Let the Hope Fly! (1)
The moment the shuttle shot out of the Hope, it seemed like light was immediately sucked out of the room. For Zhang Heng and Jay, the drastic change took some time to get used to, but probably due to his heightened reflexes, Yao Yuan adapted to it much easier and faster.
When they turned back around, the only source of light was the Hope that shone before them like a gleaming lantern. At that moment, the Hope was already about four hundred meters in the air and pulling it down were a few vine-like tendrils. Flares and sparks flew at the places where the tendrils were latched onto the Hope, and one could safely assume that the great store of energy was getting siphoned away. In fact, later reports showed that the higher the altitude the Hope climbed to, the faster its energy was drained.
“Starting two minute countdown! One hundred and nineteen seconds, one hundred and eighteen seconds…” Yao Yuan screamed as he initiated the shuttle’s anti-gravitational system.
“Jay! Quick! Do what you need to do! I don’t care how, just do it!” Yao Yuan yelled again as he steered the ship nearer to the ground.
It was obvious from the way he stood and looked that Jay was channeling great effort to re-enter that superhuman state. However, it simply wouldn’t happen. Instead of a great silence, he remained steeped in the raucous around him.
“One hundred and ten seconds, one hundred and nine seconds…”
“Jay!” screamed Yao Yuan once more, and this time even Zhang Heng joined in.
“I know! I know! Stop pressuring me!” Jay shouted in return.
Nevertheless, this mysterious state that Jay was looking for wasn’t as accessible as many wanted it to be. No matter how loud the two men screamed at him, if it was not meant to be, it was not meant to be.
“Ninety-three seconds, ninety-two seconds…”
“We’re entering the danger zone now! Jay! Why don’t you try envisioning imminent danger!” screamed Yao Yuan as his voice rose to an inhuman volume.
“Screw you! My butt is safely rested here in this shuttle; what kind of imminent danger could I convincingly envision? In fact, why don’t you throw me out of the shuttle? Maybe that’ll help!” Jay retorted sarcastically.
Zhang Heng’s voice could be heard coming from the other side of the room, offering, “Then think of something memorable, something significant. Just focus!”
“Yes, that’s right… Jay! Ignore the countdown, just focus… No matter what, even if everything fails, know that we believe in you!” Yao Yuan screamed with his voice rising over that of Zhang Heng’s.
We believe in you!
We believe in you…
A football competition at XX High School …
“Jay, that was awesome! You were the most agile player on the field! I’m sure you’ll be picked as the quarterback!”
“Jay, quick, run! The goal is just in front of you… Yes! We won, we actually did it! Team two actually beat team one and it’s all thanks to you, Jay!”
“Congratulations, Jay. You have made it into the university’s official football team. Now go on and tell your parents the great news; I’m sure they will be so proud of you. But remember to tell them to come and watch the college league matches, hahaha…”
“That’s wonderful news! I’m so proud of you, Jay, my boy. Of course, we will be there for you. We would not miss this match for the world. In fact, have I told you that your old man was once a football player? So when you’re a big star, remember to tell the reporters that it was your old man that taught you how to play football in the first place!”
“Jay, I’m sorry, but your spot has been given away. Nothing personal… He just runs faster than you.”
“Jay, don’t listen to that lousy coach. The guy got the spot because he was the school director’s son. You are still the fastest of us all!”
“…Is that so? The reality is, Jay, we didn’t see you on the field. Haven’t we gone through this already, son? Stop lying to your parents… You are such a disappointment…”
No, I’m not lying to you, I’m really not…
But you are a liar!
A Harvard graduate?! Please, you can’t even speak French! This relationship is so over… Now get out of my face!
You liar! Your father was no football star!
You lying piece of…
So what if I’m a liar?!
Jay suddenly yelled, but weirdly enough, no sound came out of his mouth. In fact, all the raucous that had been clogging his mind had ceased… It was like the walls of the shuttle melted away and he was thrown into the immensely deep and quiet cosmos…
“There is an energy that is as big as a planet here! So big it could blow up an entire planet!”
The lie reverberated within the walls of the shuttle before dissipating into space and the great beyond… Travelling on a medium that was unknown to man, a medium that was far less destructive to sound waves than air; Jay’s voice travelled into many unexpected places, even places that were underground…
After that, tremors were felt all over the desert surface. The magnitude was so devastating that it rivaled a magnitude 12 earthquake!
Right underneath the Hope, small cracks started to form and they gradually linked to create a deep chasm. Even viewed from the Hope’s altitude, the chasm, which was at least a hundred times the size of the spaceship itself, seemed to be bottomless.
The ground continued to grumble…
And a giant ball of moss rose from the chasm. It was almost as big as the planet itself!
It was covered with tendrils and each of them was about the size of the Hope. Despite their size, however, they were incredibly agile. In fact, a few of them had already wound themselves around the Hope. Some tried to grab at Yao Yuan’s shuttle, but he evaded them all. And that was lucky because at the speed they were going, one hit and they would easily be swatted down from the air.
“Great job, Jay! Now, hang on to your seat! But keep focusing on what you’re doing. Don’t stop!”
Yao Yuan pulled another lever and the rear of the shuttle exploded in flames. Simultaneously, he yelled, “Zhang Heng, start focusing as well. Yell when you sense danger incoming!”
“Sixty-two seconds, sixty-one seconds, sixty seconds…”
Like riding a bucking mare, Yao Yuan was out of his mind trying to steer the shooting shuttle towards his desired destination. Despite his best efforts, he couldn’t seem to pinpoint that location. Unable to take his own advice, he remained out of the desired superhuman state.
Suddenly, Zhang Heng shrieked, “Be careful! Something is coming at us from our left!”
In that moment, Yao Yuan returned to that sensation of complete serenity.
With a slight nudge at the control stick and with a grace that was uncommon to any vehicles, the shuttle did a right swerve and successfully avoided the incoming tendril. Yao Yuan felt like he had gotten more familiar with his ability.
He knew that he was able to sense the projection of malice, but later he found out that, like Ying, he could have a perfect view of his surroundings. Like Zhang Heng, he too could sense danger. In fact, other than Jay’s knack at psychic manipulation, he appeared to have access to the powers of all the others homo evolutis.
However, he realized that he was a jack of all trades but master of none. After some comparisons, he noticed that his power of sight was not as detailed as Ying’s, his power of divination was not as clear as Zhang Heng’s, and his power of malice tracking was not as attuned as Ebon’s…
While all of these were going through his mind, his hand had not left the control stick. Under his command, the shuttle drifted its way through the maze of tendrils towards the heart of the plant.
At about two hundred meters away from their destination, Yao Yuan could suddenly see clearly the formation of this moss ball. It was not a whole entity but rather an amalgamation of millions and millions of minute algae-like plants.
With just the wiggling tendrils latticing each other, these algae plants had coagulated to form a formidable presence. This confirmed the presence of a hive mind. Furthermore, with activities of this scale, it appeared as if the hive mind was not as they had suspected. It was simple but only appeared so because it had been restricted by certain limitations.
As the shuttle got closer to their target, the giant tendrils around them became even more active. Some even started disintegrating into smaller vines, forming a wall blocking their way.
“Fifty-three seconds, fifty-two seconds…”
The shuttle was less than a hundred meters to the heart of the plant. If weren’t for the obstruction from this vine wall, they would have reached it within seconds… However, navigating this dense jungle of vines would require at least another fifty seconds…
“Sit tight!” roared Yao Yuan as he turned the shuttle’s rocket engine to its highest. Like a loose arrow, the shuttle shot straight ahead.
Hundreds of tendrils and vines moved to block its path. However, like an energized lightning bug, the shuttle weaved through the plant barricades with surprising ease… It was truly a sight to behold!
Nevertheless, the shuttle had its vehicular limitations. Made not of flexible tendons but solid steel, there were simply corners that it couldn’t turn. At about thirty meters from the heart, it had finally run into a deadlock!
“There are dangers coming from our left, and right, and back… No! They’re coming from all sides!” wailed a frantic Zhang Heng.
“Damn these plants! Hold on to your seats!”
With another push at the stick, the shuttle righted itself, attempting an emergency break. A snapping sound emanating from the back of the shuttle followed. It sounded like something at the rear had been hit. A distraught Jay shouted,
“Go away! There’s nothing here! The energy is above us; it has flown into the sky!”
The tendrils that were closing in on the shuttle suddenly stopped. They waved their slender bodies around as if sniffing the air, then they surged towards the sky even though there was nothing there…
The rocket engine was badly broken, but fortunately, the shuttle itself was still comparatively intact. There was even a small burst of flame still spluttering from the engine. However, the propulsion was barely strong enough to keep them afloat, much less push them towards the plant’s heart.
They were about ten meters from it. The target was right before their eyes as the shuttle floated sweetly right beyond its periphery.
“Forty-seven seconds, forty-six seconds…”