These hidden secret rooms must have important uses. Dong Zheng built a model of the church’s layout in his kernel and decided to temporarily focus on finding the secret rooms. Now that he’d roughly explored the first floor, he didn’t take the long corridor toward the worship hall, and instead took the spiral staircase up to the second floor.
The top of the second floor was similar to the first floor, though a lot shorter. Now that Dong Zheng had constructed a layout of the first floor, he could also get a general idea of the many structures on the second floor. He first explored the area near the stairs and found a cloister in a corner, hidden by a large cross.
The door was locked with an ingenious mechanism. Ordinary pilgrims might need to use some effort to open it, but it wasn’t too difficult for Dong Zheng. Using the calculations of his kernel, he unlocked it without much effort and pushed open the small hidden door. A narrow channel appeared before his eyes.
In order to conceal it, the door was built very low. Dong Zheng looked inside and noticed that the inside was much taller. It was actually a gallery with many framed paintings hanging on both sides of the wall.
With no window and poor lighting, it was very dark inside. Unfortunately, when Dong Zheng woke up earlier, he’d discovered that there were no electronic products on him, including a mobile phone. Therefore, he directly increased the data flow to his visual port, and with the help of the dim light penetrating through the opened door, he looked at the paintings one by one.
Unlike the murals outside, these paintings had little to do with religion, and were more like descriptions of the Pure White Realm.
Dong Zheng looked around, his steady and slow footsteps echoing in the narrow chamber, creating a kind of frightening tension.
Suddenly, Dong Zheng’s gaze stopped.
In front of him was a one-meter-high painting. The person in the painting was wearing a blue and white maid costume, standing in a beautiful garden, and holding a blood-stained knife.
He had short black hair, and the expression on his slightly childish face was full of resolve. The bloodstain on his face made the look in his dark eyes even more solid than a rock—Dong Zheng couldn’t be more familiar with this face: It was Cui Zuojing’s youthful face.
This image of a young man wielding a knife in bloody battle, wearing a kind of maid costume that was reminiscent of the animation Alice in Wonderland, created such a strong sense of violation that it made Dong Zheng frown. He looked at the painting for a long time, and finally came to this conclusion: Ah’Zuo looked good in a skirt.
Amused at his own joke, Dong Zheng raised his hand and touched the painting, feeling the texture of the oil painting clearly against his fingertips. In the lower right corner of the painting, he found a small English word.
The word written in black paint was really very small, making it easy to miss if one wasn’t careful.
This word suddenly awakened Dong Zheng’s memory, and he recalled that when Cui Zuojing told him about the last time he was in the Pure White Realm, he’d mentioned that the Queen liked to call him Dolly.
To call Cui Zuojing by a name most commonly used on women and to even paint a picture like this, the Queen’s mind was quite vicious. In her mind, was this what Cui Zuojing had looked like back then when he’d struggled along the boundaries of life and death to fight against her?
Dong Zheng suddenly felt very uncomfortable. Although he knew that Cui Zuojing probably wouldn’t care much, he still didn’t want him to see this painting.
He looked away and continued to study the other remaining paintings. Next to it, there was a two-meter-high frame that was a completely clean canvas. It was blank and there was nothing on it.
Dong Zheng’s eyebrows furrowed even more. He noted down this small peculiarity. The subsequent paintings were quite similar, all depicting scenes of the Pure White Realm. Dong Zheng determined that this secret room had little to do with the content of the box itself. Instead, it might be Kether who designed this place as a way to convey some sort of message.
After he finished looking at the last painting, Dong Zheng turned and made his way back out. As he restored the mechanical lock on the door, he marked this location in his kernel. The figure of the boy in the maid costume still lingered in his mind. Dong Zheng shook his head and turned around to continue exploring.
Cui Zuojing was all the way at the back of the church on the third floor. He’d been in the box for more than an hour, but he hadn’t seen anymore nor found any traces of his teammates. In contrast, he saw many leftover remnants of some battles along the way. Although those battle scenes had been cleaned up somewhat, they couldn’t escape his eyes. There was no one in the church, which must have had something to do with the battles.
Cui Zuojing stopped to admire a sculpture of the Virgin Mary, when he suddenly heard a small sound from a room not far away.
The surrounding area was very quiet, which made this small sound particularly obvious. Cui Zuojing was shocked, and then he immediately thought that it might be one of his teammates.
He hurried toward the sound. It seemed that the other party must have heard the sound of his footsteps, because the sound abruptly disappeared. Despite this, Cui Zuojing could still judge it’s approximate location. He went to a corner, stopped for a moment at the wall decorated with the image of Jesus nailed to the cross, raised his hand, and tapped.
Hollow. It must be a hidden room.
Cui Zuojing fumbled around, and soon he discovered that the cross could actually rotate.
He rotated the cross 180 degrees, turning Jesus upside down. There was a dull sound of gears rotating, and a secret door opened in front of him.
The scent of blood hit him in the face, so thick that it nearly suffocated him. He frowned, covered his nose, and entered the hidden room.
Suddenly, a gust of wind struck, and Cui Zuojing raised his hand to block the wooden stick that was smashing toward him. He snatched it with his backhand and pointed it at the attacker’s throat. “Don’t move!”
With the help of the light from outside, Cui Zuojing saw that his attacker was a woman. She looked as pale as a ghost, as if she barely had any blood left in her. Her bottom half was covered in blood, making her look as if she’d bathed in it. No wonder he only had to use only a tiny bit of force to snatch the stick away from her.
The woman was very young. Panting, she half leaned against the wall, her hair unkempt and sweat sticking to her face. She was wearing a loose robe, her abdomen bulged high, and her legs were crossed at an angle. Cui Zuojing’s complexion suddenly changed when she saw the bloody umbilical cord at the corner of the robe.
Beside her, there was a child wrapped in a rag and was still wet from birth. Seeing Cui Zuojing looking at the child, the woman immediately hugged the baby to her arms in horror. She stared at him vigilantly, looking like a trapped beast with nowhere to go.
“Don’t be afraid, I don’t have evil intentions.” Cui Zuojing threw the stick behind him. He raised his hands and asked, “Are you alone here? Where did everyone in the church go?”
“Heretics…they killed everyone!” the woman said, her voice trembling. She was already so weak that Cui Zuojing needed to pay careful attention to understand what she was saying. “They locked me in here. I heard the sounds of them killing everyone. Everyone was crying, screaming. God save us all…Those evil heretics are destined to go to hell!”
The baby apparently sensed something. It’s wrinkled face flushed red, and it began to cry in an extremely weak voice.
“Find the priest. The priest knows everything…”
Panting hard, the woman looked at Cui Zuojing with begging eyes and held out her child. “Please…save my baby. He is…the savior we’ve all been hoping for…”
Cui Zuojing had to take the baby that was still covered with bloodstains. As he held it awkwardly, he felt how soft the baby was. He’d learned this position from his parents. When Victor was a cat, his mother liked to hold Victor just like this, as if she was holding a child.
“Okay, I’ll try my best to take care of him,” Cui Zuojing promised, knowing that, with this amount of bleeding, the woman wouldn’t live long. He wiped the child down with the rag, took his jacket off, and re-wrapped the child in it so it’ll be warmer and more comfortable.
Seeing that Cui Zuojing was really taking care of his child, the woman felt relieved. She smiled weakly, and soon her breath fell silent.
Cui Zuojing didn’t continue to remain in the secret room. After he exited, he thoughtfully closed the door, so as to prevent the woman’s body from being exposed.
“Now that you’re going to follow me, you have to make a little less noise.” Looking at this tiny baby in his arms, Cui Zuojing the new father sighed. Fortunately, the baby wasn’t too noisy, and after crying for about two minutes, it went quiet again. Otherwise, if he had to move around with a loud baby and ended up attracting hostile attention, he would probably go crazy.
He studied the traces of the battle between the heretics and the church congregations. The heretics won a great victory, but it was unknown where they took the bodies.
Suddenly, Cui Zuojing thought of the coffin on the altar. He clicked his tongue as a realization dawned on him, and he immediately headed downstairs with the child in his arms.
The baby boy weighed about seven catty. Cui Zuojing opened his jacket and looked down at its face. He remembered that the woman had said that this child was the savior that they’d been hoping for. Could this child be the Son of God?
Whether the child was the Son of God or not, he would soon find out.
Cui Zuojing cleared his throat and said, “Then…I, Cui Zuojing, am here to confess my sin to you. By running around the mountain, I ended up causing the death of a dedicated forest ranger. After I escaped, the law gave me the proper punishment, but I still feel uneasy in my heart. I am burdened by this bloody sin, and I am sincerely confessing to you in hope of repentance. I hope you can forgive me on behalf of God.”
After his voice fell, nothing happened. The child’s eyes were still closed, and his face was wrinkled like a little monkey.
Okay. It looked like he wasn’t the Son of God.
Cui Zuojing shrugged. By this time, he’d already reached the first floor and returned to the nave. The coffin was still on the altar. He went up to pulpit, approached the white coffin, put the baby down at his feet, took out a playing card from his pocket, and lifted the nails on the four corners of the coffin.
The nail fell out one after another, and the card in his hands turned into powder. Cui Zuojing took the rose down, took a deep breath, and pushed the coffin lid hard.
The heavy lid shifted and fell to the side. In the coffin, there was a man in a priest’s white robe lying on his side. His eyes were wide open and his expression was very shocking.
The priest’s hand had fallen to his side, and his fingertips were covered in blood. On the inner wall of the coffin, there were some bloodied characters.
“The curse of the heretics is brewing. Evil thoughts are spreading in the crowd, and only the birth of new life can save us all—”
The last stroke dragged on for a long time, sketching out with the trajectory of the priest’s powerless hand as it dropped down. It could only be concluded that he was put in the coffin by a heretic and driven to death when the lid was nailed down. He bit his finger in despair to write this message down, hoping to provide enlightenment to those who came after.
Cui Zuojing turned the priest onto his back, causing him to face up so that his wide eyes were looking straight at the mural on the domed ceiling. Suddenly, Cui Zuojing noticed that the priest’s neck had already begun to rot with a strange, dark green color, and the festering flesh exuded an awful stench.