"The biggest threat the fire spiritual essence poses is its ability to invade the organisms directly to destroy their vitality. But as it expands, it's consuming its own energy at the same time. Like I said, this abnormality will not go on forever. It will die down. If we can provide it with a large amount of substance so that it will burn out faster than it explodes out, we might be about to stop it from spreading out further."
Gu Yu's explanation was relatively abstract, but the concept was rather straightforward.
Needless to say, the energy the fire spiritual essence spent on devouring a blade of grass, a tree, or a whole forest would definitely differ from one to the next. They could use that to try "artificially feeding" it, so that it would be satiated ahead of schedule.
The group of people pondered over the suggestion in silence and it was quite some time before the professor asked, "Was that your speculation or a deduction based on facts?"
"Fifty-fifty, I should say. We've kind of figured that out on our way up the mountain from the Grape Valley, but the core area was too overpowering to sense the depletion. It should be more obvious in areas further out." Gu Yu paused before going on, "I can provide a little material for you to experiment on. Do hurry up. It'll be rather easy to see."
"What material?" The professor was baffled.
"Fire spiritual essence, of course."
With that, he took off the gourd and gave it a shake, which brought out another round of amazement.
He did not conceal it from them on purpose previously, nor was the specialist too inadequate to think of taking a sample, it was simply due to the fact that the fire spiritual essence did not materialize until this outbreak. Before this, they could neither see it nor detect it, not to mention studying it at all.
Now that it had taken a tangible form, they could see it as the crimson lump of fog as it was. At least they could tell its change with their naked eyes.
The decisive old man had made the call instantly and the group moved into action right away, filing out of the room, going downstairs, and soon arriving at the municipal scientific research institution.
The professor then asked, "Mr. Gu, what do you think would be the best to experiment with?"
"Soil and water, I suppose," answered he after some thought.
Therefore, the specialists prepared two gigantic transparent containers, piling soil into one and filling the other with water to the rim.
Gu Yu unplugged the gourd and gave it a casual pat. Two thin streaks of crimson smoke floated out of the opening and, led by Gu Yu, each entered a container.
Those present dared not even blink and fixed their eyes on the containers. The two crimson streaks circled around in the air for a while, then as if sensing some vitality, they whooshed down, stuck to the surfaces of the soil and the water, and remained there without dissipating.
The abnormality took its effect on the natural world fast and violently, turning a tree into a layer of flimsy skin in no time. Therefore, it was not long before someone shouted, "The color is changing! It's changing!"
"There's less water as well!"
The group turned their heads in unison. The pile of soil had turned from brownish black to a brown streaked with grayish white. The change in the water was even more obvious—the water line had fallen by a whole unit of the graduation line.
The most pleasant surprise was that the two streaks of crimson smoke were growing paler and thinner right in front of their eyes. As they watched on with thumping hearts, the two streaks were eventually exhausted and disappeared.
"That worked! That worked!"
"The reaction was more intense with water."
"We need water, a lot of it. The wider and the deeper, the better!"
"Rivers? Rivers will not do. They're too narrow and cover too small an area. They won't be of much use…"
The research staff started their discussion, all talking at the same time and making one proposition after another, which were all turned down in turn.
Gu Yu joined in the brainstorm. "Although water restrains fire in the restriction among five elements 1 , you are only using ordinary water, which is not all that effective. Tianshan is not far from here and we can probably find sources of water that have been nourished by the spiritual essence there. Can you somehow transport some of those here and raise it into the air…"
"Mr. Gu!" One of the specialists shook his head and interrupted with resignation. "Say we can achieve the impossible task of shipping the water out of the mountain, carrying it here with a plane that has the capacity which we do not have and can fly to the adequate height which it can't, and showering it down from above… we don't have the time even if we managed to do all of the above! The thing is arriving at the downtown area tonight and can fill the entire Huo Zhou in five days. However fast and advanced our technology is, we can't just create things out of nothing like God."
"Hey, Old Wang!" He had just finished when someone else interjected. "Isn't there a water conservancy project somewhere around here?"
The voices died down all of a sudden, then the discussion resumed, several folds louder than before.
Gu Yu was bewildered. "What are they talking about?"
"There's a water diversion and supply project in Dahe 2 Town. The water comes from Bogda Peak," explained someone.
Bogda? Tianshan Mountain?
Gu Yu and Xiaozhai's faces lit up.
The Northwest suffered from water shortage. As a result, it was common sense that the region was extremely poor in water resources. On the other hand, the lack of water resulted in the construction of more water conservancy projects.
In all cities of Xichui Province, a dam was built pretty much wherever there was a river.
The dam of Huo Zhou was in Dahe Town, not too far from the downtown area. It was only completed last year, with a reservoir capacity of 40,240,000 m^3, enabling it to irrigate 60,200 mu of agricultural land.
The project was a relatively small-scale one and was nowhere near one of those big reservoirs with capacity of over hundreds of millions. It was big enough for northwestern cities, though. All drinking and irrigation water in the surrounding areas came from here.
The group soon arrived in town. The main body was a river dam, not very long and 20-meter high. The spillways and culverts were also small-ish.
Gu Yu had had high hope in coming here and was discouraged at the sight of the dam. However, the lake water brought back that hope a little bit—the river had flowed down from Bogda Peak and although it was nothing special, it was better than ordinary water.
"Mr. Gu, what do you think?" the old man asked.
"Let me try it first."
He took out the green gourd and let out another streak of fire spiritual essence. The crimson streak circled around over the lake and did not look as ferocious as before. It disappeared in no time.
The group erupted with jubilation; someone even shouted out aloud. They couldn't help it. The pressure had been upon them for so long and they had finally found something to vent it out for.
"The water is good, but still too little compared to the abnormality. I'll leave it to you for the actual operation."
With that, Gu Yu moved away from the front row. He had done all he needed to do and there was nothing else he could help with.
The old man saw that as well and did not press on. Immediately, he called for a meeting with the specialists, which was intense and fast-paced. There was no verbose statement; everyone expressed themselves with the most succinct sentences possible.
"The reservoir is too small. I suggest we open the gate and let the water flow into the downstream regions, merging with the river. It will protect a larger area."
"We cannot be one hundred percent sure with the outcome. Opening the gate prematurely could lead to bigger disasters."
"So are we going to sit beside the reservoir and let the disaster come upon us?"
The old man listened to all this, uttering not a single word. It was a test on his determination and responsibility.
He looked down and read the watershed map again. From west to east, the river flowed all the way passing sixteen towns and townships such as Ayding Lake Township, Erya Township, Chaghri Township, and Kandi Township, and circling around the perimeter of Huo Zhou.
Opening the gate would not guarantee flooding all sixteen towns, but half was bound to be affected.
He was still hesitant to make the decision. It was too big a matter after all. Just then, someone's words caught his ear.
"It can't get any worse than this. Why don't we just give it a go?"
Worse than this, worse...
He shut his eyes tightly, then opened them right away. "Prepare to open the gates!"
Dusk was setting in. According to their estimation, the downstream region should be adequately flooded around the same time when the red fog arrived.
They all gathered in the control room and the old man sounded the order himself. "Open the gates!"
"Yes!" a man answered solemnly. He the turned a switch and pressed down a row of buttons.
As the sluice gates opened, formidable currents spurted out of the spillways. The water galloped out like yellow dragons, carrying soil and sand, roaring and tumbling. The scene was magnificent.
The water cascaded and fell, smashing onto the rocks at the bottom of the valley. Instantly, great waves rose up again, turning into a white mist in the air. The rumbling sound was ear-splitting, as if ten thousand horses were stampeding and golden dragons making wild dances.
Fish were flushing down from upstream as well. The impact of the twenty-meter fall had decapitated them, leaving behind a school of blue bodies floating on the surface.
Gu Yu and Xiaozhai stayed in the safety zone and listened to the thundering torrent. The river water in gullies and grooves became a white froth of foam as if it was being boiled as it dashed headlong downstream.
The water from upstream met that of the downstream and was supplemented ceaselessly by more inflow. Before long, it was a world of waters. The water level rose rapidly and was soon over the river course, rushing into villages and houses.
Not far away, the sky had turned fiery red. The catastrophe was arriving.
"Sir, we should leave now!"
"Sir, we can only drive the mountain roads and it will take longer time! It'll be too late if we don't leave now!"
With much persuasion, the old man finally turned to leave after giving a last glance at the sky and the water.
In his sixties, he was not too old. He had risked it all with this decision, staking his entire political future upon it. Of course, he regretted none of it. A figure like him would stick to his beliefs the moment he set his mind on it.
They got into their vehicles promptly and drove away along the winding mountain roads. They only stopped when they reached the open ground, where they stayed and watched from afar.
The water had long risen past the warning level and was gushing into residential areas. Buildings along the river all had their first floors submerged in the water, along with abandoned farmlands, dilapidated courtyards, ancient village roads, and livestock sheds. The water was still rising.
Pieces of the houses in a courtyard fell off from time to time under the sweeping torrent. The blueish-gray brick wall was gone, revealing the bedroom inside. Without a single resident, the scene was all the more bleak.
Before they knew it, many a town were flooded. The water was everywhere.
It was nighttime already but the sky was not dark, for the monster had finally arrived from afar.
Like a dye, the red fog gradually took up the sky while devouring everything. Mountains flanking the dam were dotted with fresh green, but at the touch of the fog, they turned a lifeless, despairing grey.
The river below flowed on, its gurgling sounded like a provocation. The next second, masses of fog turned into crimson snakes, pouncing down towards the water.
The small river in the Grape Valley was shallow and did not have much water, so it had evaporated in the blink of an eye. It was not the same here. The tidal waves surged and roared, somehow managing to fend off the attack.
Instantly, the red sky and the black water collided into one another, tearing and biting, struggling fiercely. At that moment, one could not tell if it still was the world they lived in, or if they were witnessing a living hell.
Gu Yu and Xiaozhai looked into the distance, their eyes roaming from the mountains to the water and from heaven to earth.
The red fog gradually thinned as the water evaporated rapidly. Steam rose into the air in great lumps, which should have condensed into a cumulonimbus, but with the sky all occupied by the fog, the steam was stuck in the middle, lingering in midair.
As the steam increased, the area was transformed into a giant sauna house. The red fog mixed with the wet air, as if a red downpour was in full action.
While these two were enjoying the view, the others had been scared out of their wits. The research team was still observing the data. As much as an hour had passed before they finally shouted at the top of their lungs, "It has not advanced!"
"It has not advanced!"TL/N: There are two cycles related to the five elements, namely the one of creation and the one of destruction. In plain terms, the creation cycle is: Wood feeds Fire, Fire creates Earth (ash), Earth bears Metal, Metal collects Water, and Water nourishes Wood. Whereas the destruction cycle is: Wood parts Earth (such as roots or trees can prevent soil erosion), Earth dams (or muddles or absorbs) Water, Water extinguishes Fire, Fire melts Metal, and Metal chops Wood. TL/N: meaning "big river"