Suddenly, a shadow appeared in the water under the highway. Turbulence soon followed as the murky water turned red with blood oozing to the top.
“It couldn’t be a fish, could it?” A soldier asked in shock.
“It should be. We came across something similar the last time there was heavy rain. The river must have overflowed now so there could be plenty of fishes in the puddles,” Huo Dong said numbly.
“It was about half a month ago, wasn’t it? Luckily, we were on the hill then, but we still lost about ten people.” Zhou Yicheng said, his face carried a mixture of expressions. The other soldiers’ eyes were red, and they quickly wiped them. Due to the rain, no one could tell if those were tears or raindrops.
Zhao Yali gripped onto her clothes tightly. Her face turned pale as she listened. No one said anything more after that.
Huang Jiahui looked at Luo Yuan wiping his Zhanmadao lightly with a piece of mutated skin. He kept repeating this action again and again. She knew it was a sign that he was nervous. After being together for so long, she had become very familiar with his actions. She sighed and put her arm around his. Luo Yuan turned and comforted her in a gentle voice when he took in her worried expression, “Everything will be alright.”
The lizard continued advancing for another 10 minutes before it slowly came to a stop. As expected the bridge was damaged, and the only trace of its existence were the steel cables lying helplessly in the river. It was not exactly accurate to call it a river since the riverbank was long gone now. The puddles and river had merged to form a murky sea.
Luo Yuan suddenly spoke after standing at the edge of the broken bridge for a while, “Bring over the rattan.” Zhou Yicheng took the rattan and came over saying, “Rivers around this width are usually around three meters deep, but with the flood, this river’s probably five to six meters deep now.”
“Hopefully it doesn’t exceed 6 meters, or the water would cover the lizard’s back,” Luo Yuan said grimly. As he spoke, he threw the end of the rattan tied with a rock into the middle of the river and pulled. He was trying to estimate the angle it created to determine the depth of the water.
He did a rough estimation and felt his heart sink. He then tested it a few times around different spots, but after every attempt at calculating the depth, his expression got darker. Based on his attempts at measuring its depth, although the river looked narrow, it was incredibly deep. The deepest end probably reached 6.6 meters, and the shallowest end was around 4.8 meters. The highest point of the lizard was only 6.3 meters while its lowest point was 5.9 meters. This meant they would be submerged in the water during certain parts of the trek through the river.
Zhou Yicheng was not as good as Luo Yuan in estimating the depth, so he asked anxiously as he saw his dark expression, “How is it?”
“Not good. The water is rather deep. It’ll be quite dangerous for us.” Luo Yuan then explained the issue between the height of the lizard’s back and the depth of the river.
Zhou Yicheng was familiar with the dangers that lurked in the water, but he said, “It won’t be any safer if we switched to another route. Besides, we’re so close to Hucheng already. Let’s take this risk.” Both Luo Yuan and Zhou Yicheng briefed the group about the situation. No one protested despite the depressing atmosphere.
Seeing such low spirits, Zhou Yicheng suggested, “Let’s sing a song before we depart.”
“Battalion Commander, forget it. We’ve been singing these songs all the way,” a soldier said.
“I don’t want to sing those old songs either, let’s sing something nice!” Another soldier said after licking his lips.
“What is this? Are you guys still soldiers? Sing! We must sing! We must show our spirit in singing! Show our military spirit!” Zhou Yicheng bellowed and continued, “Let’s sing ‘Soldiers Belong to the Battlefield’ for them!”
Then he began singing:
“There’s an unspoken rule; warriors belonged to the battlefield,
Tigers should stride amidst forests; dragons should turn ocean around,
Who’s without a father, who’s without a mother…”
Zhou Yicheng was quite bad at singing. His voice was rough, and he was a little tone-deaf. He was singing alone but before long, the other soldiers began to follow his tune. More and more slowly chorused and in the end, even Huo Dong and Lin Xiaoji were humming to the song.
Luo Yuan watched silently but felt touched.
These warriors were not evolved humans. They were nothing if not slightly stronger than ordinary people, yet their fighting spirit remained even when most of their battalion comrades had died. It was impressive to see the sheer determination they have despite their weakened bodies.
“Hopefully not too many die later,” Luo Yuan thought.
Luo Yuan had the giant lizard and Lao Huang jump in first. Both the creatures made a big splash. Most of the beasts underwater were frightened by these two gigantic creatures and swam for their lives.
Luo Yuan then hopped onto the lizard’s back. He then tied a rope to the lizard’s neck to have everyone slide down. Ten minutes later, only Chen Xianfeng was left. Luo Yuan untangled the rattan rope and looked at the former hesitantly.
Chen Xianfeng stood by the highway with his eyes staring at Luo Yuan. Anyone could see that he was nervous and frightened. If he did not ride the lizard, he might perish in the river.
When a land creature got into the water, its abilities would weaken. Furthermore, he could not swim. There was no other choice but death that awaits him if he entered the water alone.
“There’s something I’ve been meaning to say, but I don’t know where to start.” Luo Yuan said as he sighed.
Chen Xianfeng looked alarmed but grunted after a while and said, “Speak.”
“I’ve never told you the goal of this trip, but we’re going to a secret military base this time. You should know that you’d never be able to enter like this. You’d either be killed straight away or locked in a lab. Every meeting is destined to see us part ways, and it won’t end well for you if you follow us. Leave.. leave this place and leave Jiangnan Province. It’ll keep you alive longer, I hope.” Luo Yuan explained.
Chen Xianfeng was stunned! He looked at Luo Yuan, and then the rest of the crew with disbelief. The rest of the group could not look him in his eyes. He gradually came to understand what Luo Yuan was telling him and thought maybe he should have come to the same conclusion a long time ago. His expression noticeably changed the next minute. The violence inside him could no longer be suppressed as his fear towards Luo Yuan disappeared. He screamed, “YOU…LIED TO…ME!”
“You…all…lied to me.”
“You…all…lied to me!!!”
Then he turned and ran. His untamed growls echoed in the air.
Even after a while, Chen Xianfeng’s voice still seemed to echo in their ears. While they felt bad, they were relieved at the same time. Not everyone could look past Chen Xianfeng’s scary looks, enormous size and volatile emotions like Luo Yuan did. If it were not for Luo Yuan, he might have already eaten some of the crew.
“I’ve heard that human mutation goes deep into the genes. It’s impossible to stop with current medical knowledge, and it would only get worse with time. It’s good for everyone that he leave as early as possible.” Zhou Yicheng tried to comfort everyone seeing how their mood was affected by this incident.
“Let’s not talk about this. Prepare to depart!” Luo Yuan shook his head, evidently trying to shake away the emotions running through his head. This decision was one he made long ago, but he didn’t expect it to have happened in this manner.
As his voice echoed, everyone seemed to feel like a bucket of cold water had been poured over their heads. They certainly felt guilty but what lies ahead was scary as hell. Huo Dong held onto the handle of his knife and did breathing exercises repeatedly. Zhao Yali and the three children’s faces went white.
“Don’t worry; it’s only about ten meters ahead. It’ll pass soon.” Luo Yuan looked at the people who were tensed up and comforted them. He then spoke to Wang Shishi, “You pay attention too, don’t be distracted.”
Wang Shishi nodded obediently.
“Sit tight and let’s go!” Luo Yuan announced after everything was set.
The giant lizard moved slowly, with the current pounding against it heavily. Just as Huo Dong opened his mouth to speak, a drop of water splattered into it, triggering him to spit a few times. Once bitten twice shy, nobody wanted to come across the same thing after experiencing the terror of the parasites in the seawater by the bridge.
“Eh, why is the water salty?” he then asked in reaction.
“Could be due to the sea. Maybe there are sea creatures here too.” Cao Lin said with a somber expression.
“Don’t distract yourselves. We’re crossing the river now. Hang on tight and don’t get thrown off.” Luo Yuan reminded them.
There was a carpet woven with rattan on the lizard’s back, so it was easy to grip onto to stabilize their bodies. Else, the lizard’s back would be tough to stay seated on no matter how slow it moved.
Everyone grabbed onto the carpet without a word.
Soon, the lizard entered the river with a slight stumble. The women screamed at the top of their lungs but were not flung off since they were prepared.
Right then, Luo Yuan felt weak, no longer feeling the earth’s energy.
From his experience, he knew it was due to his own evolved ability being blocked by the water as his Physique attribute returned to its original value. He took a deep breath, trying to adjust to the ‘weak’ state slowly.
Luo Yuan pulled his Zhanmadao out and observed the water with undivided attention. The river flowed violently, whirlpool after whirlpool appearing around the lizard as it moved.
Fortunately, the river was a bit small, so it was unable to contain larger sized beasts but that did not mean those smaller ones were harmless. If anything, they were harder to see, especially now that the river was connected to the ocean. There were probably creatures from the ocean that swam against the current to this very river.
Luo Yuan’s senses weakened immensely in the murky water. While he could usually sense things within a 50-meter radius in the air, he could only sense things within a five-meter radius, and it was not clear. The distance could not even compare to when he detected underground basements on land but of course, that was partly due to his Earth Stomp ability.
The lizard’s steps became irregular. Its eyes were staring into the murky water from time to time as it got restless.
“Ow!” It suddenly roared without warning as its body shook.
The loud sound caused ripples to break out across the water while deafening everyone else. Even Luo Yuan lost his hearing for a moment.
“What’s up!?” Lin Xiaoji asked loudly; his face filled with fear.