"Is there a problem with your method?"
"Impossible! This method was used in many unique locations and circumstances, it can prevent most interference. There can't be a problem!" Windling retorted immediately.
Garen fell silent as well. Frowning, he looked around himself. This was the tallest building in the vicinity, so they had a good vantage point to see how everything is going nearby.
There was nobody in this whole part of the city, not a soul in sight. It was utterly quiet.
"There were so many Aberrated people outside the city, so why can't we find anything at all in here?" Garen said softly.
"Shall we go down and check?" Windling glanced at Garen. I suspect this isn't where we wanted to go, Veivar."
"Under these circumstances, the best method is to find the sign of a famous shop, or post on message boards and the like." Garen nodded.
He looked around his surroundings, and quickly locked onto a target, releasing two Black clouds that enveloped the two of them once more and flew downwards.
Flying in mid-air, the buildings next to them were more than ten stories tall, the windows all pitch black like many dead and quiet empty holes, emitting a chilly cold.
The two of them landed soundly on the corner of the street, in front of an announcement wall.
On the mud-yellow wall, there were some torn newspapers and notices. Some had mostly fallen off, some were still considered whole, while others were covered with red graffiti.
The two of them split up to survey the notices.
"Found it!" Windling tore a small piece of newspaper from the wall. He began reading the words on it out loud.
"Gudan City, modified file number twenty-three, could all the infected please go to the nearest hospital at your soonest convenience to join the headcount, and receive a free vaccination. For those specially infected… Most of the back part is missing." Windling raised his head. "Gudan City? I've heard of the city before, it's the biggest and most prosperous city in this country, even bigger than the capital."
"Where is it, roughly?" Garen asked in a low voice.
"It's on our way. No, wait, I calculated our speed, there’s no way we only flew such a short distance after so long." Windling was confused.
"Be it Veivar or this Gudan City, they're both large cities that belong to this Nevis Empire. After the riot last time, how has the situation been in this country?"
Windling shook his head.
"I never heard about anyone appearing from this country. After the riots, everyone's focus went to the larger countries. Who would give a damn about these small countries? Even less so for a tiny territory like Nevis, where it's basically a country within a country. What do we do now?"
"We’ll check around this place for a bit, and find out exactly what had happened here," Garen replied calmly.
The sky had already gone utterly dark.
Everything around them was somewhat dim, and unclear.
Windling took out two flints from his waist pouch and a small assemblable torch.
Once he put the tip of the torch onto a wooden bat, it became a small and simple torch.
"This torch is a specialty only I have, it can burn for five hours at once, and that’s the minimum! And the materials are easier to find too, so it’s very convenient," Windling said somewhat proudly.
He started knocking the two flint stones together.
"Eh? Why isn’t it lighting up?" He picked up the flints to check, somewhat curiously.
"Let me try." Garen took a match from his pouch.
The match brushed past the striking surface, and didn’t release any sparks whatsoever.
"Eh?" Garen was slightly surprised. "Did it get damp?"
"I know an illumination tactic, I can illuminate temporarily for ten minutes." Windling was also beginning to sense something amiss.
The surroundings were getting darker and darker, until they couldn’t see any slits in the clouds at all. The dark clouds grew thicker. There was no moon, no stars. It was as though the whole city was slowly being swallowed by the darkness.
Windling acted quickly, a small white light appearing on the tip of his finger as he quickly drew out simple tactic gestures in the air.
After a light sound, the glyphs scattered in the air.
"Something’s not right! I can’t use the illumination tactic!" Windling’s voice increased by eight degrees, as he tried desperately again to make it work.
Garen noticed something was wrong too. The surroundings were getting darker and darker, and now they couldn’t light a flame for illumination. This didn’t seem like a coincidence.
Windling was still unable to make a light, be it with totems or an actual flame, neither could light up anything.
"This place doesn’t seem to allow any light," Garen said lowly. "Let’s get out of here first!"
"Okay!" Windling felt something was off too.
The two of them were wrapped in the black mist, and they took off into rapid flight, flying towards the outskirts of the city.
Before the whole city turned pitch black, the two of them quickly exited the city wall perimeters.
Windling kept repeating the gestures for the illumination tactic, and as soon as they left the city, the illumination gestures he carved out instantly shone with a white light.
A ball of light was suspended quietly in the air between the two of them.
"One of my totems is a fire elemental, so I can use it for illumination. I just don’t know why, we can’t light anything inside the city."
Garen didn’t reply, and just stared dazedly towards the direction of Gudan City, where they had just come from.
Windling turned around to look, shocked.
The whole city area was completely empty, it was practically a stretch of deserted plains. There weren’t any buildings or city walls there, nothing at all!
Only a few lonely small trees were planted there, looking as though they could die of dehydration at any time.
"Where’s Gudan City?" Windling’s expression was pure shock.
"I don’t know…" Garen shook his head slowly. He took in a deep breath. "Could it be that everything we saw just now was an illusion?"
"Impossible!" Windling shook his head determinedly. "Let’s look around," he suggested directly.
Wrapped in the black mist, they began to patrol the area.
The moon and stars were visible in the sky once more, the faint light shining down and scattering onto this piece of ground. There were no cities, no buildings, and even those Aberrated people from before were nowhere to be seen.
As though everything they had seen in the daytime was an illusion.
The two of them wouldn't give up, so they turned around and searched again. All the Aberrated people they had seen in the daytime were all vanished, not a single one remaining.
Garen actually already had a hypothesis in mind.
Unlike Windling, he had experienced the paranormal phenomena of Grindor twice, and after this strange encounter, he quickly found a possible counterpart from the Grindor legends.
Ghost City, a strange city from Grindor legend.
Anyone could enter and leave in the daytime, but once it got to the night, the city would disappear completely, entering an unknown darkness. If anyone didn't manage to leave before the darkness fell, they would remain forever in the city. Nobody knew where they went, nobody knew where the Ghost City came from. The next day, the Ghost City would remain as empty as ever, still as a grave.
According to legends, after figuring out how dangerous the Ghost City was, the aging hero Morgster brought the Lost Chain given to him by his wife, Starry Night Queen. After entering the Ghost City, he never came back out. That was also the ending point for his adventurous life. The great hero, who could even stand up against the Earth Mother’s five sons, finally fell in this Ghost City, full of the unknown. And the Ghost City quickly disappeared as well, leaving behind only a mysterious legend.
Garen thought back to this legend, feeling vaguely grateful. Thank goodness the two of them were decisive enough, and quickly left Gudan City before the light disappeared completely. If even a deified hero couldn’t leave Ghost City, it was practically the most mysterious and dangerous place to be. If they really got involved, who knew what would happen.
"It’s another black copper phenomenon…" Windling looked down at the empty space beneath them, his gaze complicated as he said, "These strange phenomena caused by the black copper, we call them black copper phenomena. No one knows which direction this world will go in the end. From the moment black copper was discovered, this world was destined to change."
"Black copper…" Garen was thoughtful.
"What do we do now?" Windling splayed his hands, indicating that he was completely at a dead end.
After a moment’s musing.
"Continue with our original quest, then. Although we don’t know why we’ve only made such little progress, things still need to be done." Garen replied.
After a pause, he finally took one last glance at the empty space where Gudan City had been.
"Perhaps once everything is over, we might still come back here."
"Well, I don’t wanna come back." Windling continued immediately. "If you wanna come back, you do it yourself. You can tell just with one look that this place is more than dangerous."
Garen was too lazy to reply.
The two clouds of black mist surrounded them, and they flew at high speeds in their original direction.
Amidst some white mountains, far away from Garen and Windling.
Somewhere among the snow-tipped mountains.
On the white mountain slopes, on the white snowy ground, there were large black trees scattered sparsely, some in a straight line, others standing alone. Large sharp mountain rocks created a broken black surface amidst the snow.
The black trees and white snow mingled, as though the peak here only had two monochromatic colors.
The black rocks and soil, the black cedars and weeds, were embedded in the white snow. As though the pure white wool carpet was splashed with black mud.
Under the large swathes of white snow, in a gap between the layers of snow, a young woman dressed all in white was lying with her eyes slightly closed, as though she was in a state of hibernation.
The woman was hugging a dark golden round wristband in her arms, many black tactic glyphs carved densely into the bracelet. These glyphs looked independent, but some were strangely linked up, like a pitch black bracelet-shaped snake. The snake’s eyes were two embedded green diamond shards, emitting an eerie green light.
Avici hadn’t eaten for four days, and was hanging on with solely the little bit of pure water she carried around with her.
She hid under the snow, restraining all her body’s aura, even slowing her heartbeat down to the barest minimum. This was to reduce the smell of her body and her metabolism, to bring all her living processes as low as they could go.
As an elite researcher with the Geometry Service, her results in the wilderness survival training class were the best. She just had to send this heirloom into the hands of the receiving teacher from the Geometry Service, and her quest would be complete.
As for when the receiving teacher would arrive, she had no clue.
What she did know now was that the people from Black Sky were still looking for her on the surface. Or perhaps there were other desperadoes trying their luck, also on the lookout for her. Even the Secret Service, another one of the three departments, were part of the search party.
If the National Service weren’t so low on manpower, there would be another batch of people searching for Avici.