The satellite system on the hover car showed the entire city’s surface on the screen. The ice sheet had raised the city’s altitude by nearly 50 meters. Dong Zheng looked at the extremely complicated terrain on the map and couldn’t help but doubt that this place was really once a city.
The wind was rather strong, causing the hover car to shake slightly and lower nearly to the ground. The fierce snow flurries greatly reduced visibility so that all they could see from inside the vehicle was a blur of whiteness.
Since they’d come out of the underground base, Wang Que was silent. There were too many insects here. Although most of them were sleeping, she could still vaguely sense them. Due to the sheer magnitude of their numbers, these sensations became a terrifying consciousness, hovering in her mind, as if waiting to be summoned.
Seeing her discomfort, Dong Linhai tilted his head and thought for a second. Finally, he touched her arm and said, “Are you afraid of bugs?”
Wang Que nodded.
Dong Linhai said, “Then did you catch grasshoppers or crickets or something like that when you were a kid?”
Wang Que said, “A little. At that time, I used to play with the neighborhood kids. At night, there were a lot of them by the side of the building and so a few of us kids would often catch them together and keep them in cages.”
Dong Linhai didn’t understand. “If that’s the case, then why are you afraid now?”
Wang Que smiled helplessly and said, “When I was a kid, there were still many things that I didn’t dare to do. But, I don’t know why I only became more timid as I grew older.”
“Maybe boys and girls are different,” Dong Linhai said. “Actually, I was also afraid for a while.When I was in kindergarten, I liked to dig for watermelon bugs in the small garden. They were kind of gray and flat and would curl up into a ball one by one when in danger. They kind of look like the bugs we just saw earlier. Once, I caught a whole bottle worth and got an allergic reaction when I went home that night. I got a red, itchy rash and stayed up all night. My brother should know this.”
Dong Zheng, who was in the driver’s seat, had been listening to their conversation and nodded at this. “I remembered. You were itchy and was crying and rolling all over the floor. I couldn’t fall asleep because of the noise.”
Dong Linhai said, “….You just have to remember. No need to go into such details.”
Wang Que couldn’t help but smile. Seeing the curve of her lips, Dong Linhai felt a subtle satisfaction in his heart.
Dong Linhai had two girlfriends before. To be precise, it was the other parties that chased him. After all, he was the wealthy, cool, and stylish second young master of the Dong family. As such, he was deemed a dream lover by thousands of girls. After a while, it became pretty boring. He didn’t want to waste other people’s time and so he happily and directly broke up with them.
But now, he was just one of many pilgrims struggling to survive in the Pure White Realm.
Apart from all the advantages he’d gain because of his family, he was really just an ordinary boy.
However, he now had one of the biggest advantages. He had time. After getting along for a long time and caring for each other, Wang Que would definitely become interested in him…right?
To be honest, Dong Linhai wasn’t too sure.
The wind and snow outside gradually lessened. Dong Zheng and Allen took turns driving while Lin Hangzhi watched the road conditions for them and acted as the guide. Meanwhile, the three big kids, two real and one fake, sat in the back, jumping from topic to topic and chattering away.
Only the members of the Wonton Insurgency had entered the box. In order for them to achieve good results, Cui Zuojing decided that he shouldn’t intervene too much. Therefore, he lazed away with peace of mind.
The hover car swayed against the wind, causing Cui Zuojing to also sway. He soon became tired and yawned. He was about to close his eyes when he suddenly felt the car jerk to a stop.
“I’ll go check. Wait a moment.” Dong Zheng put his helmet back on but didn’t say what he was going to do. He and Allen both got out of the car.
Cui Zuojing gathered up some energy, rolled over, and leaned against the car window, watching the two stepped out and immediately sank waist-deep in snow before they pushed forward through the snow and moved six meters away.
Fortunately, it was the both of them. If it was Wang Que who went down, she might become buried all the way up to her chest.
Their protective clothing were quite light and weren’t as difficult to move in as expected. Dong Zheng walked toward a large ice boulder not far away. When he finally stopped, the car was still nearby. He gestured for Allen and Lin Hangzhi to watch out.
Dong Zheng had been observing the surrounding area since he left the car. In today’s extreme weather condition, even the most tenacious bryophytes wouldn’t be able to survive, leaving the whole world a desolate white.
But just now, he saw something distinctively green.
There was a thick, dark green lump attached to the ice boulder. It looked creepy, not like any known plants.
“Is that a plant?” Allen spoke into his helmet. He, Dong Zheng, and Lin Hangzhi had already discussed the issue of the world’s biosphere. Since there were so many insects, there must be a lot of them around. Producers who could convert inorganic matter into organic matter likely provided them with the food they needed to survive.
“It doesn’t seem like it,” Dong Zheng said as he stretched out his hand and lightly touched the green object.
The moment his glove touched it, the entire green mass immediately moved, turning into countless tiny dots. They moved swiftly in all directions as they broke apart. Some climbed onto Dong Zheng’s glove and quickly hurried up his arm.
“Fuck,” Dong Zheng swore, startled. He immediately brushed the bugs off his body. Allen backed away in fright, forgetting that this was not a normal environment. One foot didn’t land properly and plunged straight through the thick snow, leaving a large human-shaped pit more than half a meter deep.
“This thing is a bug?!” Allen got up hurriedly and saw that the insect swarm that Dong Zheng had inadvertently scattered had reunited in another sunny location and reformed back into a green mass.
“Let’s go back first.” Dong Zheng didn’t jump to conclusions. The two returned to the hover car. In just a short amount of time, they were already covered with snow.
The car door was blocked by the wind and snow, Lin Hangzhi, who saw their reactions from the window, asked urgently, “What was it?”
“It’s not a real plant.” Dong Zheng stretched out his hand. In his palm, there was a small green dot that had been pinched to death before it could escape.
Cui Zuojing and the others also leaned in to take a closer look. Lin Hangzhi frowned, “This is a bug?”
“Not exactly,” Cui Zuojing said. “Doctor Lin, do you see this color? Doesn’t it look like cyanobacteria?”
Lin Hangzhi understood what Cui Zuojing meant. “You mean this bug, like cyanobacteria, contains photosynthetic pigments that can undergo photosynthesis?”
Cui Zuojing said, “Almost. My biology isn’t very good, but you know what I mean.”
Dong Linhai scratched his head. “Isn’t only chloroplasts capable of photosynthesis?”
“Cyanobacteria, like many photosynthetic bacteria, have no organelles and have to rely on light and pigments such as chlorophyll to carry out photosynthesis,” Lin Hangzhi explained. “I originally thought that there might be many bacteria producers that can perform chemical energy synthesis to support the biosphere, but I always felt that there might not be so many inorganic substances for them to transform. It seems that if some insects can evolve organelles for photosynthesis or have photosynthetic pigments… it’s not impossible to use their huge numbers to act as producers.”
“This type of composition, when compared to traditional plants, gives them a greater chance of survival. It allows them to be able to disperse to avoid any dangers or disasters they may have encountered. Moreover, they can also move at any time to a more well-lit place, allowing them to perform photosynthesis more efficiently. It seems….quite scientific?”
Allen exclaimed, “It’s both an animal and a plant. That’s a bit magical.”
Dong Zheng said, “There will probably be more magical things in the future. Let’s continue.”
He threw the bug’s body away and took a rest, allowing Allen to drive. Since there was a lot of snow on his clothes, Cui Zuojing helped him brush it off and then took off his helmet so he could breathe.
Dong Zheng let out a long breath of white mist. The car’s interior wasn’t too warm. Water vapor condensed on his long and dense eyelashes, forming thin ice flowers.
Cui Zuojing looked from the left to the right. He whole-heartedly felt that a man who grew up like this, looking so outstandingly good without looking the least bit effeminate, was really favored by God.
Perceiving Cui Zuojing’s gaze, Dong Zheng looked over. “???”
“It’s nothing.” Cui Zuojing gave Dong Zheng back his helmet. “I was just looking at how handsome you are.”
Dong Zheng almost choked on his saliva. Overwhelmed by such strong winds and waves, he couldn’t stop his face from turning red at those unexpected words. Since it was so cold, he hoped that his blush wouldn’t be too noticeable.
On the side, Wang Que silently covered her face and repeatedly warned herself: No, you can’t casually knock real people into a CP (1).This is disrespectful to both parties. If Brother Dong and Brother Cui knew, they would probably kill you!
But…but it was just so so cute!
Seriously, (Zhengjing) is rio! (2)
As the sun gradually rose, the snow lessened and visibility improved. The wind slowly died down, allowing the hover care to finally stabilize.
At this moment, they were 29 kilometers away from the military base. The Institute of Biochemistry was in the northwest and the base was in the east. The route that the terminal had supplied ran through an urban area. Or, what once was an urban area.
The hover car slowly but steadily drove on. For nearly two hours, nothing unexpected happened. Although they knew that it was impossible for events in the box to be so calm, they couldn’t help but allow their tense nerves to relax.
No one could stand being so tense for so long.
When the countdown turned to 64:34:21, the car suddenly shook and jerked to a stop. Cui Zuojing, who was leaning against the car interior wall, directly fell into Dong Zheng’s lap and couldn’t get up right away.
“What’s the matter?” Dong Zheng asked from the cab, not helping Cui Zuojing up out of some ulterior motive.
“I don’t know. I don’t see anything in front. Did it run into a stone on the ground?” Lin Hangzhi was confused. He had been paying close attention to road conditions. The satellite image also showed that there were no large obstacles ahead. Why would the car suddenly stop?
Allen, who was driving, kept trying to reverse and steer forward. However, despite trying everything he could think of, the car wouldn’t move.
“It must be stuck,” Allen said with a sigh. “I hope we don’t have to travel on foot. Come, who wants to go out with me and check?”
“I’ll go,” Dong Linhai volunteered. Wang Que looked at whiteness outside and felt a call emerged from the unknown distance.
She frowned suspiciously and stood up. “I’ll go too.”
(1) CP — internet word for pairing/coupling two people up.
(2) (Zhengjing) is rio! — “is rio” (as written in English in the raw) is an internet word for “is real.” So it basically means that Zhengjing (combo of Dong Zheng and Cui Zuojing’s name) is real.