135 Old Man in the Dream

    Chapter 135: Old Man in the Dream

    The sound of lapping waves. Gu Jun surveyed his surroundings. He was on a piece of land surrounded on all sides by azure water. 'Am I on an island?'

    The ground under his feet was incredibly barren. The trees around him were wilted and leafless, casting heavy shadows on the ground. A whisper danced in the wind. It was even and low, sounding very much like mumbling. He felt compelled to go forward. He could feel his feet moving, but the surroundings did not get any clearer. It was like Gu Jun was suspended in a state of semi-consciousness. He entered the wasted forest. The trees of varying height were bent downward as if being pulled by gravity. They showed no sign of life at all. However, Gu Jun swore he saw something wiggling among the branches...

    When he passed the forest, Gu Jun encountered an old manor sitting at the foot of the mountain. The manor looked to be built from wood and had a strange architectural design. It was not an architectural style he was familiar with; it was not from Earth nor the foreign civilization. It reminded Gu Jun of the carcass of an abnormal creature, ancient and declining.

    Standing in front of the open manor doors was a figure dressed in black. The person turned to look at Gu Jun as if sensing his arrival. Gu Jun continued to move forward as the whispering died down in the wind. When he was about ten steps away from the figure, he finally got a better look of the figure. The face of an old man looked out at him. Every inch of his skin was shriveled like a dead body. Gu Jun would say that he had been dead for a long time already.

    Chaos swirled in the old man's eyes. It reminded Gu Jun of the chaos that resided in the eyes of the victims of Nightmare Illness in early stages during their operations...

    Gu Jun took a few more steps forward. The old man seemed to be studying him as the chaos in his eyes changed, and his parched lips opened to slowly utter, "You have arrived."

    'Do we know each other?' Gu Jun wanted to say, but he realized his voice was not working. He watched as the old man turned around and headed into the old manor. At that moment, he was suddenly reminded of a detail that he had obtained from Commander Yao. Every victim of Nightmare Illness had mentioned an encounter with an old man in their dream. Static surged through his body. It shocked his mind into activity as well as sent a tremor down his spine. 'Am I in that nightmare? Could this old man be...'

    The images around Gu Jun started to sway. The dream was about to collapse... He held onto an anchor to hold him in place. Just as the old man stepped over the threshold of the door, Gu Jun finally found his voice to shout, "Ol Uncle Dog?"

    The old man halted slightly in his gait. However, he did not turn around but continued to head into the old manor, submerging himself in the darkness.

    "Ol Uncle Dog, is that you? You are behind the Nightmare Illness? What is going on?" Gu Jun moved into a run, but suddenly, a sense of leadenness overwhelmed him, and his eyes flew open. Everything in his sight changed. He could see the ceiling above him, and it took him some confusing seconds to realize he was still inside his own bedroom. 'It was just a dream...'

    With his eyes open, Gu Jun stayed unmoving in his bed. Confusion wrapped itself around his mind. 'I was in that nightmare?'

    After some time and a deep breath, Gu Jun reached out for the light. As the room lit up, he grabbed the phone on the bedside table to take a look. It felt like he had been sleeping for just a while, but the phone showed that it was 3 am already. His finger clicked open the contact list. He skimmed over Prof Qin, Commander Yao, and Elder Tong's name before settling on Wu Siyu's number.

    As preposterous as her twin connection theory was, it was undeniable that they did share a bond from their training. The call rang for some time before it was answered. A lazy female voice groaned. "Don't you know that most murders occur because the murderer was disturbed during their sleep?"

    "Siyu, did you feel anything out of place earlier?" Gu Jun cut to the chase. "What were you dreaming about?"

    "I was dreaming that I was falling asleep, but you came to wake me up before I was able to."

    "I... think I just had that nightmare."

    "Ah?" Wu Siyu responded with a sharp yelp. "Do not continue any further!"

    But the severity of the situation soon settled on her.

    "Oh, this is bad... I knew nothing good would come out of a midnight call. Should we contact Elder Tong?"

    Hearing her concern, the grip over Gu Jun's heart loosened slightly. He felt less alone. "Wu Siyu, have I told you how much you would shine in the Recreational Department?"

    "And haven't I told you that is my dream job?" Wu Siyu replied matter-of-factly. "In any case, go and call Elder Tong now."

    After ending the call with Wu Siyu, Gu Jun immediately turned to call the several shot callers. Soon, several members from the Action Department came to the dormitory to lead him to the Nightmare Illness Research Center situated on the twelfth floor of the Psychology Building. There were researchers burning the midnight oil, and most of them were surprised to see him arrive. However, the atmosphere inside the confidential meeting room of the leaders was heavy. Prof Qin, who was seated at the table, and Yao Sinian as well as Elder Tong, who were attending via Skype, did not look so excited.

    Gu Jun was their hope. He was the key person to pursue the research into spells, and he was their main force to combat this illness. If not for Gu Jun during the lobotomies yesterday, the number of deaths and injuries would have been unimaginable, and they would not have acquired the necessary research results. If he fell to the sickness...

    But they had done their best to shelter the details of the nightmare from Gu Jun so far. They had hoped that they might shield him from contracting it. After all, no one could tell what the method of transmission for Nightmare Illness was. All they knew was that it affected the people of the Eastern State. Granted, Gu Jun had taken a huge risk to be there, but while many people were infected, many more were left untouched. Since people like Prof Qin were fine, there was no reason to worry that Gu Jun would be infected, right? Perhaps he just had a similar dream. However, the hope that they sheltered was instantly shattered once Gu Jun began the description of his dream. The sea, the abandoned island, the old man... it was definitely that nightmare.

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    Gu Jun then continued with the illusion of the bloated corpse that he had seen in the autopsy room. The seniors could not make heads or tails or it. Was it linked to the Nightmare Illness, or was it a mental attack residual in the victims' mind?

    "Oh, the old man did tell me something. He said, 'you have arrived'," Gu Jun added. This detail caused Prof Qin and the rest to share a look. After Gu Jun finished the whole tale, a new hope renewed in their hearts again.

    "Ah Jun, your dream is not one hundred percent identical to the other victims," Prof Qin concluded with authority. "What the old man told the victims was a number. So far, we have tallied three different numbers-74, 31, and 12. After that, the victims would be shocked out of their sleep, feeling a desperate need to drink water. One minute later, they would hear knocking on the window, even in a windowless room. Therefore, we can only suspect that it was an illusion."

    "I did not feel thirsty, nor did I hear any knocking." Gu Jun finally got it. He was an exception to the rule. 'You have arrived? Why would he say that? It feels like Ol Uncle Dog knows me somehow...'

    "Could this be a new or mutated version of the nightmare?" Yao Sinian was not that optimistic. "Has it changed to infect people with high mental power and spirituality like Gu Jun?"

    With that supposition laid out in the open, the atmosphere in the room froze again because it meant that everyone present was in the danger of being infected.

    "I do not think so." Elder Tong clearly had a different take on this. "Ah Jun is not a normal person. He's different from us. He has talent and a background that we can't match. There might be another purpose in him being led into that dream, one that might not necessarily be related to an intention to consume his mind."

    In any case, they would find out in a few days. Regardless, they could not just sit idle while waiting to find out whether it was a tragedy or a blessing. They still needed to work on their responsibility.

    "Has any idea struck you so far regarding those numbers?" Prof Qin asked Gu Jun. The research center had tried different analyses, but they failed to come to any conclusive result.

    "They feel like..." Gu Jun stared at the three numbers shown on the screen. The images of the dream flashed before his eyes before being followed by some memories from his childhood. He had some inspiration regarding this set of numbers.
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