his strength. He kicked the water and rushed up behind the youth, suddenly grabbing his shoulders and pulling him around.
Their front and back positions changed in an instant. Cui Zuojing only felt that the world was spinning, and his entire field of vision was occupied by Dong Zheng. The man clenched his teeth and guarded Cui Zuojing in front of his chest. The water slammed him into the cave wall!
The stone protrusions pierced Dong Zheng’s back in an instant. Blood gushed out and was washed away by the water. Cui Zuojing slammed into Dong Zheng’s chest, unharmed.
Dong Zheng groaned under the agonizing pain but didn’t scream. The blood contract kicked in without delay. The blood that poured out was not as heavy as expected, and the same injuries appeared on Cui Zuojing’s body.
But they received it at nearly the same time so the fatal wound that would have killed Dong Zheng did not take his life.
The protrusions nailed Dong Zheng’s shoulder, back, and thigh like Prometheus, the fire thief. It was difficult for Cui Zuojing to move, but he endured the pain and pulled Dong Zheng off. He dragged him up toward the higher ground and into the relatively hidden cavity on the wall.
By the time they finally got into the safe place, Cui Zuojing was covered in sweat and ached all over. He slumped on the ground, holding the deep wound on his stomach. He pulled down the little bear that had been clinging to Dong Zheng and squeezed out the water from its body.
Before Cui Zuojing could say anything, the stitched-heart bear immediately spit out cotton and cloth to sew a spleen and stuffed it into the wound on Dong Zheng’s stomach.
Cui Zuojing leaned against the wall and watched the little bear heal Dong Zheng. He gritted his teeth and endured.
Meanwhile, the culprit of all of this was slowly moving through the water, it’s massive body nearly filling the entire vast cave. Its sides brushed against the cave walls as it swam along.
The hard scales scraped over the cluster of sharp thorns that had just injured Dong Zheng, and the protrusions immediately broke off, leaving only a bald layer behind. Upon seeing the legendary Leviathan, Cui Zuojing realized that the body of this monster was more like a dragon.
After two to three minutes, the monster’s body disappeared from sight. It didn’t seem to notice Dong Zheng and Cui Zuojing’s existence at all, and even the scent of their blood wasn’t enough to attract it.
It simply left.
The stitched-heart bear also took care of the three gaping holes on Dong Zheng’s body. Finally, the little bear raised its hand to wipe the non-existent sweat on its forehead and ran over to take care of Cui Zuojing.
Cui Zuojing couldn’t help thinking about everything that had just happened. At the most critical moment, Dong Zheng had replaced him and withstood the nearly fatal blow.
In fact, if it weren’t for the blood contract that allowed Dong Zheng to share his injuries, or if it was Cui Zuojing himself who had directly hit it, then even if the stitched-heart bear was present, one of them most likely would have died.
Cui Zuojing suddenly felt his breathing become a little messy. It seemed that something very subtle had stretched out its tentacles and gripped his heart, but it was quickly suppressed by a sudden force, leaving not the slightest trace behind.
Was he moved?
He thought so.