164 Snow-capped Mountain

    Chapter 164: Snow-capped Mountain

    After Gu Jun revealed the new clue, Phecda immediately contacted Moscow to start an investigation into the Inuits. But the Inuits were a minority group made up of many small tribes, and they were spread quite sparsely across the Arctic circle with each tribe having their own culture and legends. The ship migrants back then supposedly came from a small tribe based in Chukchi. Due to their isolated geography, not much was known about their religion and culture. The sparse records said that they worshiped some kind of ancient and native deity, one that encouraged them to lead a life sheltered from modernization. Due to their self-isolation, not much was recorded about them.

    The Inuits from this tribe were later forced to migrate to Wrangel Island. Some died on the island while others disappeared and were speculated to have joined other tribes. That made information gathering and research on this particular group of Inuits very difficult.

    Gu Jun's group did not have better luck at Ushakovskoye. Other than the picture, the village appeared to be a normal Inuit settlement. However, Gu Jun believed there was something sinister behind it. The proof was the ritual in his illusion. Perhaps Petrov's death was even directly related to that ritual. In any case, they would find out more when they located the cliff where the ritual was performed. After their destination was settled, the Arctic Wolf squad went into preparation mode.

    Different from the southern coast where the base was located, the cliff was at the eastern end of the island's mountain range. The geography was relatively complicated, and the weather made flying impossible. The snow could easily cause a plane crash. Therefore, they had to go on foot. The group would have to take a car for forty kilometers before reaching the mountain base where they would have to hike. The cliff was 635 meters above sea level; it was not that high of a climb, but it wouldn't be an easy one because the snow and ice would make the journey up extremely slippery and dangerous.

    The weather conditions were definitely not suitable for hiking, but the epidemic in Eastern State was still spreading. The separation of the patients had stretched the manpower thin, and they could not hang on much longer, so Gu Jun's group had to power on. The day after Gu Jun's team landed on the island, the weather had slowed down somewhat, and the team from both countries departed according to plan.

    "We still have not solved the mystery of the polar bear." Gu Jun briefed everyone before the mission started. "So, be prepared for anything. I have a feeling this won't go as smoothly as we hope."

    In fact, they were not even sure whether that polar bear even existed now because the tracking on it went nowhere. The bear had not appeared in any satellite pictures despite the fact that everyone had seen it. Now, the superiors suspected that they had all succumbed to a collective illusion. This unsolved mystery added to the uncertainty of this mission. They needed to be prepared, but it was hard to prepare when they had no idea what they would face.

    Not long after they departed, it started to snow. The armored snow mobiles left tracks that were soon covered up in snow. They consisted of a large team that was made up of thirty members from Russia, thirty members from the Arctic Wolf squad, and five members from Gu Jun's group. They had covered sixteen kilometers, and the day had gotten so dark that all they could see was snow against a black backdrop. The place would be transformed in the summer. The unique weather conditions meant that this place would be a haven for non-vascular plants that could not be found in any other part of the world.

    To prevent mental pressure and the Ganzfeld Effect, none of the team members should be looking outside the window. The drivers would be relying on the radar to find their way. However, Gu Jun and Wu Siyu relied on their ESP. Sometimes, mental pressure could help trigger ESP. Therefore, Gu Jun kept his eyes glued outside the window. He alternated between viewing it through night-vision goggles and with the naked eye. He was trying to sense their direction. He could see pictures forming and dissolving before him as the swirl of snowflakes twirled and danced through the air.

    Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, he saw a giant mountain loom before him. The tallest mountain on this island should be at the middle of the island, and it was only 1,096 meters tall, but this peak that he saw reached into the sky. It looked even higher than the Himalayas.

    "Do you guys see that giant mountain before us?" Gu Jun immediately asked through the communication channel. "It just appeared out of nowhere."

    "Giant mountain? Where?"

    "Everything is going as normal."

    Xue Ba and Yu Xiaoyong responded with confusion. Even Wu Siyu did not see anything out of the ordinary, much less a mountain on an Olympian scale. In any case, they knew not to take any of Gu Jun's visions lightly. Yu Xiaoyong immediately reported this situation to command.

    "There is no change on the satellite coverage," command soon replied. The base on the island was connected to Phecda's headquarters and Eastern State Division.

    'A hallucination?' Gu Jun looked at the giant mountain frowningly. It was half shrouded in the snow, but it still radiated a sense of majesty and mystique.

    "This island is prone to causing hallucinations in its visitors." Gu Jun believed that was the case, and from that, he wondered if the dream world had overlapped with the real world somehow. When the vehicles moved forward for another thirty kilometers or so, the drifting snow turned into a snowstorm. The communication signal became highly unstable, and even inside the cars, they could hear the howling of the wind outside. But this was not the worst weather the island had ever seen. In February and March, the snowstorm could reach up to 140 kilometer per hour. That was strong enough to flip a car over and send a man flying.

    Due to the thorough preparation, the vehicles had no problem finishing the rest of the journey and arrived at the snowy field at the foot of the mountain cliff. Half of the team got out of their vehicles, lugging various equipment and machinery. It was time to start hiking. Hiking in normal weather was hard enough, but they had to do it in the middle of a snowstorm.

    "Here, come with us." The Russian team was led personally by Ivanov. Technically, the Russians were not briefed on the actual purpose of this mission. Their government was told that this was merely a simple routine check-up. Naturally, they were not so easily fooled. Moscow had ordered Ivanov to lead the team personally because he was given the task of finding out Phecda's true goal. The Russians took up the front and back of the team while Gu Jun, Xue Ba, Yu Xiaoyong, and the rest were kept in the middle.

    Due to the snow and ice, the hiking was expectedly hard. Gu Jun was spared the sight of the giant mountain because he needed to focus on climbing. But when they reached the mid-way point and settled down for a rest, Gu Jun looked ahead, and the mountain stood there like a giant. However, this time, Yu Xiaoyong, the Arctic Wolf squad, and even the Russians had borne witness to his claim. Flocks of arctic birds could be seen hovering in the dark sky around the mountain. Eagles, seagulls, shearwaters... They flew in tight clusters, but not a peep came from them, not a single caw. That was strange, but even stranger was the fact that these migratory birds should have left the island for warmer climates already.

    "Command, we have encountered a large number of birds." Yu Xiaoyong reported back, and Ivanov was doing the same report in Russian back to Moscow.

    "The satellites fail to locate any avian activity near your area. There should be nothing there."

    Hearing this reply, the hearts of Xue Ba, Lou Xiaoning, and the Arctic Wolf squad sank. So, this was another collective hallucination? Why did this keep happening to them?

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    "The birds, they keep flocking here, and they... appear to be looking at us," Yu Xiaoyong commented.

    But what they got from the command center was still the shocked and worried reply. "The satellites fail to capture anything. There shouldn't be any humans or animals on the summit."

    Even Gu Jun could not tell what these 'birds' represented, but the ominous feeling in his heart intensified.

    The fate of the people at Eastern State depended on them, so they could not turn back now. Thankfully, every member of the team had been through mental power training, so this level of hallucination was not enough to defeat them. After a brief rest, the group refocused their attention to the task at hand and continued to climb. The snowy winds scratched their faces, causing it to sting with pain.

    The cliff was only several hundred km tall, so it should not take that long to reach the summit. However, the closer they got to the top, a strange chanting could be heard coming more clearly from above. That was definitely not the cawing of birds; it sounded more like the fanatical screaming of human beings.

    Gu Jun immediately shared a look with Wu Siyu because both of them identified at first notice that it was the chanting of the Inuits during their ritual.
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