Chapter 5 – The Mysterious Jewel
Cloudhawk had just barely been able to escape, but he managed to find a quiet corner to hide behind and rest in. His chest was blazing with pain. When he pressed a hand against it, his hand came away drabbed in sticky fluids. Although he couldn’t tell how badly he had been injured, the wound was definitely a serious one. Wounds like this were extremely dangerous; even if he didn’t die due to bloodless, the wound would probably become infected, resulting in him dying an agonizing death.
Perhaps due to his physical weakness, or perhaps due to his severe loss of blood, Cloudhawk’s mind was growing increasingly hazy. His eyelids began to droop downwards. He really wanted to close his eyes and rest for a while, but he knew that he absolutely could not do such a thing.
This was a dangerous place, filled with countless dangerous creatures, and the stench of his blood would definitely attract those bloodthirsty beasts. For him to fall asleep right now meant that he would never wake up again.
He was tired. He was in pain. He was beaten up. His willpower was almost used up. Death would be a form of escape, right.
Cloudhawk forced that thought down. He hadn’t even been able to leave the ruins, much less the wilderness. He hadn’t fulfilled any of the promises he had made himself. How could he accept death in a place like this? The old-timer would laugh at him. He had to survive. He had to live!
His desire to stay alive enkindled his spirit, like a stubborn flicker of flame that began to rise once more. His spirits roused, Cloudhawk removed his bloodstained clothes, then tore several strips of cloth and used it to tightly bandage his wounds. He had to find the exit as soon as possible. He had to leave this damnable place!
The light from the fluorescent lichen in this place provided him with a vague idea of where to go. However, the underground tunnels were laid out in such a complicated way that Cloudhawk had long ago lost his sense of direction. He had no idea which way he should go.
But right then, that strange, subtle sensation appeared once more. It was as though something was calling out towards his subconscious.
Cloudhawk wasn’t certain as to whether this feeling was a real one or an illusory one, but by now he had no other options to take. He decided to entrust his destiny to this sixth sense and follow the complicated underground tunnels in a downwards descent.
His physical condition was rapidly deteriorating, and this place was as complicated as any maze. Cloudhawk walked for several dozen minutes without being able to make it out of the tunnels, but that subconscious sensation was growing stronger and stronger. As he continued to move towards the direction the sensation was coming from, he actually saw an exit that glimmered with some faint light.
He had made it! He had escaped! This had to be the escape. He had finally found it!
Fuck those diggers. The only thing the matters is that I’m getting out of this alive!
Overjoyed, Cloudhawk quickened his footsteps. Just as he was about to walk out from the ‘exit’, he came to a sudden halt as a stunned look appeared on his face. No. NO! SHIT!
This place was a five-way intersection. The so-called ‘light’? That was just torch light coming from the torches that hung in this place. The walls here were filled with neatly arrayed bone spears and various tools, as well as a large amount of wind-dried smoked meat that hung from giant hooks. What really terrified Cloudhawk… was the fact that there had to be at least thirty or forty sweepers here!
This was no exit. This was the sweeper base! Instead of finding the exit, Cloudhawk had stumbled upon the heart of the maze?!
There were also four or five tied up scavengers who had been captured alive and brought to this place by the sweepers. Like animals for the slaughter, they were completely unable to move or flee. Their faces were deathly pale with despair and horror, but their mouths were completely gagged, preventing them from saying anything at all.
Given the brutal disposition of the sweepers, it was guaranteed that the scavengers would have horrendous fates in store for them.
There were actually both adult sweepers as well as young sweepers here. However, all of them looked fairly similar, and their bodies were all so tightly knotted with those strange growths of flesh that they looked like tree-men. These sweepers were able to multiply, despite their strange mutation, and they could even pass down their mutations to the next generation. This truly was quite rare in the wastelands.
The sweepers were gathered together, kneeling in front of an upraised dais as they mumbled some arcane, unintelligible words. It was almost as if they were pious believers who were praying to a higher power.
At the very top of the dais there was a pitch-black jewel that actually defied the laws of gravity and simply hovered there in the air. It was most likely this supernatural phenomenon which caused the foolish sweepers to feel a sense of veneration and dread towards it, which was why they prostrated themselves before it as if it were a divine relic.
Cloudhawk was stunned as well. What on earth was this?! He had an inexplicable feeling that the strange, subtle sensations seemed to be coming from this mysterious jewel. It was the jewel which was emanating that strange song which had drawn Cloudhawk to this place, and when he actually saw it he was actually spellbound for a few moments.
He was nothing more than a humble, low-born scavenger, after all. When had he ever seen such marvelous items?
The sweepers completed their rituals of obeisance. Two of them pulled out a guillotine-like instrument as the others dragged the hog-tied captives over. They lifted up the guillotine’s blade, then pressed the hands of a scavenger beneath it.
“No. NO!” The scavenger let out a scream… and the heavy guillotine blade descended with a sickening crunch.
The scavenger let out muffled, despairing howls as his two hands were completely severed. The other four scavengers were so terrified that their bodies turned so limp that they lost complete control of their bowels. The sweepers filled a vessel with the spurting blood, then poured it over one of the young children.
The skin of these mutants seemed to have an absorptive property. After the blood was poured over the child, it was quickly absorbed into his body. The dozens of sweepers began to celebrate wildly, using the guillotine to chop the scavenger’s arms into multiple sections, almost as if they were chopping vegetables. They then linked the meat up to metal poles, preparing to smoke the meat.
Brutal. Berserk! These twisted creatures delighted in torturing other living beings!
The crazed cries of the scavengers brought Cloudhawk back to reality. He frantically shook his head, quickly coming back to his senses. By now, he was so frightened that his body was once more covered with cold sweat.
Cloudhawk really wanted to slap himself! How could he fall into a daze at a time like this? Was he tired of living? This place was filled with deadly sweepers. If he was captured by them, he would end up like those poor scavengers. They’d first chop his hands and legs into multiple pieces, then torment him endlessly before letting him die.
Better to run right away!
Cloudhawk carefully rose to his feet and edged backwards. But right at this moment, the scavenger at the very end was released from his bonds. Just as they were about to force him forwards and severe his hands, he seemed to gain a burst of terror-born supernatural strength and speed. He somehow tore loose of the sweeper’s grips, then dodged the nearby sweepers and fled from them… straight towards Cloudhawk’s tunnel.
His struggles were useless. One of the sweepers sunk a flying hook into his leg, causing him to fall to the ground. Just as he was being dragged back, from the corner of his eyes he saw the Cloudhawk tiptoeing backwards through the tunnels.
Cloudheart’s heart clenched. He had a bad feeling about this. He frantically dove back into his original hiding position… but it was too late.
As the scavenger was being dragged back, he clawed at the ground with his fingernails, leaving deep furrows in the earth. He was screaming so hysterically that he didn’t even notice how his fingernails were splintering apart.
He knew that there was no way he could be rescued… but he wanted to stay alive! Like a drowning man he would clutch at any straw he could find, no matter how thin!
Cloudhawk felt a chill course down his spine. Once again, he felt that sensation of incredible danger!
The sweepers had ceased their celebrations. They all had puzzled looks on their faces, and several of them pulled out their spears as vigilant looks appeared in their eyes.
Damn. He had been discovered!
The scavenger who had been dragged back was killed by a single blow from a spear. As for the four or five spear-wielding sweepers, they began to slowly make their way towards Cloudhawk.
Cloudhawk could sense danger enveloping him, making it hard for him to so much as breathe. He couldn’t help but begin to tremble as he pulled his sharp metal shard from his waistband. Right now, this was the only weapon he had.
Should he fight back? There was no way such a small piece of metal would pose a threat to these sweepers. Any of them would be able to kill him with ease!
Should he flee? There was no way he could run faster than the sweepers. Last time, he had only escaped thanks to stupid luck. There was no way he would be so lucky yet again… and he didn’t even have the energy needed to run!
Was he supposed to just wait here for death?!
Death wasn’t always terrifying. However, waiting for death to come while being completely unable to fight back was truly unbearable!
Cloudhawk had no plans, no ideas for dealing with the situation before him. With each step the sweepers took, death drew closer and closer to him.
The sweepers were all quite puzzled as well. They didn’t hear any sounds at all. Was there really something hidden here? No matter what, they had to at least search the area!
The sweepers drew closer and closer. Five meters. Four meters. Three meters…
Cloudhawk’s heart was frozen with fear. He didn’t even dare to breathe; all he could do was pray frantically. Don’t come over here. Please, no matter what, don’t come over here!
But prayers like this were useless. The sweepers continued their advance.
Cloudhawk tightly gripped his metal shard, his entire body taut. If he was going to die no matter what, he was going to make a go of it!
The sweepers had extremely tough skins, right? Then he would stab them in the eyes!
In two more steps, the sweepers would be in a position to see Cloudhawk. Cloudhawk was already prepared to attack… but right at this moment, the sound of clear, ringing gunfire burst forth from another one of the tunnels. The sound of gunfire was exceptionally jarring, given how still this place had been.
It was the fat man!
That damnably sly fellow. He had used the scavengers as bait to help his group attract the attention of the sweepers. After the scavengers were all dead, they followed the tracks to locate the sweeper camp, then launched a surprise attack!
Damn him! Damn him! That treacherous bastard! Because of him, dozens of scavengers had died miserable deaths. Because of him, Cloudhawk himself had very nearly died.
However… right now, Cloudhawk had to thank him!
Two shots of gunfire rang out nearby as the fat man led his forces charging into the sweeper camp. How could the sweepers ignore them? They immediately all raised their weapons and began to move towards the attackers. As for the sweepers who were just about to discover Cloudhawk, they also joined their fellows in resisting these new invaders.
Every single one of the dozens of sweepers had left, and the sounds of an extraordinarily fierce battle could be heard erupting from the other tunnel!
Would that fat white man, the muscular black man, and their seven or eight mercenaries be able to defeat so many dangerous sweepers? Cloudhawk panted raggedly as he left his hiding spot, slightly dizzy from the lack of oxygen due to having held his breath for so long. Right now, there was only one thought in his mind – run!
Just as Cloudhawk was about to act on this thought, he suddenly hesitated.
The jewel! The jewel seemed quite extraordinary. The sweepers had all gone off to fight the mercenaries. Why didn’t he take the risk of stealing the jewel from them?
When most people fled from the face of death, they would flee without any hesitation and without looking back. Cloudhawk’s train of thought was undoubtedly quite unusual. However, he was born into a humble, lamentable life; he didn’t want to give up any chance or any item which might change his destiny. He already had the vague feeling that this jewel possessed certain inexplicable properties!
He was going to take the chance!
Cloudhawk charged into the sweeper camp, stepping over the mangled corpses that littered the ground. There was no fluorescent lichen on the walls here; the walls had been completely covered with all sorts of strange paintings.
One of the paintings was of a large group of hideous, vile-looking mutants who were surrounding a similarly hideous creature. Perhaps these tree-like mutants were members of this large group?
As for the creature itself, it was extremely large. It was dressed in strange leather armor and looked almost like a general. He was leading and commanding the mutants in a war against their foes. Their foes were ordinary human beings who bore firearms, and the ordinary humans were being commanded by a tall, resplendent being.
On one side was a creature that looked as vile and as hideous as a demon. On the other side was a lustrous, dazzling figure that looked like a divinity.
On one side were the hideous, disgusting mutants. On the other side were the ordinary human beings!
This clearly was a battle between darkness and light, a final battle between evil and good.
There were too many paintings, and Cloudhawk was in no mood to look at them all. He frantically charged towards the dais. He was going to grab the jewel, then flee. He didn’t care about anything else!
At least, that was the plan. Just as Cloudhawk was about to ascend the dais, he once more had a sense of great danger impending. He came to an immediate, sudden halt… and as he did, a javelin shot towards him at high speed.
It just barely missed him, flying past his nose. If it hadn’t been for the fact that Cloudhawk had come to a sudden halt, he probably would’ve been pierced by this javelin!
Although he had managed to dodge the specter of death, he still felt a sense of terror. He hadn’t expected, nor had he noticed, that not all of the sweepers had left this place. This time, there really was no place for him to hide!