Zhang Qishan frowned as he thought about what Zhang Xiaoyu had said.
He knew exactly what Zhang Xiaoyu’s background was like. He wasn’t some strong man from the villages. He was a brother who had followed him from the northeast. The northeastern Zhang family received a strict education and wouldn’t easily draw conclusions on a matter unless they saw irrefutable evidence.
So, there had to be a solid basis for Zhang Xiaoyu to claim that this really was a mountain god and that they couldn’t shoot it. If that was the case, then what signs would people see to make them think that a creature had to be a god?
As the miasma continued to permeate the area, everyone else gathered around. Zhang Qishan had them check their ammo. At the same time, he pointed at the mountains on both sides of the valley. When it came to tracking prey in the valleys, it was very easy to lose sight of them. If monsters were hiding in the dense forest, then there was a chance that people were unaware that they had failed to detect them. The best tracking method was to trek up the mountains on both sides of the valley where the view was good. That way, they could also look out for each other.
Qi Tiezui’s expression was also very serious, but he was out of breath after all the trouble he had gone through tonight.
“Why wasn’t your hexagram accurate?” Zhang Qishan asked him.
“My hexagram is definitely accurate,” Qi Tiezui said. “If it’s not, then there’s only one possibility for this to happen.”
“What is it?”
“Fo Ye, our opponent isn’t within Wuxing (1), which means it isn’t something that belongs to our world. It may really be a mountain god.”
Zhang Qishan looked at the baby who was starting to fuss. It seemed that nothing could attract the baby’s attention now that the monster had left his sight, so he was a little unhappy.
Zhang Qishan was still wondering why Zhang Xiaoyu called this monster a mountain god. He must have seen something, but there was no time for Zhang Qishan to think about it now.
He had Qi Tiezui go to another team and lead them, while he took action according to his own ideas. He climbed up the left side of the ridge with his own team and the baby in tow.
When his people asked him why he let Qi Tiezui go to the other team, Zhang Qishan replied, “Ba Ye isn’t good at a lot of things, but he’s learned from his family and is a master at self-protection. Besides, if he’s not here with us, we can get closer to our target.”
Now that the two teams were separated, Zhang Qishan quickly led his group to the mountain on the left side of the valley. The trees were dense in this part of the forest, so they could hardly see the situation at the bottom of the valley as they walked around. As a result, they had to climb up to the tree canopies and look out over the valley from time to time.
Under the moonlight, the bottom of the valley looked like a sea of trees. The valley was very flat further in, like a small plain sandwiched between two mountains. Initially, they could see tree canopies shaking somewhere in the center of the valley, as if a giant beast was pushing the trees aside and moving forward.
After a period of time, the valley became very wide, the distance between the two mountains opened up, and the trees stopped shaking. They could only watch for any birds that were scared into flight. That was when they knew that something was moving under the trees over there.
After about two hours, they didn’t see any more birds that were scared into flight, so they took the baby up to the tree canopy. The baby stared straight ahead at a certain place in the valley.
When the monster returned to its lair, there was a high probability that it would start eating, so Zhang Qishan knew that he couldn’t wait any longer. He looked back at the opposite mountain, but because the distance was too far, he couldn’t see Qi Tiezui and the others at all, nor could he see their lights. If he had guessed correctly, Qi Tiezui should still be in the position he was in about an hour ago because he walked twice as slow as Zhang Qishan.
Their group loaded their guns and then quickly entered the sea of trees at the bottom of the valley, rushing towards the place where the baby was staring. No one could march like them, for they saw the gaps between the trees and walked through them without much difficulty. Most of the places in the dense forest below were inaccessible since the tree roots were intertwined and the vines were like woven nets with various angles that spanned three hundred and sixty degrees. But Zhang Qishan and his people moved like water, quickly running and jumping between these obstacles without stopping. They quickly leapt through the gaps or simply climbed over them.
As they continued moving along, Zhang Qishan quickly realized why the mountain god had disappeared—there was a swamp below the sea of trees.
As it turned out, there was a lot of water in this valley. Before entering the swamp, the mountain god was probably crawling across the tree tops like an arboreal animal. But when it reached the swamp area, it immediately sank into the water. It probably swam quickly under the swamp and only came out of the water when it needed to breathe. This moment when it came out of the water was probably when the birds were startled into flight.
If that’s the case, I really hope Zhang Xiaoyu didn’t drown, Zhang Qishan thought to himself.
As they approached the area quickly, their surroundings became more and more quiet, and they soon found that the whole forest was silent. They couldn’t hear the sounds of a single living creature at all.
Zhang Qishan also realized that he was close to his target, because he found that they had entered a special woodland area. The plants here were completely different from those on the periphery, and the forest close to the mountain god’s habitat was full of banyan trees. Based on his experience, this banyan forest had actually been developed from a single banyan tree. One tree grew and became a whole forest.
In the center of this forest, there had to be a real “big tree” that he had never seen in his life before.
(1) Wuxing, usually translated as Five Phases, is a fivefold conceptual scheme that many traditional Chinese fields used to explain a wide array of phenomena, from cosmic cycles to the interaction between internal organs, and from the succession of political regimes to the properties of medicinal drugs. The “Five Phases” are Fire, Water, Wood, Metal or Gold, and Earth or Soil. Wiki Link here.