261 Fogged Plain

    A fog hung over the plateau that stretched down the horizon. There was light but it did nothing to help with visibility. The plateau was barren except for sparse bushes and patches of green moss. There were also some malnourished trees. They were of unknown species and only grew 3 metres tall. Scattering of leaves dangled from their dense branches. Swayed by the freezing wind, the leaves looked like rusty old coins. The Problematic Team exited near the site of a ruin. The small ruin was so dilapidated that neither they nor the Zoog could identify what it was supposed to be.

    Dreamlands was huge. According to Gu Jun's knowledge of its geography, Ulthar and Dylath-Leen were located to the west, while the House of Worm was based at the Kaar Plateau to the north. The 5 land's travellers stepped onto this land for the first time. Even the Great Atal would not dare say he knew this place well.

    "Do you know if we can find any supply or provision around here?" Gu Jun asked the Zoog and got a grumbling answer. "I suppose there is one such place..." With no time to lose, they departed immediately. Soon after the team exited the channel, their protective gears disappeared, so did their weapons and miscellaneous items. However, a cleansing stone and three rationality assessment stones Gu Jun carved remained; Like before, the medic kit as well as all of his Carlot Instruments stayed. However, the biggest surprise was that 3 of their pistols did not disappear into nothingness. They were all QSZ11 pistols. Before they departed, all 16 of them were armed with one pistol each but for some reason, only Gu Jun, Uncle Dan and Lou Xiaoning were allowed to keep theirs.

    The QSZ11 was convenient due to its diminutive size, it was only 15.3 cm in size and weighed a measly 1.2 kg. It used 5.8 mm caliber bullets and had a capacity of 8+1 shots. Gu Jun had no clue how much damage the pistol could inflict in Dreamlands but he knew how precious the 27 shots were. After about 15 minutes, they reached an abandoned wooden hut.

    According to the Zoog, the hut was a base left behind by an exploration group who targeted the House of Worm some time ago. They kept all of their supply and provision here. However, for some unknown reason, the night before the group was about to make their departure, they disappeared without a trace. The provisions that were left behind rotted away once they passed their expiration date. They sat under a thick layer of gathering dust. The Problematic Team changed into some cotton attire and picked up the few pieces of cold steel still usable before they continued their journey to the House of Worm.

    "Why did they disappear? Do you know anything?" Along the way, Gu Jun asked the Zoog.

    "Respected Nightmare Man, the more you know about this place, the more dangerous it is. You will be given glimpses of many things as you approach the House of Worm but remember to stay on course. The way to the House of Worm itself is a maze." The Zoog's warning soon came true. Suddenly they saw a woman in a cotton dress running ahead of them in the fog.

    "Ah Jun?" Uncle Dan asked for his opinion as Gu Jun was the team leader.

    "Ignore it, we will stay on our course." Gu Jun said, placing his trust in the Zoog. "Keep the eyes on our target." They continued their way down the barren land when suddenly a horse carriage rumbled past before their eyes. There were several individuals dressed in black and had on crow's masks riding the carriage. Uncle Dan commented in confusion, "They are dressed in the attire of a Plague Doctor during the European Black Plague...." The crow's mask was the defining feature of a plague doctor, it worked as a respiratory filter.

    A strange agitation rose in Gu Jun's heart. 'Are these illusions pulled from our minds? Or the surroundings have purposely placed them in our way? Plague doctors... and we're here to try to stop a plague... Black Plague, it's the black plague again.'

    "Are those the kin of mine that you've mentioned you saw?" He asked the Zoog.

    "No." The Zoog answered fearfully. "They were not dressed like that, and I saw them much closer to the House of Worm."

    Gu Jun continued to lead the way. After about half an hour, the moss under their feet slowly turned black and they gave off a presence of death. However, strangely enough, there were also more signs of life as the small trees appeared more constant in their sight. After they hiked over a small hill, a strange change greeted them among the heavy fog. It was like someone had abruptly sucked the colors out of the world. The green moss turned to black moss and far down the distance, there were some stone buildings, forming quite a sizable manor.

    "That, that is the place..." The claw that the Zoog used to pat his own body was shaking, "After this stretch, I do not know the way anymore. I am of no use to you already, in fact, I will only burden you, so I'll leave now, okay?"

    "Just follow along, you're a burden that we can shake off easily." Gu Jun said icily. As they moved forward, everyone could feel their minds swaying. Gu Jun, Lou Xiaoning and the land's travellers who had received tons of mental training did not feel much but Uncle Dan and the rest who did not receive any spell training felt the effect almost immediately.

    "This headache..." Uncle Dan pressed on his forehead with pain, "It feels like images are being poured into my head." Gu Jun frowned and quickly had Uncle Dan press his hands against the cleansing stone. With everyone watching, Uncle Dan reached out for the seal on the stone. He did not understand and had not used spells before so he should not suffer from mental corruption but as his hands made contact, the cleansing stone reacted quickly and Uncle Dan groaned in pain.

    "No wonder this place is so dangerous." Gu Jun glanced at the fog around them. The place could mentally corrupt one's mind. The others also picked up the warning in Gu Jun's tone. They quickly took out the rationality assessment stones and shared it among themselves. Uncle Dan and the rest were proven to be mentally corrupted. Even though the corruption was weak, it was continually intensifying. Once it crossed the rationality threshold, their minds would break and they would succumb to madness. And the closer they were to the House of Worm, the stronger the corruption would be.

    "Uncle Dan, why don't you stay guard here with the others?" Gu Jun said with a sigh. He did not wish for them to split but this was unavoidable. If he insisted on Uncle Dan and the rest to follow them, it was equivalent to pushing them towards a horrible death.

    "Aiz, Uncle Dan, you're getting old." Lou Xiaoning chided, "Told you to study spells, didn't I? But you refused to."

    "Yes, I'm getting old." Uncle Dan joked, "If not for the policy that Phecda members can only get a full amount of retirement fee if they remain on duty until the official retirement age, I would have called it in a long time ago."

    The team gave themselves 6 to 12 hours to complete the mission and they had already spent 1 hour so far. Therefore, after a few more words, the team split into two. Gu Jun's team of 7 and the Zoog would continue to head towards the manor and carried with them 2 pistols while Uncle Dan's team of 9 would wait on the side of the green moss armed with a single pistol.

    Gu Jun's team walked 100 metres forward and when they turned back to look, Uncle Dan's team already disappeared among the fog. When they moved for another 100 metres...

    Bang bang bang, suddenly, gunshots rang out behind them.

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