270 Layers of Illusion

    Tat tat tat, it was the sound of horse carriage rumbling on the road but at the same time, it somehow also sounded like the grunting of an automobile engine. Claimed by the oppressive pain, Gu Jun felt like he was ascending into the dark abyss. He was floating, the darkness around him intermittently brightened with illusions. 'Am I dead... Have I been consumed by the Son of Misfortune?'

    Gu Jun could not tell whether he had managed to suppress the evocation of the dark energy within him or not... Gradually the sight cleared around him.

    Beneath the cloudy sky, there was a wooden cart dragged along by two large horses. The stench was horrible. The wheels left uneven trails on the muddy grounds. A carriage driver sat on the front of the cart while the cart itself was stacked with human carcasses. This was a body cart. Both the bodies and the driver wore clothes that had a clear foreign civilization design. 'Is this an illusion from the foreign world... or is this part of Landon's memory?'

    Suddenly the image around him shifted. There was now a yellow public bus rumbling down the road. He looked through the window and saw that the driver was a Phecda member wearing Grade 3 protective gear and the car seats were filled with people. Every passenger was dressed in casual clothes, some had died while others were still coughing blood...'Is this... an image pulled from Earth? But what timeline this is from?' He remembered things were not that serious when he arrived at Jiang Xin Municipal... So would this have happened in this future or things had deteriorated to this stage when they were in the Dreamlands?

    In any case, it appeared like a Phecda member was tasked with dealing with the dying and the dead so that they would not fester on the street... It meant that the world had not been completely ruined yet.

    Suddenly, the bus morphed back into the carriage and the street turned back into a muddy road. He could hear an honest voice say, "Sir, I am by no means a courageous man. In fact, you would not have been able to persuade me to do something like this a few days ago, but in these past few days, my wife and 3 kids left me. I am the only one alive but presumably not for much longer. Knowing that I will die soon from hemoptysis to join my family, there is not much to be afraid of anymore." It was the driver who spoke as he stopped the cart. "After that epiphany, I felt the need to do something, but I am just a common farmer. Other than farming, I am good for nothing." The driver said with a self-deprecating chuckle. But as he spoke, tears slid down his wrinkled face. He turned to look at the cart filled with bodies. "As I've said, I am the only one left. I know every single person in that cart, we all lived on the same street. As neighbors, the very least I can do is to prevent them from going into the stomach of wild dogs or the monsters. I have, I have to... bury them all, even if I cannot provide them with more than a simple unmarked grave. I will still pray for them, even though I can't tell whether the Goddess of Life is real or not, and whether she still cares about us or not... If I start to think about that, I would not have the energy to do the simplest task of digging graves anymore."

    The driver's voice caught as he wiped at his tears. "Sir, don't blame yourself. I know about the blame that has been placed on your shoulders, everyone said that the Carlot Doctors have failed us but if you ask for an opinion of an old farmer, a doctor cannot cure all illnesses, only a God can do that. I am now standing before a doctor and not a God. I do not understand how God works but I know that Carlot Doctors are kind people... In fact, my eldest son was originally given a chance to join your ranks but now... everything is over..."

    With a crack of the whip, the hooves raised and the body cart continued its journey. Yes, everything is over. More memories of this incident came to Gu Jun. The whole street, no, the whole city was wiped out by hemoptysis, everyone was dead. The stragglers who survived turned insane, living out a life worse than death. People with their sanity intact like that humble farmer were among the minority... The plague brought not only death but also an extreme fear. Living in this kind of constant horror, naturally people would detach further and further from their rationality. Even in places where the plague had not reached, people were grabbed by insanity.

    Suddenly the images switched to showcase the scene from a modern city. On the formerly busy street, a handful of pedestrians walked down the road wearing thick masks. Their eyes looked about frantically and their footsteps moved hurriedly.

    "Ah!" Suddenly, there was a scream. It was because someone saw a person wearing a white shirt that resembled a doctor's coat. The scream caused the people on the street to scatter like headless chicken. 'There's a doctor! Where there's a doctor, there will be a plague!'

    The headache intensified. But was it a headache... or his self-consciousness evaporating?

    The images changed again. Now it was a muddy road on an abandoned plain. A different kind of carriage was carrying the plague doctors in bird's mask. 'Is this an illusion from Middle Ages Europe?'

    "Ellie, quick, we need to hurry!" The woman in the cotton dress urged in panic. As the carriage rolled into town, the villagers of the small town were filled with dread because only plague would follow these horrible, cursed plague doctors. Some of the villagers raced down the street screaming for mercy, "No, no..." Others knelt down on the muddy ground and genuflected towards the sky, praying for forgiveness. "God, oh charitable God, please save us! We are all your children, we have survived until now thanks to your blessing, please continue to shower your blessing on us!" More villagers joined in prayers.

    Gu Jun had a hard time telling if all the villagers had lost their mind but there were some that were clearly insane. They tore off their own clothes, slathered their bodies with mud, lacerated themselves with the whip and screamed, "It has arrived! The judgement has arrived! No one will be spared!"

    'These poor, despicable, mad human beings. The Black Plague has shown the world what they truly are, nothing but ugly little worms...'

    'Is that so?' Gu Jun reached his threshold of pain. 'Are they nothing more than ugly little worms to you?' He was suddenly reminded of that foreign cart driver... When his family was still alive, he hid in fear, he was probably one of those who prayed for the Goddess' mercy. But when push came to shove, he stood up to assume his responsibility. Among the victims of the black plague, and among the victims of legionella pneumonia, hope shone even brighter in these souls.

    "Ellie, run, quick!" The woman cried as her body was dragged away by the plague doctors. The ponytailed girl named Ellie continued to hurry down the plain. She gasped hungrily for air, seemingly running towards the open arms of death. Gu Jun felt himself trailing behind the fragile little girl. He must not let her die, no way...

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