447 Deep Underground

    The vertical ladder appeared to reach deep underground. Even with the flickering light that dangled from Gu Jun's backpack, they could barely see their surroundings. Gu Jun, Yu Chi, Keziah Mason and the cat had been travelling down the stairs for 2 hours already. Based on the progress they made, they were about 1000 metres underground already. Exhaustion claimed their bodies but the stairs still kept on going. Theoretically speaking, the deeper they went, the thinner the oxygen composition should be but they did not notice that change. It was unknown whether this was due to the uniqueness of the dimension or the abnormal energy in the world.

    The other situation was the ability to close large distances with small steps was not replicated here. This made it perfect for the Ganzfeld effect. There were a few moments where Gu Jun believed he saw some illusions. Or perhaps they were glimpses into another world of Flying Locusts heading towards metropolises...

    Yu Chi though had his attention turned elsewhere. The dim light reflected against the carving on the walls. They were mostly lines that had the appearance of strange locusts. Rituals normally required a specific environment set up and these were probably one of them.

    "Meow?" Suddenly the cat growled with uncertainty.

    "What's wrong?" Gu Jun asked. With no paper, it was basically impossible to communicate with the cat. But her meow made all 3 of them stop temporarily. The next moment, the whole steel ladder shook. It grew from weak to strong. Yu Chi gasped. "Hold on tight!" The three gripped the rungs tightly and leaned close to the wall. The cat hugged Gu Jun's neck with her paws and used her tail to twine around the ladder frame. Beneath them was an endless abyss. If they slipped... the fall would be fatal.

    "Hmm..." Kezian Mason groaned in pain. If she still had not obtained the witch's power, this would be a harsh test on her. Gu Jun understood that. She was not as powerful as the men and had not attended military training. She was essentially a pampered lady from the 17th century, the most physically-demanding thing she had done was probably social dancing at balls.

    Regardless, Gu Jun did not let his guard down. After all, the witch's power was still out there in hiding. Could it really abandon its original host? Gu Jun could not tell. Keziah Mason was clueless as well but fate decreed that she'd regain control of it in the future. They hung there for a minute but the quake showed no sign of abating. If anything, it grew stronger. The walls itself were shaking like something was gushing down from above.

    "Meow, meow!" The cat hissed urgently. There was a new change to the situation. Even though there were still 2 hours to the countdown but no one could guarantee nothing else would happen before the countdown ended.

    "Keep on going on!" Gu Jun shouted, "We have to, this quake won't be stopping anytime soon." Since Keziah Mason was at the bottom, if she did not move, the rest of them couldn't as well. However, this was hard on her. She had almost slipped several times already. Gu Jun missed Xue Ba then. With Captain Xue's size, he could have carried Keziah Mason easily while climbing down. In contrast, he could only carry a cat.

    "My arms are shaking..." Mason's voice was shaking as well. "I can't do this anymore..."

    "Miss Mason, I need you to focus, we'll be there in a minute." Gu Jun instantly answered, "I can already see the ground. We're not far away!" This was just a lie, just like a white lie the doctors told their patients. He looked down and saw only a yawning abyss. He had no idea how much hope his words gave Mason but the girl did continue to move downwards and in a surprisingly stable descent. Gu Jun could not help but wonder if her frailty was an act. After all, the exercise was strenuous even for him.

    "Captain Gu, we need to pace ourselves..." Yu Chi said between breaths. "Remember the stairs from last time." Yu Chi did not go into details but Gu Jun caught the gist. He was referring to the stairs at Pnakotus Library. Was this a trap to drain their energy so that the things at the bottom could have a field day with them? Was this supposed to happen or they were changing time?

    "There's not much rest we can take hanging by the stairs." Gu Jun said helplessly. "If anything, we'll be even more tired if we dangle here for too long. I think we should just power on down."

    "You're right." Yu Chi agreed but his voice took on an edge. The quake did not stop and they had to move forward. Each step became more dangerous than the one preceding it. After another half an hour, Gu Jun finally spotted the blurry ground. It was a hollowed-out cave. There was no one in sight. "We're almost there!"

    This time, Keziah Mason answered hoarsely, "Sir... you've said that about 10 times already..." But seeing is believing. When she looked down on her own, she realized he was telling the truth this time. Energy surged through their bodies to finish this final stretch. Soon, the three of them landed on the tunnel. Basically they all crumbled to the ground with no energy to even move a single muscle.

    "Meow..." The cat was the only one who landed on her feet. Her tail swished the air. She looked at the 3 piteously. She was thankful that she was spared the exercise. The cave was unguarded probably because all the locust god cultists were gathered at the altar. The cave led off to 16 different tunnels, 4 on each side. They looked suspiciously similar with strange light fixtures affixed to the wall. The tunnel roads were smooth and they stretched forward like a maze. The quake was still going. The three rested for a while before they could stand up again. The two men had no idea what was the girl's status but their own bones felt like breaking.

    "Where should we go next?" Yu Chi scratched his head as he looked around, "Which road leads to the altar or this whole thing is the altar?"

    "Do we really have enough power to destroy this place?" Gu Jun asked with a frown and no one answered. This was not a small place, it was like an underground city. Furthermore, the Angel City cultists not only knew spells, they had conventional weapons like guns and grenades. The trio though had nothing but fatigue. It felt like they were walking towards their doom.

    "Meow." The cat raised her paw to point down a direction and then she spelt out the following with the letters, "I think it's this way, I can hear voices coming from it. I'll lead the way. I'm small and light on my feet. Plus I have 9 lives."
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