Thick smoke rose languidly, slanted by the blowing wind.
Seeing Allen being consumed by fire, Dong Zheng’s tears finally fell. He raised his hand to cover his eyes, and slowly knelt on the ground as he cried.
He hadn’t been able to change anything at all. Nothing at all.
The dazzling blood, the boundless snowfield, the indifferent sun, everything seemed to have turned into the devil’s murmur, whispering in persuasion for Dong Zheng to accept his fate.
—Accept fate. You won’t be so tired if you accept your fate.
But if he had truly admitted to his fate, then he wouldn’t be here now. If Cui Zuojing truly admitted to his fate, he wouldn’t have fought for the hope to send him back to the past. If Allen had truly admitted his fate, his last words wouldn’t be to ask if he had any hope of seeing his teammates again.
A cavity of fate remained at the bottom of his heart, imprinted into the depths of his soul. It had a firmness that was undefeatable.
But… he was terrified.
Hot tears flowed from his eyes, frozen by the cold before they could even hit the ground. He held onto the snowy ground so hard that his nails dug into his skin. And it hurted, but he didn’t care.
His task…hadn’t been completed yet.
The flames gradually weakened. Allen’s body was no longer visible. If his soul was recovered, where was it now?
Dong Zheng staggered to his feet. He raised his hand to wipe the tears from his face and walked resolutely towards the Institute of Biochemistry. In the institute, the team would encounter more difficulties.
He walked away step by step, leaving behind burnt ashes and frozen blood to mar the white snow.
It took about an hour before Dong Zheng arrived at the Institute of Biochemistry, which had long been buried in snow.
Before the team arrived, Dong Zheng walked to the building and put his hand on the cold steel. The kernel’s signal flowed out along the metal, and within a few breaths, he figured out the circuitry of the entire institute.
Following the wire, Dong Zheng found the emergency door on the side. The circuit system was still working, allowing him to intrude into the control system. In response, the small door in front of him opened with a beep.
There was an unbearable stench of beetles. Dong Zheng held his breath and walked in. The kernel that has been upgraded countless times was no longer the same model of that year. Even without Wang Que, Dong Zheng could easily find out the location of every insect in the building.
He found an elevator, got on it, and descended 97 meters underground. Then he rested in the safe house for a while, waiting for the Wonton Insurgency.
The safe house was silent, with the fluorescent green light from the sign overhead as the only light source. Dong Zheng remembered that they had slept in another safe house for twelve hours before they went to find the main control room.
Now that he was in a safe room, Dong Zheng was finally able to rest. He fell asleep deeply, or more accurately, he might have fainted. When he woke up to the darkness, six hours had already passed.
Dong Zheng’s rest efficiency was high, and he’d almost completely regained his energy. He took out the self-heating cup he carried with him, heated water and drank it slowly.
Assuming that the time was up, Dong Zheng stood and opened the door of the safe house. Some small flying insects resting on the wall were startled and flew towards him. Dong Zheng used the flamethrower he had with him and all the insects fell to the ground, burnt to crisp.
Dong Zheng found a relatively clean staircase and reached the next floor. He clearly remembered the route he and the team had once taken. Following it, he found the office, broke the door, and entered.
This room had a computer with a backup power supply. Dong Zheng exited and entered the office next door.
Pressed under the glass plate of the office table was a list of the landline numbers of each office. Dong Zheng checked the number. His kernel quietly detected the silence on the upper floor, followed by the sounds of footsteps. Guessing that they’re almost there, he grabbed the phone and dialed the number.
The phone rang for a long time. Dong Zheng waited patiently, until finally, it was connected.
He didn’t speak, and neither did the person on the other side. The only sound to be heard was slight breathing.
Half a minute later, Dong Zheng whispered, “Go down the hallway and turn left at the second fork. At the end, there is an elevator leading to the next floor. Go downstairs. The second one room on the left has a spare computer with a good power supply.”
“Who is this?” his past self asked over the phone.
Dong Zheng did not answer, only quietly listening to the sounds on the other side, feeling as if this short telephone line was a bridge between the past and the present.
“Take care of Cui Zuojing, and do what you want to do.” After leaving these last words, Dong Zheng hung up the phone. He breathed a sigh of relief and lowered his eyes. These words back then had strengthened his determination to confess to Cui Zuojing.
Dong Zheng quickly left the office room. The team would follow his instructions. When the elevator door opened, they encountered a giant cockroach. Then they went to the office room next door and used the computer to check the contents of the USB flash drive, giving them access to the blueprint of the biochemical base.
They would encounter a female insect inhabiting the elevator shaft, faced a centipede over 20 meters long in the corridor, passed through the stairwells full of insects, and in the large laboratory, they would battle the big boss—a giant mutant lifeform. Wang Que would level-up her Fungi Bell and gain the courage to face her ability square on.
Dong Zheng found a fairly safe corner and waited. He heard the sounds of fighting, the screams of the Zergs, the chaotic footsteps of the group, and the sounds of weapons.
The chaos continued for an hour and a half, until the Wonton Insurgency arrived inside the master control room and finally completed their mission. Now, Dong Zheng had completed all of his tasks.
It was time to leave.
He left that same way he came, through the safe room, up the elevator, and once again treading out into the vast snowfield.
The cold wind immediately and ruthlessly slapped his face, and Dong Zheng put on his goggles. White mist filtered out from his mouth and noise as he walked alone in the blizzard, heading toward the top of the hill.
Snow continued to fall.
It took Dong Zheng half an hour to climb to the top of the hill and look into the distance. On the opposite hill, a bright white door had already opened. Everyone in the team walked in one after another. His past self was just about to enter when he suddenly stopped, turned his head as if drawn by some kind of instinct, and looked across the distance.
The two looked at each other across a valley, their eyes cutting through time and space, passing the fate of the ouroboros.
“What?” Cui Zuojing followed his gaze but saw nothing. “What’s the matter?”
The past Dong Zheng looked through the flurry of snow, but when he looked more closely, he realized that there was nothing on the opposite hilltop. It was empty. He frowned and looked around, but could no longer see that tall finger with short platinum blond hair and smoke-gray eyes.
In the end, he could only shake his head slightly and said, “Maybe it’s just a bit of snow blindness.”
As he hid behind a rock, Dong Zheng quietly watched his past self leave. But just as Cui Zuojing was about to leave, an injured J suddenly appeared!
Dong Zheng immediately straightened, but he watched as, facing J’s crazy attack, Cui Zuojing directly slapped him in the face.
With a sneer, Cui Zuojing stepped through the door. The box’s exit closed with a finality, and no matter how furious Tang Ji was, he had no choice but to vent his anger and resentment inside the box.
Dong Zheng breathed a sigh of relief. He sat on the ground and suddenly felt his whole body and mind relaxed. On the other mountain, Tang Ji’s angry voice could be faintly heard, but he couldn’t influence him at all.
Dong Zheng stretched out his hand. Snowflakes fell on his palm one by one, slowly melted by his body temperature.
He did everything he possibly could. No matter what the result was, he’d done his best.
After a long time, when Dong Zheng was almost turned into a snowman, he finally roused himself and walked down the mountain. Returning the same way, he arrived at the Institute of Biochemistry, opened the door with Fu Zhe’s key, and left the box that had given him such severe grief, not once but twice.
This time, Dong Zheng went straight back to the apartment he’d rented.
The first thing he did when he got back was to take a hot bath. The wound Tang Ji had inflicted on his face had already disappeared, and water dripped down his strong, naked body, streaming down the lines of his muscles, carrying away dirt and blood.
Afterward, Dong Zheng laid on the bed, staring at the ceiling. He had worries on his mind, but he didn’t want to think at all.
In the end, he closed his eyes, his eyebrows furrowing. During this time, he often frowned unconsciously, leaving lines across his brows.
There wasn’t much time power left in his body. Before leaving, he still had one final, important thing to do.
The next day, Dong Zheng returned the rented apartment and got on the train to the Top-of-the-Giant-Tree.
When he got off the train, Dong Zheng felt a moment of dizziness. His existence here was becoming increasingly unstable, indicating that the time left for him may only be several hours.
He immediately went to Heimdall’s headquarters. At the entrance, he just happened to see Beverly riding out on her small electric donkey. Not wanting her to see him, Dong Zheng hid sideways.
Once she was gone, Dong Zheng sneaked around the main building and entered through a window that was often left ignored. After spending so much time in Heimdall, he’d already fingered out the ins-and-outs of the building.
As he hurried into the vault and closed the door, Dong Zheng thought to himself that he’d already cracked Heimdall’s security over and over again, and now it was completely defenseless to him.
The indicator light on the door turned on and opened in front of Dong Zheng. He walked in and found an empty safe in the corner, No. A385467.
The security system couldn’t stop Dong Zheng at all. In fact, it didn’t even notice his invasion. When the safe opened, Dong Zheng half squatted on his heels. The dark pattern on his hand flashed, and a silver arrow appeared in his hand.
He solemnly put the arrow in.
After closing the safe, it was time for Dong Zheng to set the password. He pondered for a moment, and pressed the buttons.
1, 9, 0, 4, 0, 3.
The password setting was complete.
This was the day Dong Zheng arrived in the Pure White Realm, the day he’d met Cui Zuojing, the day their stories began and the wheel of destiny turned.
As he stood, quietly looking out the window, his figure became illusory. There was only a smidge of time power left in him, and his existence in this space was more unstable than ever.
Birds sang from the branches, the wind brought the fragrance of nature, and the sun shone through the treetops, grazing people’s shoulders. In this post-death world, everything was peaceful and beautiful.
— Ah’Zuo, I’m coming back. Please wait for me.
Dong Zheng closed his eyes. His figure gradually became transparent in the sun, and then it disappeared most quietly.
No one knew that he’d been here, and apart from him, no one knew what he’d done. Since then, in the Pure White Realm, Domingo would never exist again.
—Volume 15: Domingo [Ends]—