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Smelling the stench, Hao Ren knew he was at the right place.
A normal First Born would never produce this stench. Other than the slight smell of the lifeblood, the First Born, including its internal tissue, would not emit any odor. Hao Ren had never seen anything like it.
When the pungent smell hit, it was like all of the world’s most foul stenches had come together. The aroma felt visible to the naked eye.
Lily was throwing up big time.
“Dang, I was too careless.” Nangong Sanba covered his nose, his voice distorted. “I didn’t see it coming. There was no warning at all. Wuyue, summon the shield!”
Covering her nose and taking several steps back, Nangong Wuyue finally realized what happened. With the wave of her hand, she summoned Wind of Magic, a powerful moisture enchantment, to block off the disgusting stench. She then came to Lily’s rescue. The poor husky, unable to breathe due to the smell, was immobilized.
Fanning in front of his nose with his hand, Hao Ren’s brows knit together. “I don’t know if it is rotting, but the stench is freaking unbearable.”
“Stench? I’m afraid it’s not that simple.” The smell bothered Galazur, too, but being a veteran, she did not overreact. Covering her nose with one hand, she pointed to the people around her with another. “We have different races here, and each of us has a different sense and sensitivity to smell. At least I know the sirens as creatures of elemental forces, they have almost no sense of smell. The dragon race has a level of tolerance for smells, which is hundreds of times higher than that of human beings. But we all smell the same disgusting stench here. This is the biological instinct at work: there is some very evil and negative force there, the stench it emits is very harmful to lives.”
Hao Ren was surprised. Never did he expect there was such a profound theory of odor. But the only problem was that the smell was too strong—almost eye-irritating. Soon he realized that what Galazur said was right; it was more to the stench than meets the eyes.
Lil Pea did not react to the stench. Looking up at the ‘surgery’ procedure for a while, she then jumped around as usual. The olfactory system of Lil Pea was similar to humans but more sensitive. Hao Ren was sure that the little guy had not caught a cold recently. There was only one explanation for her non-reaction: her life suppressive ability had once again shown its power.
She did not smell the stench.
Hao Ren’s brow knit together as he ordered the two autonomous robots, “Keep doing.”
The autonomous robots responded with a purr and then continued with the incision with their cutting beams. Everything was being done at a dazzling speed and razor-sharp precision.
The thick connective tissue was peeled off layer by layer to expose the inner tissue chamber. There was a ball, soaked in the inactive lifeblood, glowing in red. About two meters in diameter and exuding a strong brainwave, the ball was the brain of Yggdrasil.
Galazur looked on curiously. She suddenly waved her hand. “Wait a minute. There is something behind it.”
As she spoke, she walked up to the brain on the staircase she formed using magic. Her arm was covered with a layer of fine, sturdy golden scales, and her fingers formed into claws as a precaution before reaching out to touch the brain.
She turned the brain over, revealing a black blood vessel-like fibrous tissue.
This fibrous tissue glistened in a disgusting black luster with a faint ray of light continually swam between the fiber bundles. A small number of firm fiber bundles were beating like muscles. The part of the fiber bundles soaked in the lifeblood was releasing a black substance, contaminating the lifeblood. In response, the lifeblood was purifying the black material.
Vivian looked solemn. “I’m afraid this is… What is this thing?”
“Keep doing,” Hao Ren said again. “Slow down and don’t touch the fibers. MDT, go get more sedatives.”
The unprecedented ‘surgery’ procedure continued. After the connective tissue around the nucleus was completely stripped, the autonomous robots turned off the cutting beams and began to use traction beams to drag the brain and the foreign substance out of the cavity. But they encountered a little problem: there was something even bigger behind the black fibrous tissue.
An autonomous robot reached into the cavity and gouged out the thing.
“I think I will lose my appetite for the next seven days.” Watching the procedure, Nangong Sanba had already thrown up once.
The suspicious ‘foreign’ object was finally taken out. The real face of the object stunned Hao Ren.
It was another brain.
Having the same size and shape as a healthy brain but black, the vitality of the lifeblood had faded entirely from this organ. Its dry and festered surface was covered with scars and fibers. Tissue grew out from this festering organ that emitted a stench and ominous breath; it was as if many blood-sucking tubes pierced into the thick skin of a healthy brain.
On the lower half of this black brain were many more robust black fibrous bundles that were still connected to the base of the core organ. The autonomous robots dared not pull them out hard because these fibrous bundles grew with the outer tentacles.
This black brain controlled the tentacles through a direct connection with the biological tissues.
Nangong Sanba looked on. “I have lost my appetite for the next two weeks.”
“This is the rotting Yggdrasil?” Hao Ren muttered in amazement. He suddenly realized that this was the most significant discovery he had made in the Nine Kingdoms so far. The First Born was rotting!
He had never seen anything like this before. It was true that most of the First Borns of the Plane of Dreams were mad: from the guardian of life to becoming the annihilator of life. Their crazy behavior was inevitably associated with corruption and degeneration. But Hao Ren was sure that this was not the case regarding physiology. Madness and rot were different concepts. The mad First Borns were only corrupted mentally, but they were still no different from their healthy siblings. Anatomically, the First Borns of Holletta were the same as Zorm.
In other words, the First Borns Hao Ren had discovered so far had no pathological condition.
However, Yggdrasil was having pathologic changes and giving birth to a black brain.
Or could it be that a parasitic black brain was in the First Born?
Many conjectures and assumptions came to mind, some of which were quickly proved otherwise.
The MDT examined the fluid extracted from the black brain. It ruled out the possibility of exogenous parasites after comparing it with the healthy brain. “They are homologous. Though this black stuff is highly mutated, it is indeed part of Yggdrasil.”
“So what is this black thing?’
“I don’t know. But one thing is certain: this thing is fighting with the healthy brain for the control of Yggdrasil, a war was going on between the lifeblood and the black contaminant inside the fibrous bundles. This has probably been going on for more than 2,000 years.”
Fighting for control!
Hao Ren immediately thought of the strangely clear differentiation between the corrupted tentacles around the lair of Nidhogg and the healthy tentacles of other kingdoms. Now things had become apparent.
Galazur’s right arm gradually returned to its standard form. She glanced at the lesioned brain, feeling disgusting. “So this is the source of the rot. Let’s give it a name. How about the Heart of Darkness?”
Hao Ren thought for a moment: “Actually…”
Everyone said in unison, “That’s a pretty good name!”
Hao Ren spread out his hand. “I just wanted to say the same thing.”
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