93 Stone Slab Above

    Chapter 93: Stone Slab Above

    The Demon Hunters advanced up the spiral staircase for the past twenty-four hours with occasional breaks. They took shifts to rest as they slowly approached the surface. There were still quite a lot of MREs, but clean water had run out about eleven hours ago. The team had started to resort to the water the medics had used to clean their hands in the previous surgeries. Naturally, this came with a big risk, but the sole consolation was that if the water was in any way contaminated, they would have been infected already without the need to ingest it. The team had been taking turns carrying Lin Mo up on the stretcher; Lou Xiaoning insisted on walking on her own, although she was still not permitted to handle guns or others weapon.

    The closer they got to the surface, the narrower the space around them became. Eventually, the space between the wall and the staircase was less than a meter wide. It felt like they were shuffling through a beast's small intestines. An insidious sense of vertigo came over them as well. It felt like the stairs were shaking underneath their feet. Everyone could even hear a sound akin to the creaking of old wooden staircase. This did not appear to be fully made up in their minds because the dark red pattern on the stone steps and wall was receding. In its place were spidery cracks. Obviously, the energy of life in the stone was wilting as the place appeared like it could crumble at any moment.

    'And with strange eons, even death may die.' Gu Jun was reminded of the poem by the Mad Arab. These stones were dying, perishing. When they were still about one hundred meters from the surface, the morale of the team was the lowest it had been. This was because everyone's stamina and energy had been almost completely exhausted. Their muscles were in pain, their tongues were dry, and their lips were chapped. And the blasted steps underneath their feet were still spiraling up endlessly. This was an agitation caused by biological discomfort. No matter how strong one's determination, the mind had to succumb to the body. The Demon Hunter was a Special Mobile Force from Phecda, but this was their first time encountering an abnormal space like this, a hurdle that tested one's mental strength so much. The higher they went, the more lost they felt.

    Right at that moment, another heart-breaking discovery was made. Through the night vision binoculars, Xue Ba saw that their way up was blocked. Something had cut into the steps, but...

    "Ah Jun, take a look at this." Xue Ba studied it for a while before handing the binoculars to Gu Jun by his side. Gu Jun accepted them and locked his eyes behind the binoculars. At the end of the spiral staircase was a narrow platform. There was no more elevation going up. Less than one meter from the ground of the platform was a stone ceiling, but in the middle of the ceiling, right above the platform, an inconspicuous stone slab was embedded. The underbelly of the stone slab was covered in strange patterns. They looked like handmade carvings, motifs of swirling flowers.

    Gu Jun was suddenly reminded of Pedra's hometown-Sars, the home of flowers. The stone slab was probably picturing the scenic view of Sars. But the more he looked at it, the more his heart beat out of pace. Visions of incorporeality appeared at the corner of his eyes.

    'There is something here that can trigger my illusions?'

    Gu Jun focused harder, but the feeling did not deepen. If anything, the confusion in his mind only increased. There was no foreign language, no lock, nothing else at the bottom of the stone slab. However, there was an extremely small gap between it and the ceiling that it was attached to on all four sides. It appeared like it had been designed so that it could be pulled or pushed open. Perhaps they could push it open from below and reach the surface.

    "Captain Xue, I did not discover anything too out of place." Gu Jun handed the binoculars back to Xue Ba. "But I have a feeling that is the exit."

    Xue Ba nodded and passed the binoculars to the rest. Soon, everyone understood what was going on. If they wanted to leave, they needed to get rid of the stone slab. Perhaps they could blow it up with C4 or the rocket missile?

    "That won't work." Once Lin Mo heard that, he rejected it immediately. The man was feeling much better, showing no sign of the parasite infection. "It is too close to the stairs! No matter how contained the blast it, the aftershock will affect the stairs, and the rocks will slide. If the stone staircase crumbles, we will drop several thousand meters."

    "I agree with Lin Mo." The others could see the fragility of the stone around them. They were weaker than dried branches.

    "Then we should go up to take a look." Xue Ba led the assault team and reached the steps right below the platform. By then, they could reach out the touch the stone slab. At that place, the feeling of vertigo intensified, and the cracks on the stone became more apparently. However, no light managed to spill through the cracks.

    They used their gun barrels to poke through the platform and pushed hard at the stone slab above them. It did not move. They tried different pressure points. The left side shifted the most. It appeared like the stone slab could only be opened from the left side.

    "How about we use our hands to push against it?" Xue Ba suggested. They would be able to apply more force that way. Currently, the team had basically nothing left other than some guns, ammo, water, food, and medical tools. There was no other device to help in this situation. The most banal way was also the most effective in this situation. Two of the assault team members were left behind to stay on guard while the other five faced the left of the platform and reached out to find purchase on the bottom of the stone slab.

    "Three, two, one, push!"

    As they pushed with all their might, the faces of the five men were red from effort.


    The left side of the stone slab budged slightly. Some light from outside seeped through the gap. However, they had to let go after holding it open for about twenty seconds. The stone slab instantly slammed back into place with a creepy thud, and the cracks around it grew larger.

    The few men were out of breath.

    In an attempt to inspire, Xue Ba said, "That was light. This is definitely the exit!"

    Although, he did not mention that he would not be able to push the stone slab even a little when he was fully energized, much less when he was already so exhausted. From their previous attempt, Xue Ba understood that if it was only the few of them pushing, it would be a pure waste of energy. Furthermore, every drop of stamina that they had left was crucial. With water running low, their stamina would only continue to drop with the passage of time. Xue Ba told the team to rest while asking Gu Jun to come closer to take a look. But other than the feeling of anxiety in his heart, Gu Jun felt nothing else.

    Xue Ba had no choice but to summon everyone into motion. He said seriously, "We pushed open it earlier. There's light behind this! With enough force, we will be able to push the stone open! We will push together in one go, using everything you have. We have to succeed at one go!"

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    The rest had no objections. They all lay down on the platform. Xue Ba's head was already touching the stone slab. To gather the maximum force, even Lin Mo, who was missing a leg, took his position on the platform. After all, he still had strength to contribute, and this was the only chance they had. They could use all the help they could get.

    Everyone squeezed into place. They raised their hands to press on the bottom of the slab and then prepared to push at the same time.

    At that moment, a scary thought rose in Gu Jun's mind. There were sixteen different handprints on the big banyan tree, belonging to sixteen people. The handprints were in strange shapes. They suggested sign of struggle. Pressing on the uneven pattern on the stone slab, it would render their handprints unrecognizable from their usual handprints.

    It was as if everything had already been decided. He would end up there, either alone or with the rest of the team. The thought travelled like a virus from Gu Jun's mind to Uncle Dan, Lin Mo, and the rest. They started to frown.

    "Stop that!" Xue Ba picked up on this because the thought had already come to him earlier. He roared, "Ignore the thought in your mind. That is just a trick by the enemy. It is because we did not die down there that the enemy is using this to confuse us. They want us to stay trapped down here. Just clear your mind and focus on the push!"

    Xue Ba did not leave time for the others' minds to wander because fear would weaken one's body.

    "Three, two, one!" Xue Ba shouted as his body exploded with force. "Push!"

    The sixteen members pushed with all the strength they had. They gritted their teeth and roared as their hands pushed against the stone stab!

    This caused their faces to twist from effort. Their eyes bulged. The bandage around Lou Xiaoning's still-recovering right eye was leaking blood. The grayish glow from outside showered down again. The hands that were holding the stone slab up were already shaking.
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