A quick search around the area yielded no results — You Fang had disappeared without leaving a single trace behind. After only a day in Lian Yun peak, the expedition team had already lost a member.
‘What do you think of this?’ After a fruitless search, the group returned to their campsite with severe countenances and sat down around the robots. Li Yiming sought for Bai Ze’s opinion, since her quietness suggested that she knew what happened.
‘…Bai Ze?’ However, Li Yiming was concerned by Bai Ze’s silence after calling her name three times. This was the first time something like this had happened, aside from when she had fallen into a coma.
Li Yiming’s tried his best to focus and used his inner sight. The next instant, his entire body stiffened, and he looked around, unnerved; Bai Ze was gone.
“Li Yiming. I should apologize for earlier. I hope you can give me the details about what you saw earlier.” Lin Lu said to Li Yiming while checking the bullets in her gun.
“Excuse me for a moment. Eyeglasses, Liu Meng, come here.” Li Yiming interrupted Lin Lu and walked away from the campsite. “It’s not that I don’t trust you enough, but I need to have a talk with them first.”
“Is he giving up?” Lin Lu was slightly irritated. ‘Well, I suppose that it shouldn’t be surprising. After all, these people have either been bought into this or been forced to join this expedition.’
“No, he wants to go off on his own.” Chen Quan looked at Li Yiming’s back and smiled.
“On his own?” Shen Jianming looked at Chen Quan with amazement. Shen Jianming had been quite impressed by the latter’s abilities, despite his disreputable profession.
“Well, he wants to… leave us here. How should I put it? The way he looks at Liu Meng and Eyeglasses… He thinks that we’re holding him back.” Chen Quan spat on his palm and rubbed his hands together until they were dry. “I’d understand if it was only Liu Meng, since they’re a couple, but what about that Eyeglasses guy? Isn’t he from your department?”
“Eyeglasses is an external recruit. He’s a hacker…” Lin Lu smiled bitterly. She remembered the speed with which Eyeglasses jumped into the bush.
“Have you noticed?” Chen Quan squinted his eyes and looked at Lin Lu.
“What is it?”
“I haven’t seen Eyeglasses eat anything ever since we’ve entered the mountains.”
Lin Lu stayed quiet. She had, in fact, noticed the oddity, but dismissed it as a symptom of not being used to living outdoors. She had thought that it would only be a matter of time before he would succumb to hunger. ‘Am I the overconfident one for accepting this dangerous mission without even checking the backgrounds of my team properly?’
“There’s something wrong…” Eyeglasses was trying to find a signal on his tablet but to no avail.
“I think my guess was right after all.” Li Yiming glanced at the two.
“You mean a domain? But…” Eyeglasses started his retort.
“I know. But Bai Ze’s gone. I tried to call her just now…” Li Yiming spoke slowly and glanced at the rest of the team, who sat at the campsite.
“What?” Liu Meng was baffled.
“Where did she go?” Eyeglasses had seen Bai Ze before and knew that she was Li Yiming’s summon.
“It’s not a matter of where. She’s gone, just like You Fang…”
“Are you serious? But she lives inside you! How?” Eyeglasses’ eyes widened.
Li Yiming nodded with a grave expression.
“Really…” Eyeglasses said once again and reached out for his dagger out of instinct.
“She agreed with me about the domain thing. She even thought that there was a way to enter a domain without a key, but…”
“She disappeared before she could tell you?” Liu Meng finished Li Yiming’s sentence.
“Yes.” Li Yiming answered bitterly.
“What level is Bai Ze?” Eyeglasses asked a rather sensitive question.
“Five.” Li Yiming answered without hesitation.
“Five…” Eyeglasses sank into a dead silence; it was one thing to abduct a helpless old man like You Fang, but an entirely different one to abduct a level five mythical beast.
“What are we going to do?” Liu Meng said worriedly.
“I wanted to hear your opinion on this, since…” Li Yiming glanced in the direction of the campsite once again.
“If we really are in a domain, then we shouldn’t mind them at all. I’d suggest calling the team over.” Eyeglasses followed Li Yiming’s stare and said in a serious tone.
“The rest of the team?” Li Yiming could not quite understand what Eyeglasses meant.
“Yeah, call Linglong and the rest over. Also Big Beard. We’re a team after all, and I’m not sure that we can handle something that snatched a level five beast away from us. The limitations imposed on technology here are too significant for me to be of any use.”
“I thought the signals were cut off here?”
“You can try the captain’s badge. We should be able to leave them a message in the team channel, and I believe that they’ll head over right away.”
“Oh?” Li Yiming had never heard of such a function before. He turned around, letting Liu Meng interpose herself between him and the campsite, and took out the tablet computer for the team. After a few button presses, he turned toward Eyeglasses.
“Is it not working?” Eyeglasses snatched the tablet from Li Yiming’s hand and saw a white screen.
“Serious?” Eyeglasses gave the item back to Li Yiming; he was beginning to grow nervous.
“Li Yiming.” Lin Lu could not take it anymore. She walked toward Li Yiming. “I want to remind you that we’re a team right now, so…”
“We should go.” Frustrated, Li Yiming put away the tablet discreetly and walked toward Lin Lu.
“Alright, can you tell us what’s going on?” Chen Quan said calmly after noticing Liu Meng and Eyeglasses’ grave countenance.
“I’m not sure what’s happening, but one thing’s sure. If we keep going, our lives are going to be in danger.” Li Yiming collected his thoughts and said in a serious tone.
“We’ve been told this before we came here.” Zhang Shanjun said with his rifle resting on his knee. He was a little disgruntled after hearing what Chen Quan said earlier. ‘They think of us as burdens? But we’ve trained our entire lives for missions like these.’
“I just want to remind you that this is probably going to be unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.” Li Yiming emphasized.
“The day I decided to become a tomb raider, my life was no longer mine. On top of it, if it wasn’t for this mission, I’d probably already be dead, so how about you make this quick.” Chen Quan’s expression seemed particularly sinister as he licked his dry lips.
“The strange day and night cycles, the lack of all signs of life in this forest. The three people I’ve seen, and now the moving trees. I don’t know what’s next, but I can tell you that I’ve dealt with things like that before.” Li Yiming finally settled on a way to open up to the rest of the team.
“You’ve seen things like this before? Is that why you’re the only one who can see these things?” Lin Lu asked in shock.
“Yes. I have… experience in the matter, but I can’t tell you the specifics.” Li Yiming interrupted Lin Lu before she could press on.
“So you mean…” Lin Lu read Li Yiming’s intentions and hesitated at how to handle what was soon to come.
“Either we stay as a team and I take charge, or we split up.” Li Yiming stared back straight at her.
“Impossible.” Zhan Shanjun voiced his firm opposition; the worst thing to do in such a scenario was to fight for leadership.
“I wouldn’t be so fast to disagree.” Chen Quan said while squinting his eyes, leaving an inscrutable expression.
“You!” Zhang Shanjun roared in anger. Just a minute ago, Chen Quan seemed fairly docile.
“I’m just saying that I’ve agreed to participate in this mission. As for whose orders I’m obeying, it doesn’t matter that much, right? Li Yiming has been chosen by you, did he?” Chen Quan shrugged his shoulders and avoided looking at Lin Lu, instead, he stared right at Li Yiming.
“Very well. You’re in charge now.” Lin Lu decided after a moment of hesitation.
“Captain…” Shen Jianming was against the decision.
“This is an order.” Lin Lu said coldly. She was, in fact, wavering about the issue. The team had already suffered a loss, and the situation they were in was unlike anything she had seen. If this was a war, she would be able to single-handedly finish off all of her enemies one by one, under the cover of the forest. However, she was not confident she could lead the team in their current situation.
‘Well, from what I’ve seen, Li Yiming seems to be confident and level-headed. If he can lead us to the end of this mission, then so be it.’ Lin Lu suddenly felt more relaxed. “So, what should we do now?”
Today I come with a good surprise. Translating is surprising relaxing compared to… other things.
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