196 The Elder of Ulthar

    Chapter 196: The Elder of Ulthar

    'Same type?' Hearing that, different thoughts crossed Gu Jun's mind, in the end, he decided to shuffle towards the two. This was a risky choice but it would be much riskier for him to stay behind. He trailed behind the two youth and passed through the maze-like alleys, turning and twisting around the narrow paths between the black towers. The sound of pursuit was fading away. Gu Jun paid attention to his surroundings as he moved. There was nothing unusual. Occasionally, a passer-by might glance at them, clearly rushing about at night was not a common occurrence at Dylath-Leen. There was a strange smell that lingered in the air, it was quite pungent and carried a scent of danger with it.

    At the same time, Gu Jun was observing his two new companions. They both had long black hair and lithe physique. The man was slightly older and looked quite unassuming but the woman was quite beautiful.

    'Why would they help me? What do they mean by we're of the same type?' After some journeying, they reached a shore underneath a stone bridge. There was an old raft that could fit 5 people which was tethered there. The bamboo pole at the stern had an oil lamp hanging on it, its dim light lit up the surrounding. The man got onto the raft first and picked up the oars to ready their escape. The woman said, "Sir, please get on."

    "Ah." Gu Jun croaked, still refusing to expose his own language because the usage of either earth's language or the foreign language would expose too much information about him. He pointed at his eyeballs and returned to his use of 'eyeball language', "Who are you people?"

    "Sir, that will put so much strain on your eyes..." The woman frowned. "I am Peacock and that is Malachite." Gu Jun frowned behind his mask. He was quite sure that was not their real name. Both peacock and malachite were names of jewels and they did not explain much about the two strangers' origin. Probably like him, they too did not want to reveal too much about themselves.

    "Why did you choose to help me?" He moved his eyeballs to enquire, to try to probe for their intention. It was still Peacock who spoke. She said seriously, "Sir, you are a disciple of the Seven Cryptical Books of Hsan, right? Its power could be felt through your nightmare, it was not strong but we could sense it, you have summoned its power before."

    It then dawned on Gu Jun. 'So the same type meant that they were all training from the Seven Cryptical Books of Hsan?' He thought about it and probed further. "And I thought you saved me because we are of the same race."

    "That naturally is the other reason." Peacock smiled. "Sir, you sure are cautious." Gu Jun glanced at the black towers that lined the river banks. Living at this kind of place, caution was a virtue needed to survive. "Where are you guys heading?" He asked.

    "Nightmare man." Gu Jun answered with his eyeballs as he put the white mask back on. He could not think of a better moniker.

    There was indeed some distance to travel between Ulthar and Dylath-Leen. According to Peacock, it would take 7 days on land and 3 days on water. For the 3 days, whether they were on the raft or camping by the shore, Gu Jun had been meditating while keeping watch on the other two. During this period, Malachite had said less than 10 sentences but Peacock was quite a chatterbox even though she made sure to give nothing away in her conversation.

    It slowly came to Gu Jun's realization that Ulthar appeared to be the location where he was sold by the Zoog to the black merchants. The rivers turned azure and the fertile fields returned. The quiet farmhouses returned to his sight. On the fourth morning, they walked down the cobblestone path to enter the ancient township. The houses were squat with triangular roof. Some houses had balconies extending out to the street. There were chimneys everywhere but even more ubiquitous was the... cats.

    After walking for a while, Gu Jun noticed the herds of cats. There were many species of feline. They were all well-fed with furry coats. They did not like strays. Peacock told him warningly. "There is a law at Ulthar, no harm should come to the cats. The cats have great respect here."

    Gu Jun was reminded of Wu Siyu mentioning she sensed cats from the long sword and wooden bow they got from the white ship...

    He did not wander off alone but followed the two towards the Ulthar Temple. The temple that was built among the small mounds was simple and unimposing. Gu Jun would have easily mistaken it for the manor of the local baron if he was not told it was a place of worship. At the temple, Gu Jun did not see any idols but he did see more cats. At the tallest mountain of Ulthar, there stood a stone-hewn circular tower. The vines on the outside gave it a green color. The elder Atal was inside the tower. Every day, many locals and foreigners came to visit him, the queue was long at the entrance of the tower.

    As they joined the queue, Peacock informed Gu Jun, "The great elder Atal is the disciple of Barzai the Wise, he has learned everything he knows from Barzai. According to legend, they have climbed Hatheg-Kla together but only Atal returned. Based on what Atal said, when Barzai was trying to get a glimpse of the earth's god, he was taken away by an unknown power."

    Gu Jun's expression shifted immediately but it was shielded from view due to the mask. 'Barzai the wise? So that captain really did come from Ulthar?' At that moment, he appeared to hear Barzai's maddening scream again, 'The wisdom of Barzai hath made him greater than earth's gods, and against his will their spells and barriers are as naught!'

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    Did that illusion happen when Barzai and Atal were hiking Hatheg-Kla? And what was the power that turned Barzai's extreme joy into intense fear? Barzai was the ferryman of the travellers into Dreamlands... then would this Atal know how to leave Dreamlands?
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