452 Illusion in the Tunnel

    As the tunnel shook, so did the lights on the wall. The flickering lights highlighted the palaeolithic symbols and the Bone Oracle Script for worm. They had less than 1 hour left. Gu Jun and his group had made quite a distance down the tunnel. They passed three junctions and took multiple turns. Yu Chi used the symbols on the wall to determine their direction. However, they did not move any closer to the source of the mumbling chanting. As a result, Yu Chi became more agitated. He started to second-doubt himself.

    "Captain Yu, calm down. We need to keep our heads cool especially at a time like this...." Gu Jun said even though he too felt his mind being disrupted. Ever since they dropped down the ladder, he'd been assaulted by the occasional illusion and it had only gotten worse. The symbols on the wall did change but the difference was too small to notice immediately. It gave the impression that he was walking around the same spot. There were even a few moments where the things around him fell away and he was left alone in this endless tunnel. The headache pounded in his mind.

    Suddenly, there was another flash of pain. The PEEK polymer appeared to crack. "Ah..." Gu Jun gripped his head and crinkled his eyes. However, the pain refused to abate. He was close to the bottom of his strength, both mentally and physically... The sound of Yu Chi talking and the cat meowing seemed to fade away...

    When Gu Jun reopened his eyes, he realized... There were no people and no cat around him. 'Is this an illusion?' Gu Jun shook his head and rubbed his eyes. Things remained the same. There was only emptiness and the tunnel walls around him. His heart sunk. "Captain Yu? Dirty-minded Yu? Mason? Witch?!" He shouted but the only answer was the continuous chanting. They were inside a strange dimension, so it was entirely possible for the space to accidentally distort and separate them from each other. Or was this another problem thrown at them by the cultist? 'Am I... hallucinating?' Gu Jun had no clear answer.

    Suddenly, he felt someone staring at him from behind... Gu Jun whipped his body around and saw nothing. But when he turned back, he saw a shadow standing in the darkness. It made his heart shrink. It was a tall and muscular shadow with a square jaw. It was Xue Ba. "Captain Xue?" He couldn't help but call after him. The shadow turned to look at him and there was ash in its eyes. That made Gu Jun snap out of it. 'No, it can't be Xue Ba. Captain Xue is dead, he wouldn't show up here. Not even his soul...' He calmed his mind and told himself that it was just an illusion, a trick...

    "Ah Jun, do you really think this is nothing more than a trick..." it was Xue Ba's voice who said that. "Or a regret that has been hounding you?"

    Gu Jun refused to listen to it. He walked forward cautiously and mewled a few times. "Dirty-minded Yu, dirty-minded Yu?" This was the work of the cultist, or some kind of dark energy. It was evoking the dark images in his mind, to make him lose control, that had to be it. This was not his first time facing something like this.

    "An illusion only works because it dangles something you yearn after but you can't have, alas this is not that. You should know that very well. I am Xue Ba and you fail to save me. You can ignore me, you can look over me. But you know, deep inside, these regrets will always accompany you until you die..." While Gu Jun moved forward, he did not put his guard down. But at that moment, he stopped. Xue Ba disappeared and in the darkness, he saw other shadows. There were Prof Qin, Brother Qiang and Surgeon Zhu, they were forced into retirement after receiving the lobotomy during the Nightmare Illness. They were unable to recover to their optimum form. Of course, that was one of his regrets...

    Gu Jun's mind wavered as more shadows appeared. Huang Lin, He Feng, Shen Haoran from the legionella pneumonia... Tian Yi from the Mutated Scale Sickness...

    "Take a look at what's inside your bag. Medical instrument... Doctor Gu, that's right, you are a doctor but tell me, how many people you've killed, and how many you've saved?" The voice increased in volume. It was like the voices of the other victims joining Xue Ba. Prof Qin sighed, "Ah Jun, life is filled with regret. The longer you live, the greater the regret..." His parents lectured, "We are all prisoners of time. The future will always be an unknown. Time is not always on your side. You can encounter the best opportunity and the most treasured item when you were still not yet mature enough to claim them. So what's left but regret?!"

    "Prisoner of time... prisoner of time..."

    The whispering continued. Gu Jun's mind suffused with painful thoughts. His mind broke down.

    'Regrets? Yes, I do have plenty of regrets...' It had been 2 years since he became a doctor. Starting from his encounter with the Malformed Banyan Disease, regret piled on him. The villagers from Gu Rong Village... The village elders who wanted only the best for the village, the children who were innocent victims, the elderly who just wished to live out the rest of their lives in peace... Then came the legionella pneumonia which claimed hundred million lives... Finally, this Locust Sickness, who knew how many innocent victims would die a horrible death, how big the tragedy would be, how many families would be shattered, how many parents would lose their kids and how many kids would lose their parents. 'As a doctor, what have you done to prevent this tragedy? For shame...'

    Suddenly some images appeared before Gu Jun's eyes. Two different comparative side by side images. One was the quarantine circle, inside the mutated area, the locust swarm consumed many frontline agents. The other was the life circle where the agents survived.

    "Because you have changed time... these people, they were dead, people mourned them... but since you've changed the past, so did the future. Isn't that important? What's more important is that you have this power, this opportunity to master time." The voice began again beside his ears and in his mind. It slowly turned into his own voice.

    "The path that you're walking on is a path going backwards in time. Go back to that cruise ship, go back to the moment you entered Eastern State University, or might as well, go back to the start... Go back to the past, you can change, no you can correct everything. The future is uncertain and thus an unknown. But the past, you can edit it, yes, you can edit the past...

    "You can undo all of your regrets, you can ensure that they do not happen. These people's deaths and losses can be rectified... And the sacrifice? None. Because that is what you are naturally capable of. Indeed, this is what we offer you. Do you really want to refuse it?"

    Gu Jun's head spun. He wanted to say something but his mouth was drying. 'Change everything? Correct everything... and make everything right again? That does sound wonderful...'

    At that moment, he heard a cat's call. Or perhaps it was Wu Siyu saying, "No, to hell with your offer. One life is tiring enough, you want me to redo everything and start all over again? Can you imagine the work involved?! If I do accept, that will be my biggest regret."
Previous Index Next