After becoming acquainted with Cui Zuojing, many people would call him Xiao Cui, Zuojing, Cui’er or something along those lines. However, Dong Zheng had always called Cui Zuojing by his full name. In contrast, he would call Dong Linhai and Lin Hangzhi by their first name. And, he would also call Wang Que Que’er. But he’d never used an intimate name with Cui Zuojing.
When A’Zuo slipped out, Dong Zheng was momentarily stunned. But, aside from him, no one seemed to care. Only Wang Que, who was in the middle of drinking water, immediately shifted her gaze over to Dong Zheng.
“I’m here, I’m fine,” Cui Zuojing leaned over to say. “My communication device is broken, so I couldn’t hear or speak. Right, what’s the situation over there?”
“Aside from you and Hangzhi, everyone else is here with me.” Dong Zheng looked at Dong Linhai, who was struggling to get up from the snow, and added, “Can you gauge what direction you’re in?”
“Possibly…” Cui Zuojing used his prisoner perception to sense Dong Zheng’s direction. The avalanche had caused a deep rift to cut across the path, completely separating them.
“You go first. I’ll stay here with Hangzhi and find another way to catch up to you,” he said. “Don’t waste time. J may be nearby so be careful.”
Dong Zheng said, “I will. You two should also pay attention to your safety.”
Of course, Cui Zuojing could directly return to Dong Zheng if he summoned him back. But, if they did that, he would not only lose all his equipment but Lin Hangzhi would also be left alone in this snow-covered field.
“We need to make a detour.” Lin Hangzhi’s fingers drew a big circle in the air. “This path is completely buried in snow. I don’t know if the box might have designed another path for us.”
“Let’s walk.” Cui Zuojing took off the water bottle at his waist, drank a few sips of water mixed with crushed ice, and told Dong Zheng, “Okay, we’re moving. Feel free to contact us if anything comes up.”
Dong Zheng actually wanted to say a few more words. In fact, he was really worried about Cui Zuojing’s situation. If he was alone, it wouldn’t be too bad. But with Hangzhi–If J really did something, Cui Zuojing would absolutely not let anything happen to Hangzhi. When that time comes, Hangzhi will become his weakness.
But Cui Zuojing had already left Lin Hangzhi’s communicator. He looked around at the now completely different terrain. There was a deep rift ahead, separating them about two to three hundred meters away from Dong Zheng, making him out of reach.
A familiar fluctuation was coming from the highest mountaintop ahead, causing the remaining two seals on the inside of Cui Zuojing’s wrist to heat up. He raised his hand and found that the two marks were glowing with a slight golden light.
Lin Hangzhi said, “This is…”
“The curse the queen left me.” Cui Zuojing looked at the top of the mountain and frowned. His expression was solemn as he said, “How strange…”
A large amount of snow fell from the top of the mountain. It smashed onto a protrusion along a rock wall, where it separated and slowly fell down the steep incline.
“Is there someone up there?” Dong Linhai looked at the mountaintop and said in disbelief, “Or are there bugs fighting on it?”
No one could answer his question. Allen had his head lowered and was fiddling with his glove. When the avalanche fell, he’d scraped against a stone. The glove, which had already been thinned by Cui Zuojing after he’d cut away the spider silk, immediately tore.
Wang Que checked his body and confirmed that there were no other damages. She asked, “Is the suit’s temperature control system still working as normal?”
“It’s normal.” With two fingers, Allen pinched the small tear that looked like it’d been cut by a knife. “Does this seem really big?”
Dong Zheng walked over to take a look. He didn’t know how to repair the damage so he looked around for a solution. His gaze landed on the small clip on the compressed oxygen pump that allowed the user to manually control the oxygen supply in the event of an accident.
“Linhai.” Dong Zheng pointed to it, and Dong Linhai immediately understood. After several months of repeated training, he was able to slightly deform small metal objects other than spoons. However, he did not remove Dong Zheng’s clip as planned. Instead, he removed the clip on his own oxygen pump and clamped the hole in Allen’s glove.
Dong Linhai was very simple and neat in doing everything, and he was almost done by the time Dong Zheng could intervene.
Dong Zheng took a deep look at Dong Linhai, who had taken on the possible danger without saying a word. Finally, he said, “Allen, be careful. If something goes wrong, you need to tell us immediately.”
“Okay.” Allen’s expression didn’t reveal much; only he knew how anxious he was. In this place full of bugs, if the protective suit broke—Just thinking about the possibility made everyone shudder.
All the way to the present, the only reason they weren’t bitten by insects was entirely due to this protective suit.
Dong Zheng still remembered the direction of the path they were on before the avalanche came. The four of them waded through two kilometers of deep, soft snow. After leaving behind the area where the avalanche had fallen, they finally saw that path the box had provided for them.
Thinking that Cui Zuojing still had to make a detour before they could be reunited again, they didn’t walk very fast. The avalanche had also alarmed the insects that were sleeping under the snow, and they came out in twos and threes to find a safe shelter.
If they didn’t provoke the insects, the insects also wouldn’t actively try to attack them. As a result, everyone walked very carefully, mindful of where they place each foot, for fear of accidentally stepping on one and causing trouble.
Two hours later, Dong Zheng and his group bypassed the mountain where the avalanche had occurred and looked into the distance. The gray, winding path hovered over the snow-capped mountain. It was unknown when it would finally end.
After resting for half an hour, they set off again. Lin Hangzhi sent a message that he and Cui Zuojing had left the site of the avalanche in the opposite direction to them, and under the Cui Zuojing’s leadership, they were making a detour towards Dong Zheng.
Light snowfall began to drift down. If this light snow was on a winter night in the city, it might be considered quite romantic. But in a land of snow and ice, it was only monotonous.
Snow was strongly reflective to light. Everyone had to turn on their headlights for illumination, but the light would also reflect into their eyes. After prolonged periods of this, it might cause snow blindness. Since the face shield didn’t have a sunglasses mode, they had to continuously stop and rest their eyes.
Dragonflies the size of a washbasin flew low in the valley in groups of twos and threes. Like a small airplane, they hunted other insects. Large swarms of photosynthetic insects lay on the bare rock wall. These strange green lower lifeforms served as food for many insects and were at the bottom of the entire ecosystem.
There were also many fleshy purple worms that they had never seen before crawling along the cracks in the rocks. Dong Linhai carried his flamethrower like a baby. He had to use it a few times and they discovered that, since the insects had evolved their bodies to adapt to the severe cold, they had an incredibly low tolerance for high temperature. As the fire came near, they went into a panic, twisting and turning like headless flies, until they died.
He’d brought four cans of enriched fuel, and now he’d used up one.
So far, they hadn’t had to use their weapons too much, which meant that they would likely face one or perhaps even many battles in the future.
Dong Zheng led the way, followed by Allen, Wang Que, and Dong Linhai in turn. The road was slippery after being covered with snow. He walked very carefully for fear of accidentally falling off the cliffside.
In order to save oxygen and stamina, no one took the initiative to speak, aside from two or three words when helping each other along the way. In the silent snowy night, the only sound they could hear were the tired breaths of other people through their earphones, along with the sound of insects coming from some unknown location.
At the most dangerous section of the road, a raised boulder was suspended at a height of about two meters. It seemed that it might fall at any time, smashing everyone down.
Just as Dong Zheng was about to warn “watch your head,” he felt a huge force coming from behind, knocking his whole body forward.
Someone had pushed him from behind!
He staggered forward and slid on his feet. If he hadn’t been able to grab hold of the rock above in time, he would have fallen over the cliff to Wang Que’s scream!
“What are you doing?!” Dong Linhai dashed forward from behind Wang Que. He grabbed Allen, who had just pushed Dong Zheng, and tightened his hold when Allen began to struggle.
His eyes widened in utter disbelief, and he roared, “Allen, what are you doing?!”
The moment when he’d lost his balance, Dong Zheng had broken out in a cold sweat. By the time he’d managed to hurriedly hold onto the protruding rocks to prevent himself from falling, one foot had already slipped over the edge of the cliff. If he’d moved it out just a little bit more, he would have fallen directly off the cliff.
Allen only struggled symbolically twice and soon stopped. Dong Linhai angrily pushed him against the rock wall on the inner side of the path, grabbed him by the collar, and yelled, “Have you gone crazy?! He almost fell!”
Allen lowered his head, not responding. The only sounds that came through their earpiece was his pained gasps.
Dong Linhai gradually recovered from the monstrous horror he’d felt. Realizing what he was doing, he slowly loosened the strength of his hand and suddenly had an ominous premonition in his heart. He asked softly, “Brother Len, what’s the matter with you?”
Allen slowly raised his head. His sea-blue eyes were full of helplessness and panic, and his lips were trembling.
Wang Que finally recovered from these unexpected series of movements. She hurried to Allen’s side, knelt on the ground, grabbed his hand with the damaged glove, and turned it over.
The clip that had closed the torn material had disappeared.
Wang Que’s lost her breath, and her fingers began to tremble. She bit down hard on her lower lip, forcibly resisting the thought that came unbidden to her mind: No, what if it wasn’t him?
She spread the torn cloth wider, full of disbelief. Her headlight clearly illuminated the bloody wound on Allen’s finger.
No no no! Absolutely not!
Dong Zheng held the rock wall tightly, nearly digging his fingers into the stone, and slowly retracted his foot.
Finally, he dared to breath again. He sucked in a deep breath and exhaled. He stared down at the cliff where he’d nearly fallen off, feeling slightly dizzy.
A cold sweat had soaked up his inner layer of clothing. For a while, he couldn’t hear Dong Linhai’s questioning roars behind him. The only sound he heard in his mind was the loud pounding of his heart.
The God of Death’s sickle had narrowly missed the top of his head.
He slowed for half a minute and finally got rid of the numbness all over his body. Once he recovered from the fear of his life hanging by a thread, he immediately turned to look at Allen.
That was because he gave his teammates all of his trust and could turn his back to them without reserve.
“Brother,” Dong Linhai whispered.
“I’m fine.” Dong Zheng knelt beside Allen on one knee and also saw Allen’s bloodied finger.
His pupils dilated.
Allen turned his head to look at Dong Zheng, his flustered eyes wet. He opened his mouth, raised his other hand, and lifted his face shield.
In this way, his voice clearly passed through the air and directly into Dong Zheng’s ears.
“I’m sorry. I really didn’t want to push you…I, I seem to be unable to fully control my body.”