In the evening, only half the pale golden sun remained hanging above the horizon, scattering light with only a hint of warmth.
In a small territory between Kovistan and Ender.
Two clouds of black mist flew across the plains, going across the plains, and entering a mud-yellow mountain region.
This piece of mountain land had bright yellow sand, and there was the occasional blackened tree, dry and leafless, scattered all across the mountain.
In some places, there were even white bones and half-rotten corpses to be seen. Most of these were from aberrated animals, but there were humans as well.
Small flocks of black scavenger birds were gathered together, pecking away at their food.
Garen looked down, and could even see some people with black skin, all dark, skinny, and only wearing a few rags, crouching by the corpses and greedily eating the rotting meat by the handful.
As though sensing his gaze, the person underneath raised his head, revealing a rotting black face.
There were only black holes in his eye sockets, tiny black bugs crawled in and out of his nostrils, and his mouth no longer looked like that of a human. His entire chin and lips were utterly gone, his creepy white teeth directly exposed to the air.
This person didn’t have much flesh left on their bones, and even the bones inside were vaguely visible. There were many wounds that hadn’t healed yet on his body, so his black innards could be seen even from outside.
"That person is still alive?" Garen was slightly shocked.
"What?" Windling glanced over curiously, following Garen’s gaze to look down, and was instantly also taken aback. "It seems to be a person, fly lower."
The two black mists slowly descended, hovering about a dozen meters over this group of scavengers.
By then, Windling had also clearly seen the face of the person beneath them. He took a sharp intake of cold breath.
"What is that?! A new Aberration?!"
"I’m afraid not…" Garen’s expression was solemn. "Let’s go on and see."
The two of them were enveloped by the black mist, and continued flying ahead.
Soon enough, a small human village appeared on the ground ahead of them. Some of the mud-yellow mud houses had collapsed, while others were barely standing, damaged beyond repair. It was all quiet in the village, not a single soul in sight.
Looking down from mid-air, the whole village was like a mud-yellow round biscuit, it was just that it was covered with holes and gaps.
Before long, the two discovered yet another black and skinny person on the right side of the village. This person was also crouching in the middle of a heap of rotting flesh, chewing greedily.
This heap of rotting flesh was actually also a human corpse. It was a human man, and his entire abdomen had been cleared out, the organs inside covered with a greenish-white fluff of mould. Buzzing flies pranced constantly around the corpse.
"Let’s go down and take a look," Garen said, his voice low.
Windling nodded too. Both of them were feeling rather low and solemn right now, the situation seemed to be going out of control. Both of them were thinking of a terrifying possibility.
The two clouds of black mist descended slowly, landing on the ground behind the dark and skinny person. The most scattered, quickly returning to the pocketwatch in Garen’s hand.
The two of them watched that humanoid figure more than ten meters away, quietly.
This person looked as though he was severely dehydrated, his skin just like old, wrinkled and worn cloth. Some parts had fallen off in chunks, and was connected to the body by just a strand, whereas others were just full of holes, like a worn sackcloth, so that the black, dried-up muscles and tissues could be seen through the holes.
As though he had smelled something, the person suddenly stopped in the middle of chewing, and slowly turned around. A pair of utterly lightless eyes were staring intently at the two behind him.
He emitted a strange sound, taking in a breath, as though trying hard to smell something.
"You’re still alive?" Windling yelled loudly. He quickly repeated the question in many different languages.
Suddenly, the other person opened his arms wide, flailing them as he pounced at Windling. He moved unnaturally fast, as though he had springs fastened to the bottom of his feet, and he had practically bounced there in one leap. He opened his mouth wide, revealing sharp white teeth, his gaze greedy and naked. As though in his eyes, Windling was the most delicious dish of food.
Seeing how mindless the other party acted, Windling frowned slightly, raised his hand and pointed.
Tree roots and wispy yellow roots shot out of the ground, entangling themselves around this person in a moment, and tripping him to the ground.
With a whoomph, the person continued struggling on the ground, hands clawing and crawling madly on the ground, eyes fixed dead on Windling, as though on the verge of insanity.
But the roots at his legs continued to extend, and quickly reached his waist, securing him tightly to the spot.
"Forget it, let’s go, this person isn’t human anymore." Garen said softly behind him.
Windling glanced at the figure on the ground.
"I have a bad feeling about this."
"Me too." Garen turned around and released the black mist, "Just up ahead is the capital of this country, if we want to know what on earth happened here, we should be able to find some survivors in the capital, and maybe then we’ll have some idea."
The two of them furled up the black mist again, and advanced at high speed forward.
Under them, on the surface of the ground, more and more of those figures appeared. Some were all black, others were all red. Some chased madly, some were sprawled on the ground chomping on rotting flesh, and there were also some that kept repeating certain movements.
There were more and more of these people, they gathered in denser numbers.
The two of them flashed past through the sky, both their hearts sinking.
Soon enough, within an hour, their current destination appeared before them, Veivar. The capital city of this country.
The city wasn’t large, spread on the ground like a large yellow biscuit.
It was completely surrounded by a tall yellow mud wall, but the inside was empty, and unnaturally quiet. Looking down from above, the mud yellow buildings, some tall and some short, were scattered about, but mostly whole. The streets were strangely quiet, without a single soul in sight.
The two of them slowly lowered their altitude, and the city beneath them became larger, wider.
The whole city was unnaturally huge, and from midair, they could see that the whole place was divided into four parts, and each part was divided into four more. There were sixteen areas in total, and each area was filled densely with more than a hundred buildings, of all heights and sizes.
The two of them landed in a small area, directly on top of a house.
Compared to this whole area, the two of them write like two little ants in a bathtub, completely inconspicuous.
Garen and Windling stood steadily on the edge of the roof, looking down. The streets beneath them were covered with abandoned heaps of rubbish, some already blackening and unidentifiable. Some seemed to be large piles of food and clothes in bags.
But these weren't the conspicuous, the most obvious was the blood red words written all over the building walls, their meaning unknown.
Garen glanced at Windling, who frowned and shook his head.
"It's not the language from around here, neither does it look like any country's language.I'd rather believe it's an unconscious scribble."
Garen frowned slightly as well.
The blood red graffiti was everywhere, on the walls, on the roads, on some carriages waylaid by the roadside, on the street lamps. They were practically everywhere.
These words were scrawled and messy, looking a lot like some words, though occasionally they had some figures like curves or circles.
Garen tugged at his collar, pressing the little box on his collar.
"Is there anyone here from the departments? If yes, reply immediately."
Beside him, Windling glanced over as well, seeing if there was anyone else here.
Soon enough, the black box began emitting a clattering sound. And then there was a man's voice, barely suppressing his joyful surprise.
"Phew… phew… I’m the leader here, Chavanna, could you… could you be Lord Eight Headed Cloud Crow?!" His voice was very small and very rushed, as though he was purposely guarding against something.
"I am Cloud Crow, how’s the situation now, how did this city become like this? Where are you now?" Garen asked a string of questions.
"Please come over, we’ll explain to you in person once we meet." The person on the other end of the box laughed bitterly. "Our location is… Ah!!!"
Suddenly there was a scream from the other side of the box, it sounded like that of a woman.
"Dammit!""Kill ‘em! Use tactics!!"
"Leo!!""Chavanna! Save me!"
And there was a flurry of noise, a smacking sound from the box, as though it had fallen to the ground.
"Hello?!" Garen yelled hurriedly.
No more voices came from the box. There was only silence.
Garen patted the box, his expression unhappy.
"Is there anyone left on the public channel? All department members, reply immediately if you can hear this question! Now!!"
After changing the box to the public channel, it was still completely silent.
It was starting to grow dark. A cold breeze blew past, lightly furling some thin wooden planks on the roof.
The chattering sound came from the box again, as though there was vaguely a noise of chaos.
The noise got louder and louder, larger and larger, until it was almost piercing to the ear.
Garen closed the black box, and glanced at Windling next to him. Windling was also more serious than he had ever been.
"Looks like the situation is kinda bad," Windling said softly. "Something not quite right seemed to have happened in this country. It’s not as we guessed, that it was simply an infection of people that caused Aberration."
"The situation now is that we first have to find the people that arrived here before us, where are they?"
"When I was at Black Sky before, I had come across this phenomena. Although I only saw it in the information, it’s very similar to our situation now. I’ll check again and tell you. This is a homemade compass with a pointer, let’s first ascertain where we are and the strength of the earth’s magnetic field here." Windling took a small white round plate from his waist pouch, there was a silver circle embedded in it.
He crouched down, and put the plate upside down on the ground.
After waiting for a few seconds, he picked up the plate again.
Just then, a clear white circle appeared on the ground, some of the fine dust in the circle quickly lining up into a pointer needle made of dust. It even had some miniscule carvings on it.
Windling carefully checked the needle on the ground. "No, the magnetic field here shouldn’t be like this. We’ve walked several thousand kilometers to reach here, this direction…"
Suddenly, in the circle of the ground, a new needle formed.
Windling was slightly surprised.
Soon, the third needle appeared as well, the fourth, the fifth, the sixth!
A breeze blew past, and all the needles scattered and vanished.
Windling was stunned by the sight.
"What’s the matter?" Garen had no idea what he was thinking.
"I used our departure point as a pole, and set it as the departure point. I should be able to tell you how far we’ve gone, and which direction we are in relation to the points. But now, it indicates…" Windling swallowed, rather at a loss for words.
"What does it indicate?" Garen frowned.
"It says that we haven’t gone a thousand kilometers away from where we started…" Windling said somewhat guiltily.