Cui Zuojing went back and continued to look for the small mirror in the wall of mental pollution. He didn’t know how long he could hold on, or whether this thing would have an unpredictable lasting effect on him, but as long as there was a glimmer of hope, he couldn’t give up!
—Stop looking, you can’t find it. Aren’t you tired and cold now? Stop and rest for a while. Even if you get out of this room, what will happen? Since someone wants you to die, do you think this will be the last trap they’ll set for you?
Get out! Stop affecting me!
Cui Zuojing pressed his hand hard against the wall, leaving five shallow fingerprints. But no matter how hard he tried to clear his mind, the thoughts lingered, like a large, gaping mouth ready to swallow him whole.
—Give up, it’s useless.
The moment Cui Zuojing kicked the water and reached the surface, he began to pant violently. His isolation and helplessness made him constantly think of his companions. At this time, if Dong Zheng or Victor were by his side, he wouldn’t have been like this.
Thinking of the man who was waiting patiently for his answer, Cui Zuojing had a faint regret. If he no longer had the opportunity to answer him, wouldn’t Dong Zheng be sad for a while?
Even Cui Zuojing himself didn’t realize that he was planning for the worst. The most terrifying thing about mental influences was this: people who were influenced never fully realized how deeply they were affected.
The iciness of the water had penetrated his entire body, and even his blood felt as if it might soon freeze. Cui Zuojing’s bangs clung wetly to his forehead and between his brows as he floated quietly in the water with only his head exposed.
The water pipes were submerged, and he could no longer hear the sound of death approaching. Cui Zuojing bit the tip of his tongue, using pain to sharpen his awareness. Finally, he resisted the overwhelming negativity once again and dived underwater to continue searching for a way to survive.
His fingertips on the wall had almost lost all sensations, and his head gradually became more and more fuzzy. The bright letters danced before his eyes with claws and teeth, signaling his impending death.
It would be great if Dong Zheng was here.
The search still found nothing, and Cui Zuojing could only float to the surface again to get his breath. At this moment, it was as if that person had heard his call through the darkness. A strong sense of rejuvenation poured into his mind, eliminating the overwhelmingly negative influences like melting snow. It steadily and powerfully expelled the harmful thoughts that forced Cui Zuojing toward collapse.
Cui Zuojing’s head broke the water surface. The water was now only ten centimeters from the ceiling. He could only tip his head backward so that he could breathe through his nose.
The powerful rejuvenation seemed to have gushed out of his heart from out of nowhere, but Cui Zuojing knew that it was from Dong Zheng.
Although Dong Zheng never said it, Cui Zuojing could vaguely feel that the blood contract between them had allowed Dong Zheng to utilize his ability to establish a connection, allowing him to accept Dong Zheng’s command quickly and easily. It also allowed Dong Zheng to share the simulated projection lines of possible future outcomes with him.
Similarly, when he was enthralled by Fu Zhe’s bell and was afraid of being killed, Dong Zheng was able to wake him from it.
Now, the blood-red texts that flowed and twisted were no longer a threat to him. Cui Zuojing felt refreshed. He dived underwater one last time and widened his eyes to look for a tiny reflection underwater.
The water surface continued to rise and silently reached the ceiling. The icy cold water completely filled the room, becoming the air that once existed in the room.
Finally, Cui Zuojing saw the slightly reflective little lens just as his index finger brushed against a smoothness that felt different from the wall.
A string of bubbles came out from his mouth as he widened his eyes and moved closer to see that there was an 8 on it.
Cui Zuojing pushed his nail into the gap between the lens and the wall and popped out the lens. As the lens fell, it spun in the water, sinking downward and revealing the dial lock hidden behind it.
8, 3, 6, 7, 2, 7.
He dialed in all six numbers, but nothing happened.
The whole wall of kill yous seemed to mock him most sincerely.
No, I haven’t lost yet!
In desperate silence, another string of bubbles burst out from the corners of Cui Zuojing’s lips. The air in his lungs was now exhausted, and Cui Zuojing could only push himself forward with his firm will of not dying. His suffocated hands and feet had gone all soft, but his five fingers still firmly held onto the wall to keep his body in a fixed position. He used the last force of his will to input–
8, 3, 9, 7, 2, 7.
Once he switched the third number from 6 to 9, the gears hidden outside the room suddenly began to move. A circular formation appeared on the floor, and a huge suction rose up from it, swallowing the water!
Cui Zuojing only had time to kick to the surface and draw in a breath before he was sucked into the magic circle like the whirlpool of a toilet bowl.
The clown was in the middle of cleaning the dragon lion’s cage when he suddenly raised his head.
When the clown’s movements stopped, the monster with the dragon head and the lion body roared with dissatisfaction. The clown ignored it. He slowly straightened up, staring at a point in the void. He was frowning and seemed as if he was trying to sense something.
The heavy red curtains of the circus’ canopy were layered on top of each other. The head of the circus was sitting on a chair taller than his entire body. He held a small spoon and was in the middle of eating dessert. When he caught sight of the clown’s movements, he asked, “What’s wrong?”
The clown didn’t answer him. He held his breath, sensing the energy fluctuations in the box. Suddenly his expression changed.
“Something’s wrong.” Throwing the brush in his hand on the ground, the clown ignored the dragon lion who was sticking its head toward him. Just like his most energetic cheetah, the clown ran out from the animal performance area and crossed the empty stage. With one hand, he flipped over the auditorium barrier and rushed backstage.
The bar had a small box of unopened cans of cat food. In the bottle inside the wine cabinet, the colorful streams of lights that represented Cui Zuojing’s emotions seemed to have lost their luster. There were eight boxes placed underneath the bottle, each with distinct patterns.
At this time, the lid on the box decorated with gears and machinery was partially opened, and dark red light was glowing out from within.
The clown lifted his hands, and the pair of silver moon scimitars and the pitch black Tang Sword that hung on the wall made a sound of resonance. They flew into his hands with an unsheathed sharpness.
The clown stared at the constantly overflowing red light. Even his exaggerated smiling lips couldn’t hide the tight corners of his mouth. Slashing the Tang Sword in front of him, he directly cut through space and stepped into the pitch-black crack.
The group leader was left alone, holding a spoon and blinking in confusion.
Two seconds later, his complexion abruptly changed. He jumped off the chair and almost fell onto his stomach─the body of a three-year-old child was really inconvenient.
The leader pushed himself upright and glanced at the cage not far away. The dragon lion immediately stopped roaring, ran out of the open cage door, and squatted gently in front of him.
In Hell’s Circus, the leader was the best trainer.
“Go to the core.” The leader’s little milky voice carried an unavoidable solemnity.
The dragon lion immediately ran outside with him. The leader grabbed onto the mane along its neck to stabilize his figure, only to find that he was still holding a spoon in his hand.
In a few breaths, the dragon lion had already travelled through the heavily layered compartment and rushed straight toward the curtain. The diamond-shaped mark between the group leader’s eyebrows flashed. The moment they hit the curtain, the dragon lion completely passed through it and disappeared.
The sense of passing through overlapping points of space wasn’t pleasant. When the leader’s vision became clear again, he saw the girl’s phantom floating in the air. She seemed to be sitting on an invisible chair, staring at the intricate runes floating in the void and muttering, “It doesn’t look good. Sure enough, he can’t be trapped at this level.”
“What are you doing?” The leader gripped the lion dragon’s mane tightly. He furrowed his barely there eyebrows and stared sharply at his uninvited guest.
“Ah, here you are.” The girl turned her head. She had strange silver hair and red eyes, and she wore a black gothic dress that looked particularly gorgeous in the dark blue light that was repeatedly flashing in this space.
“If you don’t get out of here, don’t blame me for being impolite.” The three-year-old child spoke clearly and without fear, and even Kether dared not treat this as a mere simple, ruthless sentence.
All the shimmering runes dimmed, condensed into a dangerous force, and slowly gathered toward the girl.
Kether stood up, and a fan appeared in her hand out of thin air. She opened it to cover the small bottom half of her face. Her eyes narrowed slightly and she said with a charming smile, “Forget it. This time, let’s leave it at this. But help us tell the dear little Dolly that he won’t be so lucky next time.”
A rune the size of a palm pierced her chest even before her voice fell.
But no blood flowed out, as if it’d gone through nothing but air. Kether was still standing there. Facing the circus leader’s sudden attack, the girl sighed and said, “Don’t be so irritable. Have you forgotten that we haven’t investigated you yet for harboring a member of the Red Queen’s remnant party?”
Her figure turned in fragments of lights and slowly faded away.
Only the circus leader and the dragon lion were left. The leader snorted coldly and then his voice echoed in this strange space:
“What tricks are you guys up to?”
Cui Zuojing’s consciousness gradually cleared. He coughed twice, spraying a small jet of water from his mouth and nose.
He forced himself to roll over into a kneeling position and pressed his stomach hard, trying to push out all the water.
His lungs and nasal cavity were stinging from choking on water, and he was coughing so much that his whole body was paralyzed with it. He wanted to close his eyes and take a rest, but thinking that he wasn’t out of danger yet, he reluctantly forced himself to sit up.
Cui Zuojing looked around. He was locked inside a huge glass bottle. There was a shallow layer of water at the bottom of the bottle, which was obviously something brought in from the previous room.
The bottle was only 1.5 meters high so he couldn’t stand up completely and could only sit or kneel. The top was tightly plugged with a wooden cork. Cui Zuojing looked around and couldn’t find a place for air to get inside.
If he didn’t get out of here as soon as possible, he would suffocate inside the bottle.
As he was thinking this, Cui Zuojing repeatedly rubbed the skin on his chest, stomach, and neck. He hadn’t eaten for ten hours and he’d been soaked in cold water for too long. To prevent hypothermia, he needed to warm up his body temperature.
A layer of fog covered the bottle’s inner wall, blurring everything outside. He could only see shadows on the other side. Cui Zuojing reached into his pocket and was relieved when his fingers touched the identification card, the screws, and the steel sheet.
Now, if he needed to fight, at least he wouldn’t be helpless.
The air in the bottle was limited and so Cui Zuojing took off his soaked clothes, wrung out the water, and put them back on again. Afterward, he sat silently, trying to minimize the consumption of oxygen and using the time to adjust his state.
His body had gradually warmed up, and the tingling pain in his lungs had also slowly eased. He stretched out his fingers and drew a group of concentric circles on the fogged up glass, and with a tap, he lightly marked the center of the target he’d drawn.
Through the place where he’d wiped away the fog, Cui Zuojing could see that there were indeed many figures standing outside. They were dressed in dark blue coveralls and stood unmoving like machines.
It was the maintenance workers in the factory.
Could this be the “outside” of the factory?
Even as Cui Zuojing thought this, he adjusted his half-kneeling posture, and held the steel sheet in his left hand. He clenched his right hand into a fist, and his eyes sharpened.
He hit the bullseye with a punch!